WordCamp Phoenix 2019: The cold wet desert, the dried sage and fresh rosemary.

WordCamp Phoenix Logo February 15 to 17

I have never seen it rain in Arizona’s Urban Heart. I have also never been cold when outdoors when there. That changed as I landed in a light, but persistent rain that chilled the desert town. Later on the sun did come out, but the chill stuck around. I was warmed throughout most of my stay however due to the radiance of love and joy I felt from the community gathered for the first WordCamp of the year, WordCamp Phoenix 2019

Food and Fun



A WordCamp would not feel complete to me anymore if we didn’t try to raise the WPVegan flag high at least once. A year ago I discovered The Counter thanks to Mike Demo because they had the Impossible Burger. Turns out the other vegan patty on the menu was more to my liking and their bar made this place a hit with everyone else, meat eating or not. It was great to meet up with my WP family for a filling meal out on the town before the first day of camp.


There was Starbucks coffee provided. No tea though. Still, caffeine was delivered and we got going. Snacks for the afternoon came with lunch as a little goodie bag. Lunch itself was a great fry bread taco. Mine was piled with beans and I heaped it high with lettuce and salsas. It was delicious and every dietary need could have been met. Great job team!

Speaker Diner

Unlike most events, this year the organizers held the Speaker/Sponsor/Volunteer/Organizer dinner after the first full day of camp. I actually really liked this approach, given it was a Friday through Saturday camp. Many speakers had a travel schedule that only allowed them to get to camp early on Friday morning, so this dinner day proved to mean a larger get together. Those additional bodies made for great energy. There was a wonderful awarding of the speaker gifts ceremony as well where I felt truly like I was being honored. It was great.


We made an honest attempt at singing together after the speaker dinner but the fates conspired against us. The regular Karaoke DJ at the place we went was literally missing. The bartender at Ain’t Nick’s Tavern actually said this was the first such occurrence in the 2 years she had been there. They were actually worried. Finally a replacement DJ did appear but the hour was late and not much singing happened before we all scattered.


Coffee was again there, but given my penchant for tea in the morning and lack of it present from catering the day before, I brought my own tea to wake up in the morning. Lunch was again outside and by the same catering team. This time we swapped Asian fare for the Mexican in out fusion fare. I had a wonderful helping of tofu, rise and a really yummy noodle salad.

After Party

Before we went to the after party, several of us gathered for another meal at The Counter. It was amazing to hang out with so many amazing people before going to hang out with even more amazing people later.

The After Party was held at the Galvanize co-working and event space. There were a few areas in the space where folks tended to congregate, a smoking area outside, a small patio, a couple large sets of high top tables and a dance floor. The dance floor came equipped with a dance instructor who taught us all to dance the Bachata. It felt like the night sailed by and before we knew it it was time to head out of the space.

WCKaraoke, take 2

I heard tell that someone, not myself, had put a plan in motion to head back to 414 Pub and Pizza which is one of the most unique karaoke bars I have ever been in. The college crowd and weird mix of everyone else make for an entertaining evening that lasted long into the wee hours. It was a fantastic time all around.


Contributor Day!

Sunday morning, some of us got back together at Galvanize for a day of togetherness, community and hacking. There was a slight issue with the coffee plan but some good hot coffee was quickly made available and was pretty good. Reminded me of what we get at the Pantheon office.
We got at least 8 new contributors set up in Slack and on their path to finding the best team for them. From a new contributor hoping to make Gutenberg better to another who thought Support was the best place to start, the eagerness to help out was evident all around. Lunch was pizza, including a pretty tasty vegan option. Sad to say I did not catch the name of the pizza place.

There was a dual event the same day I got to participate in, dotOrganize, but I am going to talk about that later on.


Opening Remarks

WordPress Development in a Modern PHP World
Drew Jaynes

Drew is just an awesome person and presenter and that was the initial reason I planned to see this talk. But when I red the description, it hit me that PHP talks I have attended have been few. Searching my backlog of notes with grep yields only one other talk explicitly about the subject I can find, PHP for WordPress by Alena Holligan back at WordCamp Portland 2018, which I thoroughly enjoyed. There is so much talk of JS these days, that it seems a good reminder core is still PHP is in good order. There were a few the issues in the front of the talk, but Drew kept going like a champ and delivered a very fine talk all devs thinking of getting involved in core should very much see.

