WordCamp Las Vegas 2019: Where 103 degrees does not feel as hot in the desert and having a WordCamp in a casino

WordCamp Las Vegas 2019 logo sray painted on a brick wall

As I landed in Sin City I tried really hard to recall the last time I was there. It had to be more than a decade ago and in some ways the “Marriage Capital of the World” had certainly changed, as I flew in I was kind of astonished how large the dessert town had expanded and how much construction was happening. In other ways though, it was exactly as I remembered it and I had deja vu more than a few times. In one way, it was specifically identical, insofar as my luck not being good while there. Let’s leave that last statement as the only comment about gambling I need to make in this post. After all, I was there not for a crazy weekend of debauchery, but was there for a weekend of community and learning at WordCamp Las Vegas 2019

Food and Fun

Friday

Friday night kicked off as soon as I landed, as I went straight to the speaker/sponsor dinner held at Famous Dave’s. While I am not a huge fan of their menu, which is 90%+ meat based at the moment, though they do have plans to add Beyond Meat to the menu this year, but not yet at this location. I still got my fill of corn, fries and various assorted veggies. It was great to hang out with so many folks I had not seen in a while and meet some net folks there as well.

Afterward, legendary good time planner Mike Demo introduced us to the largest tiki bar in the world by taking us to the Golden Tiki. It was a fun night of flaming drinks and good conversations. It seems most drinks taste better when they come to the table on fire.

Saturday

We were greeted with convention coffee and a tea assortment at the lovely yet aging Plaza Hotel and Casino where the event was happening. It was OK coffee, right in the middle of the pack and nothing to note further on it. We also had branded bottled water, which I always find amusing for some reason. Like am I going to do more business with this hotel because their name is on the water bottle?

Lunch was boxed lunch sandwiched and wraps. I want to specially say a huge thank you to the organizers who made it easy on the folks with dietary needs to have a filling and quality lunch. Part my lunch was a little salad in a cup which was just enough and the cup let me shake the dressing thoroughly throughout.

The after party was in the same venue but outside by the pool. This is the hotel pool and a number of folks, including myself assumed we would have a private party there. Instead we got to share with the other hotel guests and that made for an interesting experience. Still a good time and I actually got to soak in the hot tub for a bit while the thermometer on a building across the way told us the temperature was 104F and dropping as the evening wre on.

While the drinks at the party were great, I ended up needing a meal at some point. Did you know that White Castle has an Impossible Burger slider? I got to introduce some people to it.

WCKaraoke

We tried to get some singing done, but the way Cat’s Meow ran things unless you paid a $30 line cut fee, you would be eternally bumped down the list. It really does not help that between every single singer the staff did a song and tried their best to manufacture a party atmosphere which you can see in the photos. I guess some people like that experience but after a coulpe hours of always being 5th or 6th in line and getting a little sick of the staff singing, some of us bailed without singing. At least they had buy one get one free well drinks.

Sunday

More coffee and the exact same lunch were on tap for Sunday during the event. Afterward, one of my favorite firebrands in the world Beth Livingston and I took to the skys above Fremont Street to zipline all the way way down the 5 block stretch thanks to the Slotzilla Zip Line experience. It was terrifying and amazing and gave me a glimpse into what Superman might feel like with people staring up at a person flying through the air. It was the best bet I made the whole trip. Since I could not use my phone on the ride here is a tweet of someone who did

Sessions

Opening Remarks

Backward Compatibility is Good for WordPress, Not Mental Health
Bridget Willard

Bridget is my friend and we were in the trenches together heading the WordPress Community Marketing Team for almost 2 years. Almost that long ago she pitched me the idea of a talk on mental health and I have been encouraging her to give that talk ever since. I am very glad she did. I have a ton of self doubt and I do find myself being self deprecating a lot. It was startling to realize how much of that I have actually been believing lately. I am grateful that I got to support Bridget here, but in all reality he supports me emotionally as a friend far more than I can write.

