WordCamp Seattle 2018: Not as much rain as I expected and learning about Brandi Carlile

WordCamp Seattle Logo, looks like a prop from an airplane

Flying into Sea-Tac was met with a little wind and light rain, but at least the place wasn’t on fire, like my home state was when I left. I flew in a day early to have a little time to explore the city and catch up with an old friend before the WordPress events unfolded. It was great to be back in the Emerald City once again and visit Pike’s Place market, especially since the holiday craft fair was in full swing with specialized hot sauces, hand dyed yarns and local sourced honey around every corner. Getting a little shopping in was fun, but not as much fun as reuniting with so many friends and meeting more at WordCamp Seattle 2018

Food and Fun

Speaker Dinner

It was a chilly walk to the traditional gathering of speakers, sponsors, volunteers and organizers on ‘WordCamp Eve’. We gathered at the old time swanky Washington Athletic Club which has a private bar and a side room, which we were in. I was immediately greeted by so many a familiar face, it felt like a sort of homecoming. Round after round of appetizer met us as well as ‘pour your own’ wine and beer. Actually, for a good chunk of the night we didn’t have to pour our own, as my new friend, the very selfless and kind Archis did the serving for those who desired the fruit of the vine.

After that party, some of us stepped a few blocks away to a hidden upscale gem, Zig Zag Cafe. We had some very nice fancy drinks thanks to our local sherpa Chris who would prove to be the best local guide anyone could every ask for over the next couple of days.


If there is one beverage that Seattle is known for, it’s the jitter juice, the rocket fuel, the cuppa. The less words I say about the conference coffee is as nice as I can be to something that let me down this hard. The tea offerings were solid though. We also had a wide selection of fruits and breads as well as toasters to toast them.

WordCamp Seattle has one of my favorite lunch traditions. Instead of relying on the in house catering of the Washington State Convention Center, or deal with an outside catering company, they give you gift cards. There are a few dozen restaurants in a few block radius of the venue and we could pick from a list of places for which to get a $10 gift card. I always will pick Veggie Grill as it is my favorite US based vegan food chain. If they would expand to the US, The Green Panther would be my favorite, but that is not an option yet. No matter where people ate, we all filtered back into the convention center hall and finished up our fare together.

After Party

We returned to the side room of the Washington Athletic Club. There was a pool table uncovered this night, but food was ‘buy your own’ and drinks were kind of hard to come by.


After witnessing a good number of people arrive at the after party spot, deem it too packed, and retire from the place, I gathered up a few people and lead a charge for a plant based meal. The handy app Happy Cow told me of The Carlile Room which is “inspired by singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile, with … classic seventies-era lounge cocktails.” My curiosity was more than peaked and we dined on their local “plant house” features and impossible burgers in the ambiance of something that seemed ultra modern and classic kitsch all at once. High praise for the staff accommodating our unannounced and unreserved arrival. I also ended up buying a Brandi Carlile album as a result.

We got into some local (as in they make it on prem) made whisky’s, beers and fancy, smancy drinks after that, once again with the most excellent docent Chris leading the way. No tweets exist I can find of these events, so here is this one instead of a drink I wished I would have had.


Coffee did not improve. Tea was good again. Carbs abounded.
For lunch, I once again returned to feast on plant based foods at Veggie Grill, but some of us ate at fancier places.

My flight back was supposed to be much later than the one I took. I rarely do this, but thank you to the United Airlines bag check agent at Sea-Tac for getting me on a flight that had actually started boarding when i checked in. I was sure this would mean a baggage snafu, but there they where, first off the conveyor on the other side. Sometimes things work out.



Bridget Willard – Community: Observe, Include, Accept
Bridget Willard

I think Bridgets awesome. As the lead Team Rep for the MakeWordPress Marketing team I get to work with her quite a bit. I am so proud to know her and her passion for the community and motivating people of all walks of life is always inspiring to me. Very happy to call her a friend and was glad to be here for this talk. Reminding us that we are not alone and that connecting with other people is oh so important. It was the right motivational talk for a community that is pretty uneasy about the future at the moment.

