WordCamp Baltimore 2018: Jets and boats and parades, oh my.

WordCamp Baltimore 2018 above a neon skyline of Baltimore

On previous trips to, what John Quincy Adams called “The Monumental City” I was met with some pretty wet and/or cold weather. It even snowed on me the first time I visited. This time around the sun was shining for half my stay and the weather turned downright hot in the October sunshine. It put everyone in a sunny, bright mood and made for a pretty wonderful WordCamp Baltimore 2018!.

When I left San Francisco, one of the things I was very glad to be missing was SF Fleet Week. I got nothing against our Navy and am glad they exist. It is just the low flying planes spook the pets and send car alarms blaring through the caverns of downtown where I live and work. You can image my expression as I found I had landed in the middle of Baltimore’s Fleet Week. Somehow though, being right on the harbor and in viewing distance of the ships the whole time made the thing more tolerable. Also, I am not sure if I am imagining it but the US Air Force THUNDERBIRDS over the inner harbor were not as loud as the Blue Angels that buzz over SF. Much to my surprise actually, I thought it sort of added a pretty neat excitement to the air for the whole event.

Food and Fun

Speaker Dinner

I was super excited to return to SPARK for the traditional kicking off ceremony of any fine WordCamp. I was thrilled to see the same foosball, shuffleboard and other accoutrement in the brightly lit, well equipped co-working space where I was greeted by so many familiar smiling faces. Different this year, but eliciting a good deal of joy, was a buffet of Korean fusion foods, including a very tasty soyrizo like dish, in place of the pizza and salad I had been offered in the previous years.

Friends, let us not stride over this small change without pause. The main reason for this change was the direct feedback that pizza and the dairy is normally contains was not a food for everyone and salad alone was a poor dinner choice. Here was an organizing team that actually listened to the feedback and adjusted in a way that helped meet everyone’s dietary needs. I was to learn this was just one of many points where there had been improvement. Well fed and with a long day awaiting us, we adjourned for some liquid refreshment nearby.

Accidental Karaoke

Turns out that, much to amused delight, the Fairfield Inn had opened a new bar called “Bluegrass Etc.”” in the front of the building that just so happened to offer Karaoke on Friday nights. I found this out much to late to recruit my fellow WordPress pals, but I did enjoy a nightcap with universal extended family of karaoke enthusiasts.


While there is certainly nothing wrong with the homemade coffee via percolation method that the camp had used in previous years, there was a start improvement this year that required zero wait time while the batch process finished per cauldron. Coffee this year was provided from Vagrant Coffee. In truth, the only other place I can say might have had better coffee was the little coffee truck at WordCamp Phoenix but that was made to order and the wait time and lines offset that enough to really have no equal footing for comparison. Again, the attention to detail and actual improvement attempts were literally palpable. The snacks did flow as expected as well with some of the tastiest and freshest apples I have had in a while in the mix.

Lunch was literally a clone of the previous year’s Saturday option from local Peruvian eatery I believe was called Chicken Rico. This was again the organizing team listening to the rave reviews and giving us what we as participants asked for, more of the same goodness. The plantains were as amazing as I remember and the beans and rice were fully satisfying. If anyone went hungry, I was very much not aware, as the meal was mostly gluten free as well and all allergies I can think of off hand had at least a couple options presented.


I like to keep these reports positive, but I feel duty to mention that a very earnest attempt was made and successfully executed by some of us to go find vegan cuisine in the area. However, no tweets of this exist as I have literally no desire to mention the name of the place where we ate, in which my party had the worst service we had ever individually experienced. Instead I wished I had suggested a place that I absolutely love and is the far superior of almost any other place I have ever eaten, vegan or not, The Land of Kush. I can not say enough good things about that place.


A small, but mighty voiced, contingent of us ventured to the legendary Walt’s Inn to sing the rest of our evening away and hang out with some of my favorite bartenders I have ever met. The previous year a larger party from the WordCamp had gathered and it was super, super packed. Too packed for anyone to sing more than once and we had to wait a while to sing that one. This year, there were still open seats at the bar as we were leaving after 11:00 PM. I got to sing five songs and was actually tired of performing by the time I left, a rare day indeed and a night to remember.


