WordCamp for Publishers 2019: Warm Ohio nights and a lot of community socializing

WordCamp for Publishers 2019 columbus logo featuring the skyline of Columbus in red silhouette

I was born in the Buckeye state and it is not a place I visit too often. There is not a lot to draw me back and living on a coast and traveling as much as I have in recent years has given me few opportunities to come back. Last time I was in the Columbus area was way back in 2016 for WordCamp Dayton, which was before this blog existed. That trip was a game changer for me as I met Josepha there, learned what a happiness engineer did and really, for the first time, saw what WordPress Community was all about. That took me on a path of Developer Relations that saw me learning new skills almost daily. I got to share those skills and still learn more this time around in Columbus at WordCamp for Publishers 2019.

Food and Fun


The night before the event officially kicked off there was an opening reception at Arepazo Tapas Bar Grille. Various fried appetizers and meat on toothpicks options as well as communal beer pitchers and a few gallons of margaritas. Very proud to say that we didn’t let the margaritas go to waste and everyone at the end made sure we extracted the maximum value.

Afterward, some of us had a little more refreshment and fellowship.


Arriving at the venue, I found pretty reasonable coffee and tea as well as a small fridge of sodas and LaCroix and such. It kept us going for the morning. Lunch was a local food truck, Nazca Peruvian Eats. Very simple, but filling for me, vegan option of rice and beans and corn and olives. I did go back later for some plantains at the very end. Very tasty all around.

We got back together in the evening at Two Dollar Radio Headquarters for some really nice vegan cafe food, some drinks and some board games. I brought my new copy of Foodtown Throwdown and got to introduce several people to the ‘build you own food truck empire’ game. The cafe in all reality though is a bar/bookstore/book publisher run by the nicest people. For sure go and support them if you are ever in Columbus again.


Some of us did find our way to an Irish bar to catch their Karaoke night. We went to Cavan Irish Pub, home of the $2.50 well drink and $1 Jello shots. I had no Jello as that contains gelatin which is gross. Can’t find any tweets on this.


Coffee and tea and cold drinks awaited us again. This time for lunch we had fresh made pitas from the Pitabilities food truck. I had some tasty fries and a falafel sandwich. A single foodtruck did take a bit of time, so they extended the lunch period by 15 minutes.

After the last sessions were done and we went to drop our stuf off at the places we were staying, we regathered at Wolf’s Ridge Brewing for some pretty nice house made brews and I indulged in some spicy palomas. We did continue on after this but the twitter documentation is lacking so I will just leave it at that.


After the 2 gull days of sessions, the camp continues with a half day ‘mentoring’ experience. We arrived back at the venue and got the same coffee and drinks reception. Lunch was not originally part of the plan but the organizers made it happen last minute. I had an avocado poke bowl from Poke bowl from Viiza. Others had a variety of fish or chicken in theirs. Soon after lunch I had to split, ending my social times with the WordCamp folks this time around.


Opening Remarks:

Creating a Better Editorial Experience with Gutenberg
Jon Heller

I love any talk that gives a history lesson and this was a great one. Understanding where we come from is really one of the only ways to come to terms with what we have now. It is not like someone sat down one day and from scratch said “I need to make Visual Studio Code” it was a build of of other technologies and a desire to optimize and combine the best features to make a better experience than being dropped into Vim (not that there is anything wrong with that though). Embracing the now and not clinging to the past will make sure your clients are happy into the near future. Embracing the future though and thinking of what Gutenberg will become and starting to plan your work around that can make sure you not only survive into the future but evolve to best extract value from it.

Raw Notes:
Stop fighting your CMS
Same issues on all platforms
been doing this for a minute
on many platforms
coneLobster, NetBeans, Bluefish, HotDog,
had to know HTML to use
tough to do it in the early days
savage state
art history lesson
rough around the edges, but cobbled together what looks OK
days before CMS
table tags
bad name, good idea
evolves more,
arise of the CMS
hard to manage and hard to update
Elliot, Advanced Custom Fields
layout challenges and specific reusable fields consistently
freeform editors make it messy
data is not easily extractable
sort y price or filter is hard
ACF allows fields to be reusable
history of short codes and manual repeating ACF
content vs blocks
2 solutions ACF vs WYSIWYG
not idea editor experience
around this time, other players emerge, like Squarespace
Gutenberg emerged from that
as a large scale effort with a lot of weight to it by Ma.tt
skepticism, lot of fear of messing up your website
blowing up the site concern
plugin experience classic until 2022
legacy content just keeps existing

Beyond the Metabox: How Gutenberg Can Bring the Editorial Experience to Life
Kevin Fodness

Speaking of that future, this talk was a natural follow on and focused on the blocks themselves and how they can be leveraged for better developer experiences. Let’s face it, the ‘old way’ of metaboxes is kinda peicemeal and honestly clunky. While just as clunky to many as it stands right now, Gutenberg has the potential for so much more. The technical discussion of PluginSidebar should be of interest to anyone currently building WordPress.