Raw Notes:
Community is important
Community is a Verb
We make up Reasons and reasons not to go to events
is this really another Community talk?
Community is like Oxygen on an airplane
you don’t miss it until it is gone
She went hiking high elevation, was not used to it,
friend was
Community is social science
not a time wasting fluff
Unfortunately, we are all human beings
we are hard wired to connect with other humans
when we are deprived of it it affects our lives
everything that matters to people is a verb
* Observe
* Include
* Accept
We say we believe in inclusion until we don’t
iphone vs android example
meetup attendance is low or just talking to same people, it is on us to be the ones who do the outreach
Be the cultivator of the garden
you don’t just plant and walk away
Observing who is there and how they are
our body language tells all
Maybe you came here alone
meet the people around you
easy and feels good
conversation with person in audience
sometimes it is just good to hear it
psychological safety
that is what friends are and need it to exist
we don’t celebrate what makes us different, but what makes us the same
focus on the Venn diagram
it is up to us to reach out to bring them in
build bridges , don’t destroy them
we make emotional decisions and then go to Google to justify them
we should be making rational decisions
she is always having to defend Marketing as science
reading data and reacting in real time
it is real science
hard to be different
walked into WC LAX 2015
Alex V asked her to volunteer as social media person
she would have never volunteered on her own
would you like to ___
read bios and ask them if they
Cortisol is the stress hormone
it is what drives fight or flight instinct
if you are
Grooming and calm is Oxytocin
this is the chemical that makes us feel calm and accepted
lowers Cortisol
Embrace yourself as yourself
don’t just assimilate
don’t lose who you are
diversity of thought is key to growing the community
the way we have the conversation makes the difference
Why do we have a Lego piece?
We are built to be connected
is it the wrong piece? is it the wrong time?
invest in people and they will invest in you
you don’t know when you will need that piece
the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago
2nd best time is now
it is not just random Lego
is one of you doesn’t participate we can’t build the plane
the actual Lego plan
we need a revival of this community
we already have early adopters and innovators
if we want to get to the next level, 51%+
we need to see the arguments don’t matter
we need to get together
you have friends

Speaking of Lego. Bridget brought a box of Lego, distributed the pieces randomly to the seats in the keynote and then asked to community to come together to make the thing on the box. We did pretty good and I think there are many lessons we should take away from the experience. Likely worth a whole post once I process it more.

What I Learned From Interviewing 200+ People in WordPress
Kyle Maurer

I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect from this talk and that is actually one of the main drivers of my attending. I will admit I am not a regular listener to his show, though I have caught a few episodes over the time I have been in the community. It was awesome to hear the story of the show as a project overall. The raw numbers he presented painted a picture of a community maturing along with the CMS, learning to trade stability for the ‘latest cool new thing’ and what that might mean. I for sure walked away with a new appreciation for how US centric my thinking has been around the term ‘community’. Not sure what to do with this perception change yet, but I am glad it has happened.

Raw Notes:
A few years ago, wanted to dig in a little more
on Google+ someone said they were starting a WP show
co-hosted WP RoundTable
he was only constant host
Never repeated a guest
talked one on one about community
learning things about them
Learned a lot about
Succeeding in WP
The People of WP
and himself
we all want to feel like Cheers
instead we all feel like the first day of school
we feel like we are minor part
learning to fit in
you can fit in, just need to find a place
scheduling with guests forced him to honor the commitment
schedule with a pen, not a pencil
Published > Perfect
but quality compromises limit growth
could have done it better, but learned to be at peace with the fact it was done
comparing the diffs between what they expected to get out of it vs what they did
they wanted:
traffic, views, an audience, notoriety
sponsors, recognition
what he got:
interviewing skills
valuable lessons
great stories
What he learned about the people of WP
reflects his networks and himself
he is a profile
The WP “Industry” is still very young
WP space has not been around a long time
self employed 58.2%
Employed 41.7%
many small players
bigger players begin to grow
market itself consolidates
still a gender gap, in all of tech
Stats for turnover rates
1 year 30%
2 years 24%
3 years 33%
4 years 34%
younger people change jobs more frequently
lot of business acquisitions as well
Age gaps, big time
Guest age range
teens 1.8%
20s 5.4%
30s 64%
40s 24.0
50s 4.2%
60s 0.6%
now this reflects his experience
and kind of self selecting
We are established but still new, so Enterprise business stats don’t apply
but it is not the new thing
many of the 30s folks started with the ‘hot new thing’ when they were in 20s
right place at right time
The non-US community is very underrepresented
guest locations is almost all US based
only a few other countries represented on the show
General observations
Everyone says “I got into this accident”
College experience was common – rarely related to WP though
a previously unrelated career was common
Many are taking a break from travel
when WP was taking off and WordCamps were new, lof o early adopters went to as many events as they could
burn out is real
reflects the age group, homes and kids and other pressing responsibilities
Almost everyone was self taught
WordCamps were a huge turning point for many people
special moment that changed their lives
how welcoming and supportive
What he learned about succeeding in WP
Super common advice
– Specialize – be super good at something
– charge more
undercharging really plagues the space
– just ship it! – more important to release than getting it perfect
– know when to give up
move on when it is time
– Good communication solves most problems
– Engage the community – the community will help if you let them
Common factors in major “success” stories
– Start early, some of it is just right time and right place
– Failed over and over – the most successful peple fail more
– Had funding or at least a financial cushion
– Worked their tails off
Bonus: reiterating his favorite points
Trick yourself into being consistent
WP is maturing and really changing, so must our strategies
We need to work harder on Diversity
This community will change your life if you let it
If you are not successful enough yet, keep failing, you have not failed enough to succeed