Again we were met with delicious coffee and snacks and a selection of teas. Lunch was a variation on the previous day’s meal from the same vendor with a variation on side salads presented. The same feedback that had swayed the speaker dinner again informed the organizers that we all loved day one’s food so much that not a single person would in any way mind it being repeated on day two. Personally, I could eat that same meal twice a day for a few weeks before I think I would need to vary it up.

An unexpected parade

Towards the end of the first Sunday afternoon sessions, I heard what sounded like a marching band and I looked outside to discover a whole parade passing us by. The first float I actually saw was a giant upside down bug on a truck, which greatly confused me until I realized this was a local pest control company who was sponsoring this year’s Columbus Day Parade. Who doesn’t love a parade? As far as I can tell from all the smiles, only the local motorists were not having a great time.

Afternoon Networking

Due to a mix-up on the calendar of the catering company, a last minute change was made to swap the networking event from Saturday to Sunday when it had been listed on the schedule. While there were less people around at the end of day two, as is typical at any event, I actually found those conversations way more engaging. Folks that come for both days had simply learned more together and had more common experiences in which to base meaningful conversations. In my mind there was no harm at all in this catering mishap. The food itself was quite awesome, again this year from Dooby’s were we again had awesome kim bap and veggie pot stickers, as well as pork buns, Korean fusion mac and cheese and some really interesting and delicious looking cookies.

With a small heartache that it was over, I helped clean up a bit and then headed on my way to the airport. The end of a WordCamp comes with a bit of this feeling every time, but this time I felt it strong enough to note it here. I really do fancy Baltimore.


Opening Remarks


Making Security Make Sense to Clients
Adam Warner

Sure, my site has SSL. Sure, my passwords are super long and unique already. Sure, I already rely on a very secure and awesome managed hosting provider for many a thing. So why did I go to this talk? Because helping devs and agency folks explain this stuff to their non-technical customers is something I sometimes find myself doing and I will learn any and all tips I can. Every time I sit through a session like this I learn at least one new thing that helps me adopt better practices over time. I am super glad subject matter experts like Adam are willing to share knowledge with the community.

Raw Notes:
Reputation is going to take a hit if you get hacked
We need to be familiar with best practices
do not recommend things you have have not used nor understand
Must protect your business
Built a multisite – indielab
quick site spinup
hundreds of users
was going very well, until they got hacked
sites redirecting to Viagra and other bad things
at that time no security malware cleanup companies
had to use the forums to self support but gave up
closed down the site and refunded customers and was out of business
its in your best interest to secure your sites
most of us in this space takes our minds 24/7
if you are implementing basic security you can sleep through the night
Educating your clients on security is important
Some clients think they don’t need that ‘complex security stuff’
or think SSL is all they need
no such thing as 100% security
Who is responsible, The client? You, the dev? or the host?
Everyone has their role
Apartment complex analogy
Additional revenue is possible here
monthly maintenance and security plans
how do we communicate this effectively?
First is why
a lot of people hear hacked but they don’t know what a ‘bad actor’ is
number one reason is financial
a penny a click, hack your site and all you own, it is easy money
script kitty for 15 minutes of fame
political or religious ideology
Norse security map shows how often this is happening
it is always happening and a lot of them
here are Adam’s top tips
1. Backups – very important!
and store them off-site
2. Updates
it is an open door to leave old unpatched software still installed
take out all the things you don’t use, update everything else
3. Strong Passwords and Unique Passwords
password managers can help
not flawless but these companies are very invested in amazing security
a saving grace
4. Firewalls and CDNs
network and web application firewalls
internal firewalls keep isolated from one another
WAPs are for your specific WordPress install
hardware and software solutions
5. Continuous monitoring of your site
a lot of options and companies offer this
Bonus round
2 factor authentication
encryption from your machine
look at the name of your networks and pay attention
ask the provider what is the right one if need be
Include security in your scope
sets you apart and gives you a better image
it says “I want your business to succeed”
sell those maintenance plans, it is continuity of the same security
or as an Add-On service
one time malware clean up service?
Additional monitor or scanning
Automate all the things
managewp, infinite WP, MainWP
reporting is automated and simple to send forward to client
Watchful.li, been around for a while
grow your business by being a partner in security with your clients