Raw Notes:
Been in the space for a while
supportive amazing women
but people with issues
1 and 0s do what you expect
people don’t
What are worthiness issues
Friend’s therapist told her to work on worthiness issues
what does that even mean?
like backwards compatibility
clicked for her friend then
We talk about mental health a lot, but we need some breaking changes
Believes negative things about herself
we are way harder on ourselves than we are to our friends
why does self-talk matter
Self talk is insidious
it changes the things we choose in our lives
do we make friends easily or figure they’ll hate is anyway?
Do we make self-deprecating jokes?
Do we try better jobs? Better clients?
Do we self isolate?
Are we brave in our relationships? willing to trust someone?
are we vulnerable to someone? maybe a therapist, but trust someone
Listen to Corey Miller, Don’t see everything underneath
How do we make breaking changes
have to find the bugs, they are not features
Find someone to talk about it wiht
recognize the patterns in word choice
practice self awareness
journal
write: “I am” statements
what are you goot at?
What do people say about you?
Who do you want to be?
Write it down

Lucky 7: Don’t Do Anything Until You Hear This WordPress Presentation
Joe A Simpson Jr

Joe has one of my favorite origin stories for a WordCamp organizer. Basically, my super short version of his tale is “Joe got tired of driving to LA for meetups, started his own and it got so successful that he did a WordCamp within the first 2 years of starting it.” Joe also has lived the life of a developer who had to learn on his own and lean on community to get unstuck at times. As a result, his wisdom is some of the richest of any speaker I can name. Though this talk was basics for beginners kind of feel, it was chock full of great nuggets and reminders of best practices for folks at any stage of that WordPress life.

Raw Notes:
Luck be a widget tonight!
First visit to vegas like you getting into WP for the first time
it can be overwhelming
Today, he is our welcoming party for WP
2 years ago he got tired of driving 2 hours for a meetup
started his own
they had own WordCamp already
started about 10 years ago, inherited Headway theme blog
WP has come a long way since then
they had budget fortunately
moves to VIP, got to go to summits
everyone helped him when he was new
issue 1
“I bought too much hosting up front..”
there are so many hosting companies
buy small and level up
considerations
what kind of traffic do you expect
are you selling products
is site speed important
will mutliple
“Why doesn’t my theme look like the demo?”
“how do I add a thing to a theme?”
page builder maybe?
“A11y makes me angry”
he got punched in his shoulder once at a meetup about a11y
be advocate for a11y
NFL colorrush example
colorblind and SEO
color should not be only way to ID content
contrast!
Awwwared wining site failes basic contrast checker
free tools from webaim
contrastratio
chrome color contrast analyszer
test tab useage and no mouse
Start with an a11y theme
“Can’t I google a theme to do all this for me?”
redising his brother’s website
Hymaze from somewhere on Google
unmaintainable mess
“I’m still waiting on my client to send me website content”
so many tools to help you write more efficiently
Grammerly – typo and rich text
yoast
all-in-one-seo
“This is too basic, I want more advanced..”
make.wordpress.org
get involved
slack
look for events in your community
libraries lynda.com for free
WordPress.tv
livestreams
quick hits
security
WordFence
iThemes
two-step uthentication
Strong passwowrds
Royalty free images
avoid cowboy coding – don’t work directly on your live site

What you thought you knew about WordPress security! (With real hacked site stories)
Rob Marlbrough

You can not learn enough about security. I don’t care if you think you are an expert, attending security talks are always a good decision. Hearing some of the anecdotes from Rob’s work over the years make you realize not every takes security seriously, which makes it super important that anyone working professionally as a web developer or site owner does.

Raw Notes:
care about passwords
they can read table prefix, so not a good path anymore
Real total cost of a hacked webstite
Cost of a hack repair does not include
cost of reputation
shareholder distrust
GDPR lawsuites, CC protection services
Cost of wasted digital as spend FB/Insta ads
cost of wasted tv/radio/print ads
cost of email or other sign ups
cost of memberships sales
Security befoe getting to your website
Network security WAF, at the ISP level, at the data center level
Server securty at the host level
Often hear, I can’t control these things” Yes you can!, you ca change webhosts
prepaid $3/m for 3 years? so what!, still worth changing hosts, one hack site could comst more than 3+ years of cheap hosting
Strong passwords
don’t rely on obvious solutions
Block IP based on behaviour, nimber of failed logins, guessing usernames, looping through known URLs
2factor authentication!
lastpass
Update daily!
security patches are relased daily
hackers are alerted daily to vulnerbility
get free SSL cert for many a reason, SEO, http/2
behind a network scanning/filtering sytem
choose a web host that protects networks and servers
don’t shoose a host based on affiliates only
WordFence is great, install on all sites you manage
Securi: free plugin scans site
reinstalls pugins from repo in bulk
backups can be worthless
no protection is site is deleted from their servers!
Dialy and Off Server and Tested or Worthless!
hourly or continous backup for ecommerce/membership sites
UpdraftPlus: reliable and free plugin
Jetpack and Vaultpress, Backup BUddy and many other quality plugins out there
Free services for WP website maintenance
Free can be expensive, time consuming, stress-filled
Advanced Automatic Updates plugin email alerts failures
managewp/mainwp/infiniteWP
Music lessons website hacked
redirected random visitors 1 out of 10 or so, redirected to porn website
vulnerable cross scripting plugin
recovery: backups for 90 days – still infected
search/replace DB tables to remove injected JS, patched the plugin

