WordCamp Boston 2019: A new venture in an old town and seeing the Green Monster from the inside of Fenway

The words Welcome to WordCamp over silloutte of the city skyline

The Summer heat beat down as I landed one again at Logan International Airport. I had spent the previous few days in The Big Apple walking around and thinking about my life. To cut to it, I had parted company with my previous company very recently and had gone to the city that never sleeps to see some old friends and get my thoughts together. Very happy to say I did and I arrived in old Beantown with a fresh perspective, some new ideas and a new banner to march under, my own. So as the founder and CEO of Process Digital Consulting, I arrived to participate in the 10th anniversary celebration that was WordCamp Boston 2019

Food and Fun


Unlike most events there is not a speaker/sponsor dinner, there is a brunch, which I will get to later. Instead I enjoyed a very pleasant meal at the recently opened new location of Whole Heart Provisions. This place is everything I like about Chipotle burrito bowls but all plant based. Then a small gathering of us hug out at the exquisite Le Meridian hotel bar where a few of us where staying making for a relaxing and light evening of mellow comradery.


Boston always has a delightful breakfast spread of bagels, pastries and fruit to go with coffee. The coffee is consistently mild flavored and gets the job done. Lunchtime was bagged sandwiches and wraps. This year was pretty consistent with previous years experiences of veggie wraps, chips and an apple. The real food treat of the whole day was the afternoon snack with cupcakes, including a fee vegan ones, they brought in to celebrate 10 years of this event.

Trolley tour

This year we were in for a very special treat as those of us who registered early enough got to go on an open air tour of Boston on the Old Town Trolley Tour. It was hot out but we still had a great time seeing the sights and experiencing Beacon Hill and Boston Commons together.

After Party

The trolley tour dropped us off right in front of the after parry venue, once again this year as in the past at White Horse Tavern. We had a nice selection of pub food offerings and refreshments to beat the heat. I can’t find a single tweet with a pic from this year, which I think had something to do with the fact we all looked like we had melted a bit throughout the day, so here is a picture from a previous camp.


What camp experience would be complete without singing together. A group of us headed back to what has become my go-to spot in the area, Courtside, up in Cambridge. The tables are sticky and the staff a bit surly, but this place is dripping with authenticity and charm. At least I hope that is what was dripping from the walls, it was pretty hot. All joking aside, there are few things I enjoy more as a camper than singing with my fellow FOSS enthusiasts.


Speaker Brunch

WordCamp Boston’s second day starts at 11:30 and the speakers and organizers get us all together for a brunch meal. We returned to the newly renovated Tavern Allston this time around and I feasted on the potatoes and fruit like they were going to go extinct. A full gullet later we ventured over to make a second day of camp happen.

A light lunch

I want to give a very, very special shout out to one of the nicest and genuinely good hearted people in the world. Mr. John Eckman took time from his organizing duties to make sure us that only eat plant based foods had a good opportunity to get more in our stomachs than just carbs. He did a lunchtime run to grab us some Blaze Pizza featuring a spicy vegan chorizo. I hope to be nearly as kind and thoughtful to everyone I meet as he has been to me. The world could use a few more folks like that.


At the end of the event, I got an invitation from a true football (soccer to us Americans) fan, and another all around great guy, Rich Hill to go see his favorite team, Liverpool, play a ‘friendly’ match at Fenway Park. Seeing a football pitch, as they are called, bult up in one of the oldest baseball stadiums was a real treat! Could not be more grateful to have the experience and what a heck of a way to end my Boston adventure.


Opening Remarks

How does the web work?
Frank Corso

Do I know how the internet works? I would of course say yes, but after seeing this delightful and well researched talk by Frank, I can say without a doubt I can better tell you how it is put together! Demystifying technology is a super important step in the process of building tools and coming up with new ays to solve problems. This is a must see type of presentation for anyone who is new to working on the web and just needs a clearer high lever overview of what the internet really is.