Raw Notes:
[[tech issues]]
A lot of devs have not updated to modern standards
small modern code users buck the system
8 years after the fact we finally adopted modern more in core
PHP has held back the dev community
he is here to help
guy that wrote the little prince
“As for the future your task is not to perceive it but to create it.”
Dive in head first, break thing locally
do not jam up your users in the process
be careful with that
usage data, find out how users are using versions of PHP to see if you can bump it
larger % than you think is on 5.6 or higher
version controlled files are a must
separate bootstrap folder to not break site when fais happen
graceful fall-backs
Name\spaces prevent collisions
introduces higher level of organization for a project
not really a standard now but more easy to organize now with it
better code segregation and baseline code ownership
code sample
With great aliasing powers come great responsibility
with Name\space comes aliasing
local to file only or global
help catch avoidable mistakes
defines expectations
5.1 array types
7 added scalar
7.1 intable 7.2 audit
in line documenting what parameters it can accept
‘marker interface’
top level interface that all exceptions implement, anywhere catches this
Closures are a nice to have
anon functions
one way to express simple one time use code
be careful with hooks though
not globally accessible
can’t unhook from callback
in limited cases only, use sparingly
Late static binding
allows parent class to statically access things in subclasses
inheritance in PHP, specific to class being called from
A and B extends A
change self to static and parent class can access
Backend compatibility to look out for
deprecated some old things in new versions

Building Static Sites with WordPress, Gatsby and WPGraphQL
Jason Bahl

Have you heard of GatsbyJS yet? You should have by now. Especially if we are in the future when you are reading this and ReactJS has continued to replace everything on the front end and the static site generated pages reign supreme from their serverless caches. In all seriousness, GraphQL is a spotlight on an issue that is going to be needing addressed sooner or later, the structure of how data and metadate correlate in a WP database. It makes it, at least, much easier to conceptualize those correlations and leverage them in new and experimental ways. With as much coding examples as he had, best to check out the slides and the video for implementation examples.

Raw Notes:
All about that static sites
pre-generated, no required DB lookups, low resource and secure by default
WIth dynamic site,s need to look it up and make a thing
static is way fast
super scary as well
really cheap hosting
Github pages or netlify – sometimes free
the React static site generator
feed data into React
WP site as source for Gatsby site
WPGraphQL plugin
makes WP an GraphQL server
WP send with JSON into templates
WP as an application data graph
Post -> properties, categories, image, other category terms
And categories can connect to other posts
GraphQL can pick nodes and trees from the graph
category name
selecting small thing form big graph
GraphQP tool, GUI for it
can get nested
further properties, all posts that are in a category
almost pain English to your computer
collections, pages, etc
children, their children, etc
even query plugins if access
even general settings
helpful errors
so onto Gatsby
code samples
mapping over data
pass into a template as context
Free hosting on netlify example
menu, managed in WP, rendered in Gatsby
navigate the static site, no DB request
live code building demo!
good thing is Gatsby is awesome with errors, informative
static query
Menu depth is very fast and simple to implement
happens at the query level, no need to go to DB
Fast, Super secure, cheap, fun dev experience (use same elements in Gutes and Gatsby), all JS, Decoupled from WP
Build step (content is not immediately available)
netlify uses web hooks to rebuild on update, 20 second build
Online publishing might suffer if high volume/traffic,
No incremental builds, have to rebuild whole site,
All JS,
Decoupled from WP,

All About AI: Marketing Technologies in the 21st Century
Crystal Taggart

I have seen a number of AI talks about using one aspect or another before. The example of blocking adult content uploads is almost always present in those. But when I really think about it, this was the first holistic talk about AI I have ever attended in person, and certainly the broadest scope of the subject I have ever heard anywhere in a single talk. As we move to faster and faster execution of mundane tasks by AI, the complexity of the tasks grows seemingly in parallel to the speeds. There are a lot of hard issues we have not cracked yet and I left the room with a sense of excitement about the possibilities for this field.