User Experience and Branding for WordPress sites
Jennifer McKnight

This was Jennifer’s first WordCamp talk and the excitement bubbled over from her as she shared something she is very passionate about: branding. It is so easy to lose focus sometimes when working on tech, leading us to think that everyone cares about tech the same way we do. Hearing her story of the cowboy at the farmer’s market who was just trying to do ‘beef stuff’ gave me a mental image I will be carrying around the rest of my days. I hope Jennifer continues to submit talks and can inspire others in the future.

Raw Notes:
Story of her dress
it is crochet
Passion for content
websites before
in 2000 websites were about utility
it was a service to make things easier to find
in around 2009 social media really transformed the expectations of what the internet did
in 2010 she took on her first website client
Idaho Beef
had no web presence, he didn’t have time
he was busy with beef stuff
Even small businesses need to be brand and UX
A brand is more than a “thing”
we do use brands as items a lot though
A brand is tied to perception
it is how you feel about the product or service
A brand can be defined, but it is difficult
You can impact your brand with web design
Video elements with real people in them
characters that personify human qualities
Aesthetics that elicit emotions
In store experience
Visual identify
Websites are one of the most effective ways to promote
UX if everything
rooted in existentialism
Tied to emotions and attitudes
Separate from usability
UX is what the user does on the wide
usability is how easy it is to use
The code of UX is ensuring that users find value in what you are providing them
Ask about
Tools that help create branded WP sites
better site maps and content planning
for better SEO
make sure people are seeing the right meta
Admin Custom Login
Google Analytics
Slider Revolution

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
Chris Teitzel

Occasionally you go to a session and walk out saying “How have I NOT heard about X yet?” with X of course being the thing they talked about. I rarely get to hear Chris speak but I knew it would be good. As he explained the real world implications of big data I was at the same time excited and terrified. And right as I was starting to think, “well, what can we even do” he brings up the Open Web Privacy Working Group
and the Community Core Privacy team
. We are all in this together. For now, I am disallowing all geotracking too unless I absolutely need it.

Raw Notes:
What happens when the democracy has bad actors
the rules get changed to let them shut it down
who watches the watchers?
banning Alex Jones is good but who watches that and says it is OK
with big data there is a responsibility with all that
tracking yourself
released heat maps of running and hiking and biking
accidentally published the locations of secret military bases
What are the unintended consequences of what I built?
Collectively big data is starting to know more about us than we know about us
the “Target” pregnant daughter story
customer ID for baby items online or in store tied to credit card
Looked at history to build a ‘pregnancy store’
lax sense of communications
following law but still creepy
Facebook can detect depression slides
built some suicide helpline stuff in
Memories feature, cool for a lot of things
“sick and tired of getting reminded of my son’s suicide”
how can we prevent some of these abuses
people using ancestry sites to track down more cold case suspects
selling data to cancer drug makers
really cool stuff
but scary since can’t control where your data goes or how it is used
80/20 Paradox
If we build for the 80%
What about the 20% and the 1%
Tech has the power to change millions of lives. for the better or the worse
homeless app to help discover services
computers are only as smart as the person programming them – his dad
We have the power to change millions of lives
What are you doing to protect ALL your users
Privacy as a community responsibility
Sometimes we need a nudge
US and EU views
Free speech as a right vs privacy as a right
Data belongs to the owner vs data belongs to the subject
opt out vs opt in
people fear government and trust businesses vs People trust gov and fear business
Litigation is the first resort vs litigation if all else fails
WP and Drupal
WP privacy in core Drupal it is contrib
how do we adopt common best practices across the web and
John Eckman’s Taking back what and from whom?
Contract for the Web core principals (recently published)
as a company, as a gov as a citizen
good framework
WP is leading privacy in CMS
Open Web Privacy Working Group
seems altruistic
but the opposite is we stay reactive and are not part of the conversation when policy if formed
7am office hours
get involved

My talk

Shipping Content With WP-CLI and Automated Testing And Why That Is Awesome

I am done with this talk now. I learned so, so much giving it. I built a tool I used to post this very post. It taught me that the things I really, actually want to talk about are Bash and Markdown, the latter of which I have already written and delivered a talk about. Yes, I learned a lot and I hope others have been inspired too, but it is a talk whose course has been run and I am thankful I got to retire it to a friendly crowd in Seattle.