The Medium is the Message 2.0
Daniel Schiavone

I have had the very proud honor of knowing Daniel from the Drupal world for a few years now, so I knew I was in store for a great talk. But it wasn’t until I referenced this presentation the following day in a conversation about web experience that I realized how much this talk had affected my point of view, which is the highest mark of excellence for any session in my opinion. The world around us is a reflection of where we are with technology at any given movement and how we engage with that technology collectively. Honestly, now that I know what I am looking for in web only abilities of design, things like JuxtaposeJS, I can not stop looking for them and seeing them everywhere. I really need to read this book in the near future.

Raw Notes:
a look into the book by Marshall McLuhan
Societies have always been shaped more by tge nature of the media by which they communicate than the content
printed book spurned on individualism
electrical info devices cause a rift between private and public,
between community and individual
People like Twain, Whitman, Artemus Ward – the first stand up comic
mid 1800
steam powered press, first one was bought by Baltimore Sun
mail and stamps changed
you could get your poems and books nationwide very quick
lead to speaking engagements thanks to the trains
Television is a ‘cool’ medium because there is a gap in the transport of info
book writing is a hot medium, there is no gap
the audience has a role in the TV process
now we have a lot more interactive things
going to films is a hot medium
The web is a medium of text and markup in a browser
a lot of content does not leverage links
The web is the ultimate ‘cool’
When tech gets pushed to extremes they have opposite characteristics
how often are we just seeing text that was copy/pasted there
are we looking at copy for the print world, not the web world
Seeing what the web can be
information transforms based on how you interact with it
scrolling example
Small innovations are creeping in
Wikipedia link previews
plugins for WP can do that too
Medium is helping us read better on the web, think about using things better
o average 28% of the internet is text, that is all that people are reading online
video, audio and images are the rest
text is still pretty dominant
typically we give content creators WYSIWYG
it is enough to give them this only to start?
Gutenberg promises to be a game changer for people who are just starting
there is a bit of resistance to this change
There is a Drupal module for Gutes
Drupal does good with authors and types of blocks
frames, we can think inside the boxes to get very creative
Comics are a place that we have thought through panels and frames
pacing and layout
Seeing into the world through phrasing and point of view
Youtube example
self authorship, production values all over the place
people are making a lot of amateur content
improving over time
look at first videos vs latest content
The internet will use text dominantly for some time
we should communicate with text better
sliders are out of fashion, but no one clicks on them
hero images are better but can get in way of text heavy sites
Tools have gotten better ans cheaper
sometimes low-fi might be even better sometimes

Building WordPress Themes with Advanced Custom Fields (ACF)
Tessa Kriesel

I hear about Advanced Custom Fields an awful lot in the WordPress world but honestly, it is not something I think about too much. As a person with his feet somewhere between WP and Drupal, the idea of leveraging fields and custom data types makes sense, but it never occurred to me what someone might require it for a WordPress project. This talk changed this with some pretty neat examples that showed not just the plugin but unveiled the structure of the CMS itself. Very glad I went to this one and it has given me and, based on the hallway chatter, the rest of the attendees much to think about around editing and leveraging content from the frontend.

Raw Notes:
Polled audience with slido.com active poll
Most people build websites
About 1/2 the room builds own WordPress themes,
about 38% of room are new to Customer Fields
Developer Outreach Manager
Advanced Custom Fields overview
Add custom data to pages, edit one place, use everywhere
create custom page-builder layouts
front end forms
Template 101
functions.php add functionality to your theme
style.css for style
page.php page template file
single.php single post file
Dog examples
custom post type with meta data about dogs
you get custom fields to work with on these custom post types
Adding sizes of dogs example
filling fields in the ACF interface
pretty self guided and examples available
Breed example – open text field
we need to update the template to know where to out the custom fields
page.php copy as template
Template Name: Dogs
grabbing all post data and outputting it on screen
name of field is what we use in template
some rewriting URL issues, taking to archived page
Adding to the theme,
there are a lot of exampled on the advancedcustomfields.com site
front end forms
let people edit without getting into the back end
single.php single-nameofCPT.php
ACF form head
and the acf_form() where you want it to display
can change things from the front end
can give people to edit their own data from the front end
pre-features as well
lifetime license
Repeater field
allows you to create a subset of fields that can be reused
Options Page
have global fields that can be used whenever you like
Does not work with Customizer by default
would need to build it in
Flexible content
page builder layouts
you can add additional layouts
can store as JSON and import when install
not an additional plugin, you have to build out own pagebuilder
template parts blocks