Raw Notes:
Is a hotdog a sandwich? Is an editor a sandwich?
He is in charge of Alley’s JS practice
post types?
Pagebulders – universally terrible
Why are pagebuilders a bad idea – pic of dumpster fire
shortcodes are injectable
17 screens on metaboxes
that is how they edit content on a site
it works
it is just parsing it visually is hard
Gutenberg to solve this
WYSIWYG but other benefits
custom blocks, 1 half of the experience
use built in whenever possible
kitchen sink post to show how it works to clients
modify based on feedback from that
image block, can add on any other fields as needed
only custom once built in or extended blocks no longer solve issue
a lot of the room uses customized Gutenberg blocks
extend your own custom blocks like you extend the built in blocks
feed-driven block with live preview
block call backs,
two concerns
what editor view look like? what happens to save methods?
latest content from feed view, better editorial experience
background color, you can limit the color pallet
callout block example
something that was a short code, much easier to manage as a block
block editor in core, Gutenberg is the just the code name
posts that do or don’t support content
utility post type, template licked block saved to postmeta, includes CSV data uploader
no free form content area
no content area, no Gutenberg
make a custom block that uses the meta data marry with template locking
can’t move, reorder or change layout,
register per plugin, config specific for your site
metaboxes go into the PluginSidebar
break into sections
can see conditionally loaded by post type or other attribute
because ReactJS, respond before saving
supports all fields, including custom
good candidates: SEO (Meta title, description)
Open Graph Twitter Card text and images
Display options that affect the entire page
looking ahead
where is dev going?
next version, ability to extend Document sidebar
PluginSidebar will be used for Plugins
don’t be afraid of the future of Gutes
Not the Gutenpocalypse
Gutenberg Ramp

Top Cases in Internet Publishing
Lucia Walinchus

I got to play a federal judge for part of this talk. If I gave out most memorable experiences from a talk awards, this would be in the top slot. After role playing, and ruling differently than the actual judge did in that case, it was a bombardment of case titles and legal facts that were just fascinating to me. Privacy and data protections are great things to talk about and to get up to speed on how those cases are currently, as in still in courts right now, are playing out was tremendous. If you have even a passing interest in where case law stands today with internet issues, this can act as your primer.

Raw Notes:
Play a game, we are all fed judges
who wins in case of suit of clicked agreement for state x sue for state y
185 F.Supp.3d
in RE facebook biometric information privacy litigation
US District Court N.D. California. 9th circuit
choice of lau clauses are usually client favoring
internet publishing
wild west days now
two separate court systems
Federal and State
trial-> appellate->supreme
NY and TX are weirdos with their naming
common misconceptions, on;y state laws can be decided in state court
fed can rule on state laws
persuasive vs precedent
judge can listen to another district, but not necessarily
Appeals are retrials
Trial courts determine issues of material fact, but an appellate court can determine how the law applies
Rosenbach vs Six Flags 2019
Rivera v Google
Nimesh Patel v Facebook 18-15982 on youtube
liquidated damages provisions, $5K per violation
Sandman vs Washington Post
Court says reprinting Phillips’ opinion is not defamatory
Rorschach test
international law
Lord McAlpine trending? Innocent face
UK publishers are liable for republishing the libel of others
online journalism handbook – don’t publish when in doubt
Wright v Ver
Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corporation v wall-street.com
solved longstanding conflict in the circuit courts, sided with the 10th and 11th circuits Now you have to get your copyright registered to sue.
takes months to do this, but you do have rights before you do
getting occasional copyright on your works
Rimini Street Inc. v. Oracle
Post “Blurred Lines” cases
Ed Sheeran, Katy Perry,
Led Zeppelin,
En Banc hearing
Kraftwerk – metal on metal case
Allen vs Cooper, can states be sued in federal court for copyright law violations
Case involves alleged copyright violations of footage from the excavation of Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge (shipwreck on a sandbar)
UBSoffshorebank.com – cybersquatting
Domino’s vs Robles 18-1539 – visually impaired ADA violations
ADA online is still hard for the courts, unlike physical space, which is settled for the most part
sqoop, website for federal court case search
can follow cases and it will keep emailing you
prove you are a journalist and they give free subscription
Recap by free law project
rarely $15 a quarter minimum
CourtListen fro the further reading
The Content Trap (bharat anand)
Information Doesn’t Want to be Free (Cory Doctorow)
EyeOnOhio.com – sign up!