She Said, He Said: Hackers’ Guide To Coding
Shelby Sapusek
Jim Raffel

I met Shelby and Jim at the speaker dinner and I knew immediately that I wanted to see their talk. They are the definition of seasoned WordPress site builders. I think between the two of them the have encountered just about every weird situation WP can throw at a person and they were happy to share that battle hardened know how with everyone. There is a chasm between the typical WordPress user and the developer who lives in the terminal and code editor. This talk is a step toward the latter for folks who find they cant do all they need to with off the shelf GUI tools, but also which of those tools can solve some of the tricky problems.

Raw Notes:
Partners for a while
why is coding or hacking necessary?
Our compnay has grown and taking on more complex
Are we coders? If not, are we hackers?
If you have written any HTML, you are a coder
Hackers – negative connotation
Black hat
White hat
Grey Hat – looking for a payout
Programmer – compent cook
caution with coding
always back things up
staging sites
css, PHP, etc, file copies
Consider how changes will impact other parts of the site
Document all changes
safety first
work with minimal number of frameworks, (genesis)
Logo and header change example
inspector – old was firebug
customizer additional CSS
theme editor but DANGER!
what to edit and where
Tools within customizer
CSS and PHP
Custom HTML widget
Additional CSS under Customize, often underlooked
diff tool
Elementor Plugin
drag and drop editor
design pallete pro
Google Maps
Responsive Slider

Inclusive Content Strategy
AmyJune Hineline

This is not the first time I have seen AmyJune speak but I can’t recall seeing her speak at a WordCamp before. I have known her for a while now from my work in the Drupal community and I always look forward to hanging out with her. She has a lot better technical chops than she lets on, but her focus is on the human side of things for the most part, which is the skillset she is shared in her talk. We can’t overthink being kind and accessible to our fellow humans and just hearing the best practices out loud push us all in the right direction. Let’s all use more people positive language!

Raw Notes:
Verna Myers
diversity is being invited to the party, INclusion is being asked to dance
inclusive mean accessable
Visual needs
motor needs
auditory needs
cognitive needs
Meaningful Content
inclusion of all race, religion, contrie of origen
gnerder ID
and all thing
Ableist language
people with a disability vs the disabled
use people centric language
never lazy, crazy, retarded
Gender Nutral
Humankind not mankind
Folks vs guys or dudes
mansplaining is not gender neutral
enter the WYSIWYG
styling is for coders and designers not content authors
WYSIWYG should be for entering content
never for styling
use style guides or stylesheets
an a11y is goal
events a11y for everyone
families, neurodiversity
people who live with disabilities
avoid acronyms
abbreviations
numeronyms (a11y, i18n)
problematic to screen readers
emoticons
screen reads can’t even deal most of the time
buffer and twiteriffic can make
use camel case

Accidental Business Owner: Now What?
Mike Demo

I already mentioned Mike earlier and his amazing organizational skills. He has many other skills as well, which I have not heard him talk about too much, as the only other talk from him I can find my notes for is his ‘Which Way Does Your Duck Face?’ talk. His general advice to get over yourself and go fill the need you see at a price point that just works is much needed in a world where speakers routinely talk about firing clients and rejecting work below a certain threshold. Both those world views can hold true but not for everyone. Mike has a great head on his shoulders and I am downright inspired by him, as well as dang proud to call him friend.

Raw Notes:
Mike was building CMS sites when his school told him no one was using
now in OSS
Epcot, spaceship earth
history of communication
like the web
democratize publishing, making the web and world better
free software as in freedom of speech
If you can dream it, you can do it (not actually Walt Disney)
used to sell timeshares
Fell in love with the community
loves the passion of the community
everyone wants to get to that next level
don’t have a vision of grandure when you are getting started
3 page websites
Accidental business owners: started to learn jus for fun, then built a site for family
plugin 15K active users, can’t kill it
day job as well that id getting in the way
just build without a plan
passion without a way to get there
make a plan for your clients before you start the work
goal of more sales, what does more mean?
clients hate launching websites
never selling single website contract again
“never have to make a new website again”
launching basic website with a large wishlist
goals vs wishlist, pick what is impactful
we are guessing as website designers
people think they know their clients
protect yourself and get the money you are owed
Step 1 get users
step 2 ??
step 3 profit
charge for every change
reprice per the reality that the client presents