Left hook, right filter – learn to develop like a heavyweight
Antti Koskenrouta

I will admit it. When it comes to hooks and WordPress, I conceptually kind of get it, but ask me to actually explain any of it and I am going to feel like a giant fraud. I just have not gotten the required experience writing this stuff to really, truly get it. Talks like this one are like an escalator for my understanding though. I don’t get the exercise myself but I do feel very elevated. It is always a supreme pleasure to see this world traveler share his deep knowledge with us all.

Raw notes:
Fundamentals and historicals
meet Actions and Filters
suddenly all this magic happens
WP way method to allow you to interact with core
Actions and Filters
Actions first
think of actions as verbs that describe what’s happening in the code
how do you do it and interact with WP?
add_action(‘name_of_the_action’, ‘name_of_function’, prioritynumber>=1, numberofparameters)
for example
add_action('save_post', 'notify_of_new_post', 10, 3)
sometimes you want to remove a function from an action
remove_action(‘name_of_the_action’, ‘name_of_function’, prioritynumber>=1)
Filters always have one piece of data called a value that is changed
filters have additional parameters that can give the value context
If actions are filters, filters are nouns
look the same
add_filter('filter_name', 'function_name', 10)
returns the thing you are filtering
remove_filter() is in core
there are a ton of default filters and actions, but you can create your own and plugins leverage them
priority conflicts, just runs in order it finds them (if all 10s just run in logical order)
Looking at hooks in action
if you ever wanted to display a title different from the post_title on a page?
override it without hacking template
old skool: !=get_field('alternative title')
how do we get ti cleaner
–code example–
when see all this stuff an look at headers and see weird functions, how does that work?
long road to learn it all
What to add “quick actions”
post_row_actions filter
page_row_actions filter
comment_row_actions filter
if you want to restrict which post typed this is applied to you want to use the second ($post) parameter and add an if statement
if $post->post_type == “the_post_type_you_want”
adding a custom link in “quick actions”
sometimes you want to remove quick links
look for the class names of the tags within “row-actions”


unset() inside your function
if you want to change header or footer without changing theme
wp_head or wp_footer actions
if you want to change the main query via code
pre_get_posts actions are awesome
why? Results stay intact, pagination will be consistent
How do I create my own hooks?
once you change something, don’t change it back
search for one in existing code, then just copy/paste to template
$value vs $arg1
function notify_folks
not as scary as you think it might be
think of your code as a story
stuff happens and things change
if you have a point where the dev or reader might say “that is awesome”
they will want to hook onto it, this is where actions and filters go so therss can hook in
adambrown keeps a running list of hooks for wp


Living Life Like an Iceberg or a Ship
Cory Miller

You are not alone.
Don’t go it alone.
I am so fortunate to be in this community. Having people who have turned into real friends and not just colleagues to do business with has been the anchor point that has kept me straight up sane the last couple of years. I am grateful beyond words for this talk and I hope many, many people get to see this recording of it.