Leveraging WordPress as a Digital Sports Publisher
Theresa Spencer

How do you build one of the most trafficked sports sites in the world? With WordPress of course! Theresa did a fantastic job of laying out the tool chain they rely on and how they leverage various components. While theory and the latest tech are always fun, I find the most practical lessons I hear come from the case studies of battle tested approaches and implementations. It also is preferable as a talk substance because there is no ‘greenfield’ assumption, like with a JAMstack site where you can assume you are starting fresh from at least some of the code base. Case studies are always showcases of Big Balls Of Mud which is always going to be predominate reality of any legacy system.

Raw Notes:
Business Stakeholder – map to project success
IMplementation : The product
custom features
primary category
category menus
video player embed button
Shortcodes- tv schedule @ content/ad partners
Plugins –
WP Content Options
Apple News
MostRecent Feed – Popular Posts
Featured Images
Add SEO Meta Tag
original written and video sports content
Broadcast network initiatives
Tools –
SP Content Options
Shortcodes. RSS
Publicize (jetpack)
Add SEO Meta Tags
Keywords and Google News Keywords
direct – apple news
AMP framework
Measurement: KPIs
agreed upon internally
Google Analytics as a way to measure
Pagevies vs users vs sessions
keyword analytics
top 5 views of sessions of AMP vs Apple News, etc
VIPgo and Multisite

Storytelling Essentials Every Content Creator, Developer, and Publisher Should Understand
Nathan B. Weller

I almost didn’t include this in my final report, as my notes cut off when he specifically asks us to stop typing and just follow along, since we would be going through a lot very fast. If you like Joseph Campbell “Heroes Journey” kind of stuff, you will love Nathan’s synthasis of it with several other story theories. I know I did. Too much to try to recap here, to just go watch the dang thing which is already on Youtube.

Raw Notes:
Learning opportunity, story editor
essential lessons he has learned about storytelling
preconceived ideas of what storytelling is
those relationships went poorly
first pat
crash coarse in storytelling theory
2nd part
He asked us to not take notes and just pay attention,
doing that.

“Newspack: Listen First, Develop Second,” a process of creating a custom news vertical for WordPress.com
Jefferson Rabb (Automattic)

I don’t need to run a news site online, not do I want to. But if I did, and I was picking a new platform to do it on, what I heard about Newspack in this talk would make me do a formal discovery and investigation. I love hearing about stable and meant to scale platforms. As it hasn’t launched public yet, I am very curious to hear what emerges from battle testing. Maybe next year we will hear that. I do love tha this is an attempt to lower the overhead of tech so ‘journalists can focus on journalism’!

Raw Notes:
Team lead at Newspack
small to medium news rooms
WordPress for News Rooms
Developed with Automattic, funded by Google and philanthropic
Charter Cohort of twelve publications
First sites launch in late September
Normalize, standardize, modernize editorial tooling
Why us? Tooling is what e know, this is where we can contribute
The rich WP ecosystem is blessing and curse
We can contribute by shrinking it down to manageable size
The Fear
NHR research ‘tech confidence’ is a large pain point
legacy solutions mean impossible to change
custom themes and plugin creation relies on dev resources
Rigid site structures make it difficult to experiment
Opinionated approach
not trying to play God
curated set of tools
opinions of design and even business
constantly evolving
Reducing complexity
General use tools can be complex and confusing
we can abstract complexity behind purpose driven UI
Visual Design
“One Theme”
belief that the visual delta between news sites is small
customize the visual features that express brand and personality
this will be an iterative approach
a bridge to Gutenberg
Unabashedly Gutenberg-forward
Conversion utility
Education as a feature
Show our customers the value of Gutenberg
Blocks-based homepage building
it is open source
it is for full time newsrooms
serious projects
positively change publishers relationship with their website
devote more time to journalism
clear a path for business experimentation
evolve with the community

“Managing Site Networks,” a spotlight in prioritizing and focusing for a collection of sites
Beth Davidz

This was a lightning talk but was jammed with a lot of really great information. Beth and I subscribe tot he same personal belief that organization and communication are the core to getting anything done, so naturally I agree very strongly with her message of personal Trello, controlling scope and having a firm time line in place. If you have been thinking ‘I gotta get more organized’ you can watch this little talk as a solid primer.