Raw Notes
–came in a bit late–
decision trees
Computer vision
computers see better than we can
AI and Natural Language processing
no great cracking of NPL by AI yet
this is a really hard issue
5 question it can answer
1 – is it A or B
dog or cat?
2 – is it weird – fraud on the account
3 – how much, how many, what will 4th Q sales be?
4 – How is this organized? customer segmentation
5 – What should I do next?
learned Go by playing itself 1M time
then played humans
beat world champ 4 games to 1
Types of analytics
Descriptive – KPI, OCR
Predictive – Churn prediction
PrescriptiveCustomer service and operations
1/2 of the money I spend on ads are wasted, issue is I don’t know which half- – 1887
Now – Modern marketing, it is 98%
Marketing can have 3% success and be considered good
1100 marketing company in 2007
8000 now
9% of companies support multiple solutions
everything is increasing
top 3 marketing challenges:
Generating traffic
Prove ROI
Securing enough budget
AI powered sales is what we want
Leads – sales – CLV
Leads: Predict campaign ROI
Predict ROI of every asset creating
Best customer segments
Probability of closing/Churn
Personalized up-sells
Personalized Service
measuring what matters
Actual results mean true costs
people think target numbers but real numbers are really alarming after real analysis
“income level by zip code in segmentation”
company size
annual income
Predicting the future
long term customer value
Competitive Analysis (few are doing this)
Competitive Review
Sentiment analysis
Who has the time?
abundance of resources
Bots, Mechanical turk, Upwork, Crowd Flower, Fivver
If have more money, segmentation, recommender systems, proactive service, market basket analysis, website article recommender customer sentiment
churn prediction, web scraping, sales bots, chat bots
if you have less money?
amazon alexa
pipl – data about any customer for almost no money
ubot_studio – scraping tool
mycroft AI – oss alexa
OSS too
Datascraper – data-miner.io
Case studies:
JP Morgan – disrupting lawyers for better doc management
ASkJuli by Amtrak
American Express – predictive bankruptcy to get money from loans before declared
Netflix – predictive suggestions
AI bad and ugly –
Microsoft Cognitive Services – does not see black people
Tay – AI turned evil
Alexa-KPI app – very bad privacy policy – sells your data from metrics
“what kinds of problems you can solve is lmited to what data you have”
Think differently
Data driven driven vs fiefdom vs ambiguity
90 day digital transformation
Data Warehouse
AI Pipelines

Building Gutenberg Blocks with ACF
Tessa Kriesel

Tessa gave a talk about something near and dear to all our hearts, cute puppy dogs. Well, really, if the internet and tools like Gutenberg and Advanced Custom Fields are not going to result in seeing awesome animals, whats the point? I mean, I follow Cute Emergency for a reason. Along the way, Tessa gave a stellar presentation on the tooling and how the future is not just going to be stuffed in a big ol blob to parse out later, but stored in addressable fields to manipulate for best effect when grabbed by different front ends like React and GatsbyJS are giving us.

Raw Notes:
Gutenberg feels like it frees me
internet issues
slid.io poll
wprig for a theme is recommended
have you tried the ACF 5.8 beta, 96& said no
5.8 beta you can build blocks
ACF definition
free and a pro version of ACF
custom data to WP content
ACF registered block
once registered available option in block
at root, settings easy
Post types
mode -edit or preview
render template
render callback
code examples
dog on site
hero block
— a lot of the second 1/2 of talk was example walk through of the UI and I did not capture it well enough to publish —

Over the Shoulder Email Marketing
David Blackmon
Tim Strifler

I end up writing a little email copy from time to time and I have never been to a session about the subject explicitly before. The title made me curious as well. It turns out it was a delightful approach to a 2 personal case study presentation, where Tim and David told how they build businesses off of smart email list management and leverage. I know I am going to focus more on writing value emails as I move forward.