Raw notes:
You are not alone
don’t go it alone
some things that happened in his life and how he learned to deal with it
does not go too far down the hole
does not mess with depression,danger there
iceberg 2010-2011
Above the line
for dummies book deal, $1M in sales, Backup Buddy
RV Road trip, Cool new office, Speaking at WordCamps
that stuff is all the PR version, all the good stuff showing
going through a divorce, slept in office couple of nights
absolutely miserable
first time I didn’t want to go to work
This was the stuff he was hiding
People didn’t know he was suffering, he hid it
Consequences of iceberg living
drifting islands
we get marooned and become castaways
icebergs can cause havoc to others
had to evacuate a town in Greenland from real iceberg
he became a hazard to others by carrying everything around just inside alone
We need a better way, a more compelling way to live
moving to a model
A ship on a journey
NOT a boat
ship is something you can not do on your own
boats can’t go on long journeys and you are alone a lot on boats
Ships are built for the mission
Well equipped for the voyage, compass, maps, navigation
needs a captain
in charge, in command, in control
a Captain does not abdicate
A ship requires a crew
must match what is going on in your life
as they were getting acquired, needed new crew
I WON’T try to do this by myself
Need an accountability partner
companionship and camaraderie
needs to sometimes push and challenge you
Who will rush in, while everyone else runs out
those people are your core crew
for the successes and struggles
2017 the seas were rough
was transitioning and was no longer going to be the owner
this was a big identity shift
he had attached so much meaning to his job
and then in April had a death in the family
young man grief is wicked, bad
the three we overlook or need to strengthen
Counselor, Coaches, Comrades
your significant other is your first of course
We need more people saying “i have a counselor”
We have to erase the stigma of mental health
need to be able to savor success and that is a good time to check in
coaches are look at the bright things you can do for other people
or push you to do more
he has a group of entrepreneurs who share everything with
those people rush in when others rush out
WordPress is a fleet
this is an amazing community
Smiles are free
just walked to halls and smiled
pike a ping, you are not alone
One step, one action you can take this weekend
move towards ship living
sea gets rough
one message, 2 parts
you are not alone
do not go it alone


My Session

Learning Markdown: 20 minutes that will change your life

I got to premier another new talk at WC Baltimore! This brings the total to two. I am sure there are other people in the world that can claim the same thing but this feels special to me. I don’t have a WordCamp San Francisco to call home so I have had to adopt a few camps as home and I always feel at home at this one. And nothing feels as good as playing on home turf, adopted or not.

I, of course, see a thousand places to improve this talk but overall I am very happy with the reception and feedback. By the end of the camp someone said they had started also writing their notes in Markdown. I almost cried with joy. I know that sounds silly, getting emotional about HTML shorthand notation, but I really do believe this one little, simple adjustment in process is extremely powerful when applied over time. Seeing people start down that same path I found, well it just is like no other feeling.

What can higher ed teach us?
Curtiss Grymala

I have said it before and I will likely say it in the future, but the heroes of the higher education space always amaze me. If it was just developer delivering enterprise scale solutions on shoestring budgets, that would be impressive enough. But that vast majority of these fine folks are also open sourcing their solutions so that we all, every single person on the planet, can benefit from their work. It is not a common occurrence to have to fight the urge to stand up and applaud in the middle of a talk, but I actually almost did that when he talked about this aspect of his and his peers’ work.