Raw Notes:
Goal is to understand the Browser, DNS, Server, Back end process
page load process
1960 ARPA
Packet Switching
research into ARPANET
connecting different computers
IBM created the Generalized Markup Language
looks a lot like what we have today actually ith HTML
people realize all working on same kinda thing
need standard protocols
still in use today
Mailbox protocol preceded the SMPT protocol
then ARPANET grows
then other networks forming
TCP = transmission control protocol
IP – Internet Protocol
easier way to look up IP addresses
based on yellowpages
early browsers emerge
log into another computer and see data, not HTTP yet
SGML – standard generalized Markup Language
then Tim Berners-Lee
WWW Consortium
Browser Wars
WorldWideWeb first browser
Mosiac, Opera, IE
CSS in 1994 proposed as a way to stylize websites
Microsoft was on the side of CSS
one of the only times IE was ahead of the game
JS origins
originally called Mocha, created by Netscape
shipped in 1995
AMCA Script technically still, but we all just call it JavaScript
Most popular browsers image – see slides – from wikipedia
forked and called Safari
OK, enough history
What happens when a page loads?
Parts of a URL
HTTPS:// – Protocol
Staging. – Subdomain
example – domain
.com – Top Level Domain (TLD)
/about-us – path, route
?ID=32 – parameters
HTTP Requests
Looks up IP address via DNS
server gets request and sends back data
Get, Put, Post, Delete
Status Codes
1xx, 2xx, 3xx, 4xx, 5xx
200 – worked as expected, never notice these cause the thing just works
400 numbers, something you are sending is bad
500 numbers something wrong on the serve end
Domain Name System (DNS)
Browser, get the IP address, looks in cache first
if not cached, goes to Root Server
TLP Name Server
Domain Name Server
that gives the IP address to the browser and then connection continues
A record points to IP address
can do CNAME as well, send to this other address that also gets looked up
MX record setup
AAAA records – IPv6
Servers, gets the requests
Shared – shared resources on same computer, many sits
VPS – isolated processes on same server
Dedicated hosting – all yours, expensive but all the processing power you need
cloud hosting – network or cluster of servers managing things
Creating HTML –
Apache/nginx – see if any software is looking for such requests
PHP – the files to look at for the server to run
need a DB
MySQL/MariaDB most common
this could take a while to build a request
caching plugins kick in here
Displaying a webpage
Parse HTML
Building the page in HTML
Painting to the screen
Onload – tech term – this process says it is done loading, so other software can run their processes
Fully Loaded
Difference between TTFB and TTFP
most speed test stop at onload

Introduction to the WordPress Transients API
Topher DeRosia

Believe it or not, I have never sat through a talk about this critical part of WordPress before. Searching my own notes comes up with the term appearing a few times but mostly in relation to debugging and a couple high level overviews of WP mentions. Topher did an outstanding job of detailing what they were, how to use them and, most importantly, how to use them correctly! He also overviewed some of the tooling he uses like Query Monitor. Truly a fantastic talk for any developer trying to get better performance from the software.

Raw Notes:
Transients = caching
a very specific kind
Transient = lasting only a short time
you don’t get to decide how long it actually does last
caching data in transients caching 3rd party calls
how it work?
each transient has a name
when you need the data, check to see if it exists
if it does, use it
If not, generate the data and use it next time
Where are transients stored?
I don’t care, WP takes care of it
No really…
First WorPress looks for real, system level caching module like memcched, Redis, etc. hese are very very fast and much preferred
Failing that, transients are stored in the WP options table, yes a DB call, but a speedy one
You don’t have to do anything to set it up, it just does it
Meta queries are slow
code example
$ave_query = set_transient( $transient_name, $coaches_query, Hours_in_Seconds * 12 );
but what about changes?
how to invalidate?
set time to expire is one way
‘Delete Expired Transients’
‘Query Monitor’

The World-Wide Work
Ethan Marcotte

When I first saw Ethan on the schedule I honestly thought it was a misprint. I mean, after all this is one of the foremost thought leaders I quote the most often. He was not giving a keynote and had a talk at the end of day one. If you have never seen him present, it is a delight, as his design aesthetics are second to none and the way he ties up his conclusions with a nice bow is downright inspiring to me as a speaker. Unfortunately there was a bit o a technical issue here on a couple fronts. First, my laptop battery decided to completely die on me and second, he went over time to the point they pulled the plug on him and we missed his final point slide. A tragedy on both counts. There are a lot of recordings of him giving talks already online. I highly recommend taking the time to watch a few. It might just change your life