Raw Notes:
why email marketing
user acquisition
David’s email marketing story
Tim’s email marketing story
value emails vs Sales emails
platform and tools
explain their experiences
If you think email is dead, your missing out on the real metrics
the truth? Email marketing is still going strong and is possibly the best possible strategy
Direct line of communication for audience
you own it, you do not own FB
no one can take it from you
low cost (once list is grown)
Automation and segmenting!
User acquisition and list building
Visitors must be enticed to join your list
content upgrades
updates, new content
email series
Don’t be afraid to give free stuff if you can get en email
easier to market to them later
Content upgrades
Visitors must be entices to join
freebies, coupons, content upgrades, updates, email series, eBook
Your a guest in the subscribers inbox
you must deliver on expectations
List must be nurtured, 1 a month minimum
Full circle market synergy
email list
blog with relevant content, tutorials
Building credibility
David’s story
1 to 30K subscribers in 3.5 years
free products, “Demo Zone”, child them generator(a form, generate CT, email it to them), subscribe
average 2 emails per week: content, new products, sales/promo
If you have that many subscribers, you only need 10% or even 1% to make $
demo zone taught people by giving full access to locked down multisite users could see settings on via the admin, not element expect
Tim’s email marketing story
0 to 17,000 subscribers in 2.5 years
content upgrades and freebies
3 per month volume
value vs sales emails
can’t just sales emails!
I am not tied to the size of my email list

Take back the day with WP-CLI
Ryan Kanner

Every now and again you go into a talk about a subject you know a little something about with the goal to maybe get a few new pointers. I walked out with a whole new way to think about technical presentations. Leveraging a case study approach with real email examples of requests he has actually had to deal with he shows the nightmare world of no WP-CLI and automated future world that a little WP-CLI can make it. Not only did it give a solid story structure to the talk but it also make the real world use of the tool very tangabile. This is going to become the talk on WordPress.TV I will be referring new users to as soon as it is up.

Raw Notes:
What is wp-cli?
goal is for regular users to use it in a deeper way and use it more often
and if you don’t use it, use it
WP on the command line
talk to WP without the browser
His journey to wp-cli enlightenment
he handled a lot of WP maintenance duties, so he turned to better tools, like WP-CLI to stop being overwhelmed
managing about 100 WP site, he was doing it manually
wp @all core update changed his life
Delete user: Disable Todd’s login
one of the most powerful thing is
Environment aliases
Scenario 2
fast install over many places
is the 5 minute install really 5 minutes?
power of scripting!
anyone can do this
setting constants
core config:
dbuser: root
dbpass: password
dbhost: localhost
never have to remember ever again
Scenario 3: Debug CRON
Cron Job Stuck
without wp-cli- got to look into the DB and cron garbage output
please the client quickly and easily
wp media regenerate # all thumbnails
wp transient delete –expired
wp rewrite flush
wp rewrite list
wo cache flush
Updates sites!
Going back to logging into wp-admin feels like a chore after learning wp plugin update
scenario 5: import data
migrating into WP from legacy system
spreadsheet with tags
Without WP-cli can take hours or days depending how many tags
with scripting, 5 seconds
you can implement custom functionality
6 Sync staging
client messes with staging site
local aliases
ssh: ubuntu@mysite.com:2222
user: ubuntu
path: ../..
Scaffold types
7 taxonomy
lot of hand copy pasting
some plugins maybe
or wp scaffold post-tye –prompt
scaffold themes, plugins, blocks, plugin-tests
really helpful for figuring out blocks
speed round, commands he likes
delete all spam comments
you can compose 2 commands together
make space separated lists inside other commands that accept them
don’t have a user on a new site you inherit, make yourself one
creating many posts for testing
reset all user passwords
wp user reset-password $(wp user list –format=ids)

My Talk

Nobody wants a website. They want results!

This was my planned retirement of this talk. I have been giving it for a while now and I even got to give it at WordCamp US 2018. I learned so much every time I gave it. The greatest joy was being able to play with the format of Q&A a bit by engaging the audience for their views on a variety of subjects. Almost every time I asked “who charges for the Discovery process” I always found a lively conversation to be had. If you have not considered charging for discovery related to a new web project, the general consensus I have found is that successful agencies do it. The end result of a discovery process is an artifact in form of a project plan or at least partial needs mapping, and either is a very valuable piece of information.