Storytelling with Gutenberg: How to Use the New Editor to Boost Your Blog
Andrea Zoellner

This is the very first Gutenberg introduction I would categorize as inspirational. I went in just to get a chance to hear Andrea give a talk. She is one of the nicest people I have ever met so I assumed that her session would reflect that and it would be pleasant even though it was ‘yet another Gutenberg talk.” She started out with the zenith of the digital multimedia experiences, Snowfall, as the aspirational thing you can actually, really, no-foolin’ build with the tool right now and how to go about it yourself. This is the exact talk that every agency needs to be giving themselves to their clients. I have said it before, if we treat 5.0 as a client breaking event, we are going to FUD ourselves out of some great opportunities. If we instead explain how we can achieve these amazing digital experiences, we are going to own the future.

Raw Notes:
Official editor in the new release
it is coming to core
if you have a lot of workflows, need to adjust
take some time to do it classic editor
“to snowfall” 2012 term
NYT micro site of the who, why and how of the story
interactive site and cool storytelling elements online
with Gutes anyone can snowfall without a newsroom full of professional designers and devs
Applying tools to your content
Gutes walk through
Category block list
–see slides–
Add style to your text, can do it in the editor
columns are blocks not in the themes
verse callouts
gallery blocks
interacting with links
Integrate other post types
makes it easy to move content into a page and customize it for your readers
more intuitive
shortcodes, archives, files, custom HTML
editor side portfolio entry
Spice up with multimedia
interactive maps, gifs, videos
Built in call to action
CTA idea in different ways, ‘read more’ is a CTA it is how you specifically want people to engage with your content
Button block
pull quote to call out
images can be built in Gutenberg
upload image and add colors and things over it
simplify your workflow

Clone Yourself Through Automation
Jocelyn Mozak

Jocelyn is a wonderful bundle of energy so I was really looking forward to her talk. Being buried in DevOps automation over the last bit of my life I went in expecting something like that. Instead I got a taste of my old life when I was selling BPMN software where you are building enterprise versions of If Then Then That. Making the robots do the work is not just for automated testing or composing sites, it is for anything that do more than twice and will continue to do in the future. This is a must watch talk for any small agency or freelancer wanting to up their game.

Raw Notes:
came in late
Form automation
make sure you are doing it correctly and automatically every time
Project automation
launch and 1 month later “Testimonial”
30 days later
updating and maintenance plans
3 months out referrals
6 moths and 1 year anniversary
celebrate 9 months
but where do I start?
Canned emails
templates in Gmail, just save it
post launch
Active Campaign example
Zapier (Action happens, triggers another thing)
+ gravity forms
clear system of folders
client 1 project 1
client 2 …
active, name of client, project
move to Dropbox
Zapier connects more than 1000 apps
More Efficiency tips
de-clutter your inbox
auto scan and sort is good, but
make sure new shiny objects are dealt with systematically not as distractions
Key Qualification questions baked into auto email templates
what is your budget and investment?
Set example sizes of budgets to set expectations
gets rid of tire kickers and keeps your time freer
Get your tool set dialed in
themes and plugins ready to go
don’t need to play in experimental new stuff all the time, find what works
only use hosts you know and love
she uses WPEngine
Continue to automate, if you do it twice, start thinking if you will do 3rd time
if do a third time, automate it and never do it manually again
It is a bit like teaching your kids to tie their own shoes
there is an up front cost, but you will celebrate every time someone ties their own shoes
Tool list
you need to know your numbers and your business
some expenses are good

Wrapping Up

I flew into Seattle with a hope of not getting rained on too much and other than one rainy morning the city complied. Every place I went and everyone I met there was warm and encouraging. Seattle really is an awesome place to me and has consistently treated me well. I learned a good deal and was inspired on multiple fronts. From the marketplace to the parks and from the hip Capitol Hill to the mean streets of downtown it is a city that is very much alive in the NorthWest. I hope to get back that way sooner than later. If for nothing else, I hope to get to return for WordCamp Seattle 2019!

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