How to Outshine Your Competition in Our Exploding WordPress Market
Beth Livingston

This is not the first time I have see Beth talk about this subject, but this is the best version of the ideas so far, as she has been refining it throughout this year of camps. The ideas she is helping people get on board with are in line with the writing I have been doing on my LinkedIn blog about impriving processed and project management theory. She is coming from a very practical standpoint on this subject, taking what works in the corporate world making the concepts easily digestable for all who sell services. Keep your eyes open for her content and check out her site for some awesome stuff right now.

Raw Notes:
millions of websites, hundreds of thousands of devs for WP
lot of copetition
Clients spent a lot onf costinvetment
some of timeline
almost none on solution
compoeting on price is a losing bet
unique value prop
not a call to action
not headline: subtitle
not an explanation ot your service
not an into to your business
communicates the unique value provided to your target customers
what you do well vs what our competition does for your clients
SEO is not a unique prop
What clients care about most
cost/investment
timeline – scope creep, delays
on time and i budget
What business problem will your solution solve
clint management plan
this defines who your ideal client is
ideal client avatar
who do you want to work with?
stop penalizing the client for not understanding how websites are built
help them understand consequences for not following process
have a change budget
define process and consequences for non compliance
use incremental acceptance
set acceptance criteria up front
font on the website
8 essential questions
–could not type fast enough here —
once you have answers to all those questions
give the clients the same list of questions to show the other guy

My talk

Bash is magic # No it’s not

I keep running out of time when giving this talk. There is just more content than time about this subject that just delights me to explain to folks. It is ike revealing t hidden secret club to the world where everyone was actually already invited and all are welcome. Introducing experienced command line users to tools like BackstopJS and behat is also a thrill and so far the comments I have recieved have ben overwhelmingly positive. I think I might need to do something else with this content moving ahead to reach a wider audience.

Building Successful Client Relationships in a Digital Age
Jodie Riccelli

I thought I had seen this talk before, but in a city where I was getting deja vu all over the place I was not sure. Checked my notes and sure enough I saw a similar version once before. However this did not hinder my enjoyment or the quality of content for me at all. It was awesome to be reminded that learning all our skills don’t need to have an immediate payoff, as sometimes it takes years and multiple opportunities before it all clicks. It was also a reminder that multitasking is not a good idea. I have been terrible at this, trying to do to many things all at once. I am actually inspired by this talk to find some more productive habits in the days and weeks ahead.

Raw Notes:
loves to learn
worked at a car wash
learned to detail cards
then upsell the customer
music promotion
myspace
she learned WP and GIMP to make artist websites
sales for a small agency in Philly
magical coming together of skills at that point
then moved to WebDev Studios
She is not everything though,
not a great speller, not the one with all the answers
paul barnwell
My students don’t know how to have a conversation
in a world of digital life is there any more important skill?
Don’t multitask, be present
record calls, take notes later
video or in person
close all the things
feather triangle string
segment the room
just moving through segments, want to engage with each group
breaking down the audience to connect with her
imagine you are holding feathers and need to move the feather to back wall
Triangles are the joints
string is your head, string out the top of your head
Choose your words wisely
this is why we are the bst vs this is how we can help
problem vs challenge
pick up the phone
zoom is my friend
saying ‘I don’t know’ is not just OK, it is essential
what measurable goal can we set
be authentic
remove qualifying word and phrases
thank you notes or cookies
principle of reciprocity
the psychology of persuasion
thank you notes increase registration
productivity rule
if task takes less than just 2 minutes, just do it now
say think you
file paper away
looking away for a minute “eye care chrome extension”
The four agreements

Wrapping Up

As I start wind down my life of constant travel to dozens of events per year, I am taking stock more and more of the opportunities that each and every one of those events has granted me. I suffer a but at seeing the trees but not the forrest. This trip put a few things in perspective for me and I could not be more grateful for the folks who have been there for me along the way. The biggest revelation to me is that I have spent so much time absorbing such a wide, wide range of subjects that the road ahead seems like it has way too many option for me. Picking one is going to take some more thorough thought than I have been giving it for the last few months. I have know idea what the future looks like but I am planning to plant some roots and figure out what that feels like before too much longer. This trip to Las Vegas might be my last for the foreseeable future but I hope to retain the friendships and connections I made at WordCamp Las Vegas!

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