Raw Notes:
How many sites?
will be cute cat
one more thing, more and more
can’t keep track of them
then you are crazy cat lady
prioritize and organize
get intel
get to know client
musts and expertise
audit, issues
what does client really want?
Tools and solutions
what’s _
priority, happen now
is a must, simple, hard, ghih impact
Project tracking tools
Post-it Notes
Google Docs
to deliver any project, there are three factors
Are you getting paid enough to do it?
Don’t control at least 1
Deadline, Scope Budget

Conquering Lighthouse to Provide a Better User Experience
Seth Alling

I didn’t honestly take the best notes for this one, but it was a fascinating talk. Again, it was a history, and not one I knew before the day. I actually distracted myself with checking out Google’s release notes and blog posts about the major initiatives while Seth was talking. Fast is good. Fast, good A11y, being a Progressive Web App with good SEO is better. Good thing the tooling is freely available in the browser mos of us use.

2008 DDG
2009, Bing and Google real-time search results
2010, Caffeine- faster search results
2011 Panda – drop low quality search results
12% of all search results affected
2012 penguin
Drop SEO Spam search results (penguin)
Added knowledge Graph
2013 More accurate search results (hummingbird)
largest code change since 2001
conversational search
2014 pigeon, better local search results
2016 Possum
2017 popup penalty
2018, Lighthouse comes out, mobile first
IS light
Trellis from Mediavine
makes progressive webapps out of the box
mobile first
quality theme is mandatory
3 second to get server load is terrible
good hosting is needed

Defining Fast: The Hardest Problem in Performance Engineering
Zack Tollman

Thinking about queues and how to measure things might seem like it would be a dry subject. Zack was anything but dry in his delivery and this was one of the more entertaining talks I have seen in a while. His lighthearted fonts and simple diagrams made the meat of some, what could have been very dry, technical analytics discussion. Again, my notes could be more thorough, but so many little things I had not thought through sent me looking up related articles to read later on things like Real User Monitoring (RUM) or how people are relating speed to business value. Really thought provoking stuff.

Potbelly Sandwiches
Menu Master,
their system
he hates lines
went one day after lunch rush
no ipad guy
8 minutes to get the sandwich
Load event misses animations and tracking pixels
visually ready
we are in the
Golden age of performance metrics
Too many metrics really
Tools are fantastic
Key h1 to load, visual readiness
First Meaningful Paint
First CPU Idle
Time to Interactive
Philip Walton
User centric performance metrics
Test frequency is important
2.1 million test in last month alone
RUM – Real User Monitoring
Variance is provided by this process
people bring their own variables
You have to look at the data now!
lots of ways to look at it, have to do the hard work
mean, median, average percentiles
standard deviations
do they need the raw data?
comparison data might be a better approach
business metric correlations
hard to pin a 1:1 speed = more $
Defining faster defines your performance culture

My Session

Making WP-CLI Your Own: Extending a command line tool for your own needs

After lunch I taught a workshop, really a follow up to the workshop I originally co-ran with Daniel Bachhuber in 2017 a WordCamp For Publishers in Denver. The first parts went really well, people followed along with the theory and when we tried extending a plugin, mostly people were able to play along and realize concepts. However, once we started to delve into the world of Packages, which require Composer to work as expected, then the whole thing kinda turned sideways. Still, the feedback I got from a few folks was that this was a game changer of a session and they see a lot of possibilities. I am going to count this one as a win even though it was not the best attended thing I have done.

Mentoring Day

Instead of a Contributor day sprint, the camp decided to try a Mentoring Day, where people could sign up to be mentored on a subject or mentor someone else on a subject of expertise. I signed up for a few and had a good conversation out it. Mostly though I think most people used it as co-working time and that was very pleasant as well. It is always good to be around others and the free coffee was bonus!

Wrapping Up

It was a very good time to be back on some nice summer nights in Ohio and make some new friends. To be honest though, now that I am trying to make it as a independent consultant, I think the biggest value for me was realizing that when you go to an event focusing on larger scale and much larger organization, with soem even being public companies, was to understand where I don’t fit. While I had the best time and love this community, now that I am no longer hocking a still pretty great hosting platform, I am not sure that this event was really something I would pursue in the future. I am very glad I did this time though. But I hope, very earnestly, to see each and every person I met and reconnected with again in my future travels. Who knows, the desire to go hang out wiht the amazing organizing team alone might override all other considerations and I might just head back to WordCamp for Publishers 2020, wherever it may be.

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