10 Years of WordPress Phoenix: An Ice Luge and Things Left Unsaid.
Joshua Strebel

The fact that everyone at the camp was talking about this presentation long after the talk ended makes this one of the most ‘effective’ talks I have ever seen in person. It did the thing that I firmly believe in my heart Joshua wanted it to do, make us have a conversation about biases and how we view this space and ourselves. I disagreed with some of what he said, but I did find myself recognizing I have bias too. And anything that helps me live an examined life overall was worth attending and talking about.

Raw Notes:
Night Pagely dies
his backstory
6 years in college
OBU web
Best Party Ever – Event party business
Northstack most recent
then Pressnomics
a life chart up and to the right
that is how many entrepreneur paint it
really it is a wild windy journey
secret is lots of trial and error
you have know when to ditch the losers
I told a whir lie to myself over and over until I believed it, and then others around me started believing it too, then it finally came true and it was no longer a lie
Seth Pepper
If you are not your own best cheerleader you will be eaten alive
When Pagely new no competitors
now like 30 or so
all came at them, came at them from all angles
bootstrapped, never take a dime of funding,
will never, then it is about making money not making people happy
certainly good companies take money, they are clouded
how do you tell them apart, do something different
up market
got away from “Best WP for everyone” to “Best for this group.”
Must be better than serving those people
Blue Oceans Strategy
written by Mauborge and Kim
Red oceans bad, blue are good
red oceans are blood of winners and losers and fighting
You must create the blue ocean
competition follows
must always seek a new ocean
Northstack is a blue ocean
authority bias
maturity cycle
intro phase
WP following this
are we at peak WP?
who knows
IS Gutes the future?
Where does the money go?
small or large companies
shareholders are bad
invest in people
leaner leader
At Pagely trying to add authority to think and act on best behalf of the company
Ultimately it’s about you
Win 2019
“Don’t hitch your wagon to community without remembering to put food on your table”
back to Pagely being down
it was a single domain on a CC that handled routing
$10 domain cost them $57K in SLA payout
Mistakes are typically not fatal
they just hurt real bad sometimes
and then he went skiing
Survivorship Bias

Panel: WordCamps In History and Practice

Adam Silver
Cami Kaos
Francesca Marano

Not only was it contributor day on Sunday, but it was the very first ever WordCamp for Organizers / Popup Event, also known as dotOrganize. Thanks to the awesome efforts of Carol Stambaugh and Drew Jaynes for organizing 3 panel discussions throughout the day. I missed the first one on Meetups as I was helping new folks set up for Contributor day. The panel that I did see was flat out entertaining at times and jammed pack with great information for folks who are organizing WordCamps or hope to organize one soon.