Raw Notes:
Mary Washington, mid sized school
Why WP for Higher Ed
Community/OSS – this is unique, very important to them
User Management/distributed responsibilities
What are we using it for?
many things like
* school site,
* blogging systems with thousands of blogs, self serve multisite
* Learning Management systems
* ecommerce/donations
WPCampus WordPress in higher ed 2017 survey results
by modern tribe
The issue is, everyone wants good, cheap and fast
you can really get 2 of these
You have the power!
it is as secure or insecure as you make it
Access – managing user accounts can be hard
Single Sign On can be great,
let’s people remove access for all systems, like WordPress, from IT
Manage roles and permissions, really think through that
Scaling is a serious plus, higher ed proves it can do it, no matter what you mean by scale
40,000 pages on a site
2000 site multisite
150K content contributors
not free but you have control to do this
250K tags, who is going to eliminate the unused ones? Not him
RSS was timing out, post experator (sp?) to move it out for News categories
about $100K a year for hosting
but if you have 15 pages at 500 visitors a month, might not need managed hosting
but he always recommends it, that is the way they are going
lost his LAMP admin and a new one came on
they were nice, but they didn’t have full resources to be a
outsourced to traditional provider
scale and security are really why
caching and automating updates
and fantastic dev resources
git integration
Multinetwork is an edge case, extracting multisites from this
central update systems to help with plugin updates and such but still manual a lot
Costs, you totally control the costs
license is free, hosting for a tiny site is basically free for a year with AWS
50K visitors, that is not going to be free
if conditional logic forms
ContactForm7 is outdated and there are better ones, no need for manual like this
all in though WP is dirt cheap
proprietary CMS can cost $100Ks per year
Sharing is caring, community is crucial
smaller communities built around
higher ed shares code more than enterprise
public institutions, lot of people feel work should be available to taxpayers
BoddyPress basically came out of City of New York university open work
Mary Washington opens most of their work
this presentation is open source JS slides
* _s
* Foundations
* Divi
* Genesis
Premium plugins he swears by
* GravityForms
* gravityPerks
* Toolset or ACF
* Max Mega Menu
* WP101
* WPPusher
* UpdraftPlus, WP MIgrate DB Pro, and/or backupbuddy
* WP Offload S3
Free Plugins
* Jetpack – be careful! can be unpredictable after updates, does everything
* pagelinks to
* simple page ordering
* Tablepress
* WordPress Github Sync
* WPMU LDAP Authentication
* NinjaForms
* Caldera Forms
* Plugin Activation Status
wphighed.org – full of resources, has not been updated in a while
UMWEdu github repo
slides at http//j.mp/hebiz-wcbalt18

Corralling client content
Lynne D’Autrechy

I don’t have clients where I touch content but I do end up having a good number of conversations about content given my views on shipping content and Gutenberg. I really enjoyed this talk and the idea of organizing content by leveraging forms is something I had not really thought about before. I also liked the shout out to the wonderful simple, distraction free, plain jane twentysixteen theme which I proudly use unmodified on my blog. The Q and A was very interesting as well, though I didn’t take notes on that section.

Raw notes:
No order to the content and its in more than one place
a solution should solve all these issues
3 tools
File system
commercial solution
Shared Folders and Files
Google Drive or Dropbox
not to THEIR drive or Dropbox
use shared folders to create an organization for the content based on the site architecture, site map
use shared folder accounts
You both have access to it this way
way better than email attachments
2 Just let the client add content to the website
create a website with a basic theme, boring
they don’t think about design this way
2016 vs 2017 themes, plain is better
don’t want them thinking “where will this eventually go” at this point
Front end: the client will add content via forms
don’t worry about formatting
Gravity Forms is what she uses
title, body and post manager fields
allow clients to choose what page they want the content to go on
Create one body field on the form, formatting not important
let them use HTML if they want though
You can use code to connect those
creating multiple text fields whose contents will combine to create the body field
use code to combine multiple fields into one body field before post is created
Give them appropriate permissions
back up several times a day is a really good idea on this path
create pages in your architecture
if you use page builders you can make page templates for this
3. Commercial products
GatherContent, she has had limited success but it is solid tool
set up for many different writers for content
overkill on a small team and small business
they go have a blog and resources page that is full of good info though
Creates a central repo
and create templates for your content for contributors to write and break up content into manageable components
customizable workflows
Migrate completed content into your CMS
Content Snare
she has not used it but reads it is simpler to use
templates ‘chasing and follow up’ you can schedule
Content snare hierarchical but need to copy/paste
fine line between making it convenient for them and efficient for you
shared files, WP itself,
shared repo of content
hierarchical content organization
formatting guidelines for the client

Wrapping Up

I love WordCamp Baltimore. It is not just because I really do like Baltimore itself. It is not just because I have debuted two talks here. It is in good part because this camp’s organizing team actually tries to improve to be more accommodating year over year by listening and adapting to feedback. This year I felt thy went out of their way to be accommodating and I could not be more grateful. Organizing takes a lot of work and actually listening to what can be improved and actually improving those things makes this camp shine in the sea of over 30 events I have done in the last year. Every other WordCamp should take note, this is what an event can be from an attendee perspective. Welcoming to all.

No matter why I next return, I am already looking forward to landing at BWI and again walking around the inner harbor of B’more. At the very least I hope to get back once again for WordCamp Baltimore 2019 and see those awesome turtles once more.

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