Raw Notes:
name comes from the sound of the flock moving
like a whisper over the air
Delighting in the small
dropcaps for instance
Firefox, chrome, safari all interpret this differently
looking under the hood
anatomy of a letter
ascender and descender
don’t need these for Dropcaps
since introduces span into markup, we can use before and after psudoselectos and negative margins
m, atthew issue
treat dropcap as a purely visual element
properly designed patterns does what we want
hard to think of ourselves as powerful
any sufficiently advanced neglect is indistinguishable from malice
Robert Moses
New York Parks Commission
Flushing Meadows Park, many other places, UN headquarters
Master BUilder of NY
also an avowed racist
contempt for people he thought were beneath him
many of his works were places out of reach from non-whites
he wanted to make sure buses could not pass under many bridges
Design can encode racist and classist biases
map of Cleveland
in pursuit of profits, makes under-served areas based on profits
this too is a kind of design
critical to us to
We have to look at design as an agent of power
amazon face recognition software
tested by ACLU which showed it was racists
Google and drone strikes
FB, UN Human Rights Watch
instrument of hate
Tim Berners-Lee was creating a tool for everyone
we can still celebrate that
Ursala franklin
The Real Word fo Technology – book
wish he read it sooner
1. Advocacy – excitement and promise
2. Adoption – Acceptance, growth and standardization
3. Institutionalization – economic consolidation and stagnation
The sewing machine introduction
this machine ends poverty
messaging soon became one of worker efficiency
classic division of labor
people always promised tech will free then in the end it always exploits them
same pattern happening now with Internet
the web foundation statement: empowered people by the web
Duplex framework for speaking humans and completing complex transactions
what happens to Jade’s job when we replace her with tech
Brenda Monyangi
produces training data, to train AI
labeling each element and tag manually
this is exploitation and by design
hiring low cost labor to do repetitive nature maximizes corporate profits
one example facebook
content moderation manual process
traumatic work by army of contractors
flagging content
automation created corners where exploited and replacing them
Netflix AVA best guess who wants to see what artwork
finding new ways to scale our resources
pattern library
personally he has dreamed of such a thing
now it is here and scary
batery dying 🙁

What does your brand look like in a voice first world?
Chip Edwards

I really had never considered the auditory world that is becoming the main way many people interact with devices as deeply as I now do after seeing this presentation. Chip layed out what I expected at first, how brands leverage sound bytes to brand and how common and brand critical that has become. But then he delved into the world of how the verbal world and the visual world contrast and many of his points were new ideas to me. So much so that I took poor notes as I researched things he was discussing. If you are trying to serve more people and in delightful ways. It is becoming standard and it is only evolving.

Raw Notes:
What is in a name?
Sight vs sound
domain names vs invocation names
whoever gets invocation name first will own it going forward
in visual world, page one is good enough
in verbal world you need to be THE answer
sonic brands
plays theme earcons from McDonalds, Samsung, Pepsi, and lastly Coca-cola
sonic branding is how you recognize them by ear
embedding in ads
been around a long time
now more popular then ever thanks to voice technology
auditory queues to let you know what is coming next
visuals very different from verbal world
Alt-Text is super vital
spelling is very important for screen readers!
example of all misspelled words you can still read but messes with screen reader
BRand should dictate your diction
consistent style that resonates with your audience
voice is a part of the recording process
a different voice per section
stml – tags for audio content

Nic Newman –
voice is the future
Number of Smart Speakers grew by 78% in last year
68% of SS users use it daily

My Session

Bash is magic # No it’s not

I delight each and every time I give this talk. I always run out of time and I always wish I could fit in one or two more points. Seeing the faces in the crowd go from slightly baffled by some of the points to understanding is the most pleasure a speaker can have doing this and I got to see that on a few faces this time around. Always grateful for the opportunity to share what I am learning. If you know anyone that needs help learning Bash, send them my way, I want to learn more and the way t learn the most the fastest is to teach it!

Wrapping Up

I do really like Boston, but the summer heat was a bit much. I had a lot on my mind and launching a new personal brand took a bit more mental effort than I had given it room for, hence this post arriving a day later than I normally push these out. I almost didn’t go this WordCamp and was not sure how I would be received as the guy who used to work for one of the sponsors. I am overjoyed to say that when I showed up, I was greeted with the same kindness and welcomeness that I now know would be there no matter what brand I showed up under. That really meant a lot and has put me on a positive path I am not sure I would be on otherwise. I do hope life moves in a way that I get to go back next year for the 11th anniversary edition of WordCamp Boston in 2020!

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