Raw Notes:
WordCamps are larger than a meetup celebration of WP
2006 only 1
2010 almost 80
then dive to 50 in 2011
dip due to quality and foundation was started
143 last year
Francesca: Lonely freelancer
found the world that was happening
got involved and found a lot of opportunity and community
Adam Silver
why he did organizing
he was excited about the project and old lead was burned out
said “If no on else does it, I need to.”
Francisca: Italian community is one of the oldest communities
polyglots first translations
at some point everyone woke up
she was at another conference and she had an ‘ah ha’ conversation
opened slack and there was nothing there
conversation was vibrant after that
few Italians wanted local scene
organized stand alone contributor day
applied to WC not knowing it would make her lead organizer
from 0 to 6 WordCamps in 3 years
Q: What was the hardest single point of organization for an organizer?
Adam: venue was WCLAX hardest challenge
Francesca: Speakers is the hardest still
this year got 80 applications
4 were from local community
Got more application from the Netherlands
Q:Going from est to east
Adam: wanted to beat Miami, but it is not a competition
but scale changes things
community is strong in LA, he knew it
out east, stepped into org role asap,
Had been run by same couple people for 10 years
they know all, tribal know how
he wants to make better community
East is not as clean as his experience in West,
Francesca: How does Adam feel about starting a new one?
Adam: Talking about that with Community now
30 minutes from starting a new meetup outside WP one
that is when they gave him Organizer role,
still slow
3 meetups in 18 months
1 WC done, 1 coming up
respect history that is there
Francesca: We didn’t care about History, cause it was bad
without the translation people, WP would not be popular in Italy
starting from scratch really
Old organizer was a gatekeeper
she has a nickname “Jackhammer”
Drew: Tips for breaking into a community?
Adam: got a ticket from a sponsor
he was looking for a job
desperation reeks
meetup in LA was kinda far
time to commute, but issues with that
asked permission to start one in south
immediately said “got for it”
just ask
for Raleigh, with he would have jackhammered it
try not to get too involved in drama
reach out for help cause it exists
Francesca: Didn’t know what it was
she just liked the idea of a group of people really say “just do a thing”
New in a state and city was hard
Cami: Gate keeping is a real issue in the community
2 year rule is there to try and help with this and burnout
if you feel someone is blacking you and you can reach out to Support
any trusted member should be allowed to organize
“trusted” means something unique to each community
bubble up after time with knowing and trust
Francesca: for them since it was new, a lot of new people
a mix of all kinds of people
advertised through local WP install admin
one post in 2008
then got Italian
@karimmarucchi is The original jackhammer
Demanded Italians can write on local language blog
made it happen
Comment: Sometimes best players are your worst team members
when good at something, it is hard to see the people around you who are not
organizing and leading can be hard
Francesca: didn’t want to be face of Italian community
stepped down from lead organizing roles
Siteground helps her be part of larger community
Cami: Not all organizers become mentors
Adam and F are both mentors, what does that mean? why?
Because he was asked
mentor for 3 camps last year
all 3 were canceled
everyone is a volunteer
no one is paid to lead a camp or meetup
things change and things happen
Mentoring 4 next
1 for 2020 already
he just wants to give back
he had a ton of questions and were afraid to ask
she thinks in another life she was a mama bear
protecting everyone
everyone that goes through something she went through she wants to help
first experience was challenge and she thinks she overextended asking other people
it is a strong community and they kept at it
did a good WC but wants to help it be better and help others be better

My Panel on dotOrganize

Panel: Sponsoring WordPress Events
Devin Sears
Cami Kaos
Francesca Marano

I was honored to be on a panel at the first ever DotOrganize panel discussion on sponsoring WordCamps during a contributor day. Cami did a great job hosting and I felt we all got equal time and fair questions. This stuff is actually complex to talk about. There is no magic ROI calculator I or any of folks in the room know of to measure how sponsors universally measure effectiveness of events. To sum up my thoughts, the one bit of advice that crept into almost all areas of discussion was “ask sponsors as early as possible if they can help.” Some conferences get less months of planning than others and if you ask early enough in the budget planning cycle, which differs for each company sponsoring, the more likely that organization can plan a budget for it. I am not sure at this time where the recording will live in the long run, so do check the DotOrganize twitter account for updates

Wrapping up

Saving Tim

Of course, I could not complete this account without touching on the “Save Tim” efforts. As everyone learned at the event, this camp helped point out the most pressing issue of our day and age. Finding Tim. From the original post: “Who is he? We don’t know, but he apparently needs saving.” Find out more at the official Save Time With Us website.

“Whew! That was a blur.” That is a line I say to myself a lot after an event and it has never felt truer than for this event. It felt like I was in town for only a few hours, not three jammed packed days and nights. Being the first event of the year, especially after a personal vacation over the holidays, this event helped us regulars to these sorts of events shake the rust off. It was an awesome way to start off the year! I got so much out of it, I will always remember it as very special. As I told one camper, I needed every square inch of that event.

The Phoenix community makes me feel welcome every time I encounter those fine people anywhere in the world. When I actually go to their city, I get overwhelmed by how much love I legitimately feel from them. I honestly and truthfully hope that I find myself back to Phoenix soon. But if nothing else, I know I will be back for WordCamp Phoenix 2020!

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