WordCamp Raleigh: Southern hospitality in full effect

There were only 6 US states that I have not visited in the US when I started this trip. New Mexico, Montana, Oklahoma, Maine, North Carolina and South Carolina. I started my 10 day 3 city tour by crossing off NC from that short list visiting Raleigh for the first time for WordCamp Raleigh 2017.

The only thing I knew for certain about this southern city was that it was where Andy Griffith’s television sheriff character went to blow off a little steam from time to time, being the biggest city near Mayberry. I learned a lot about this town and North Carolina in general by going to speak and participate in this camp in it’s 8th year of existing. This year drew the largest attendance on record; over 300 tickets sold. People came from far and wide to be there and the vibe of the camp was just electric.

 

Food and Fun:

Almost as soon as I landed I was due at the speaker dinner.  I dropped my gear in my room and headed to the lovely Hibernian Pub in ‘The Triangle’. Being a college town the place was among a strip of bars, restaurants and shops that displayed a lot of signage featuring the local NCSU colors. It reminded me quite a bit of downtown Tempe.  There awaited a plentiful buffet of pub foods such as popcorn shrimp, corned beef sliders, fish and chips, quesadillas and a lonely bowl of salad, ruined by way too much cheese. I was met almost immediately by the lead organizer and GiveWP superhero Ben Meredith.  He made me feel right at home.

It was awesome to meet many new folks as well as see a handful of familiar faces.  With a long week ahead I embraced the ‘marathon, not a sprint’ ethos and was in bed at completely reasonable hour after tweaking my slides and practicing my talk.

Saturday morning was a tad unusual for me, as this was the first time I had gone to a WordCamp as a speaker but not a sponsor.  My duties were to spend a little time at the happiness bar but other than that just to be available in the ‘hallway track’ and meet folks. No booth to set up and run, no schwag to schwag, or anything else sponsor-y to do.  While I sorta liked the slight gain in sleep time this granted, it felt weird. Luckily this is a rather unusual circumstance that hopefully will repeat but rarely.

Lunch

Being on campus and the school having a well regarded culinary program turned out to me much to our advantage.  Since it was still spring break the camp lunch plan was for the venue to simply open up the food court to us.  The variation and quality of the food was better than any average restaurant with the convenience of a leisurely stroll across the well maintained and beautiful campus.  Burgers, tater tots, stir frys, a taco bar, and of course BBQ was served.  We feasted together!

There was no food plan for the after party so we were on our own.  One of the folks I met at the happiness bar mentioned a very creative sustainable food joint called Fiction Kitchen.  What better way to taste a new city than to gather a few folks together and eat foods sourced locally?  I was joined by a few new friends where I had the Chik’n and Waffles with a killer mushroom gravy.  One of the best things I have eaten recently. Their bar made interesting use of some unusual, to me anyhow, ingredients such as beet juice syrup, which is not overly sweet and possesses a great earthy tone and bright red color.  For real, one of the better cocktails I had on my travels.

 

After party:

After dinner we made our way to the official after party. I was downright shocked by the massive size of the Beer Garden. This three story building offered 350 beers on tap and an impressive top shelf, but the outdoor area is what impressed me the most. Outdoor seating ran the entire length of the building and well behind it, opening up to a massive graveled acre sized plot with picnic tables, ping pong, a Bocce court and cornhole.

My favorite moment of the whole darn camp happened here. One of my companions from dinner admitted this was their first camp and like so many folks, was a tad shy. I buddied up with her and introduced her to the awesome folks I already knew and within a few minutes she had gone from bashful to being one of the #WPLife crew. If you go to camps on the regular, make sure you take some time to take care of new folks.  Make sure they are welcomed. It only takes a few minutes and it is so rewarding!

Day 2 Donuts:

Sunday morning brought with it box after box after box of donuts from one of the local experts practicing the pastry craft, whose name I do not know.  While I can normally resist such temptations I will admit I gave in, much to my tongue’s delight but to my blood sugar’s horror.  Part of my logic is that since Sunday was a shorter program and no lunch was being provided this would be OK overall for the day.  With that decision came the crash, which I staved off with the amazing coffee from world renown but local to NC Counter Culture Coffee.  To my surprise and joy I got to meet the owners who are using WordPress to better serve their growing client base.

The Sessions

 

Keynote

Seven Stories, One Point
Chris Lema

I was thrilled that the keynote for this camp was coming from one of the more dynamic and engaging speakers of today, Chris Lema. While we are not in agreement for choice of hosting options, I highly respect his work and thought leadership in this space. As with many other time I have heard him speak, he dropped us into the middle of a story right from the start and immediately grabbed our collective attention. This time it was placing us at the 1979 Woolworth’s fire which kicked off a rousing talk that interwove multiple stories delivering a poignant message of hope for believing in ourselves and our passions.

__________________________

What I’ve Learned from Premium Themes
David A. Kennedy

First off, assume the best of people. It is key to listen. Really focus in and listen.  Really hear what they are trying to say. This is fundamental to building relationships and actually supporting users.
Sometimes things will make you mad.  A good idea is to wait 30 minutes before responding when you get upset.  Breath.  Having a good, non emotional answer is far better than an an angry emotional one.
Talk to users in different ways, with an eye for engaging them on their terms when possible It is not possible to control all aspects of a conversation. It is best to ask better questions around what you can control

For you, test everything including assumptions and code. Once you have tested, test it all again. Checklists take stress off you
Try changing your perspective!
Be diverse both in revenue streams and in hiring. Research your markets.
From themes he has found that “one way” theming does not fit at all and is normally a poor fit.
All size shops, both bug and small can find success with a theme strategy.
And maybe the best words to live by for design: “When in doubt- take it out”
Leaving something out is easier than removing later. Leaving something out is design!


NC State’s “Shortcake”-Powered Design Strategy
Brian DeConinck
Really a love letter to the WP Visual Editor

From the outside higher ed institutions can look like stable, solid, monolithic things.
Reality is they are decentralized and chaotic, involving battles of opposing forces.
Luckily, WP is perfect for that!
Users bring all sorts of problems to the design team, such as:
“I need a page that looks like this mock up” which is outside the normal scope of the standards.
Brian reminded us that sometimes best answer is just ‘no’. Sometimes
modern design takes more effort and thought than can afford.
If answers is not no, there is likely a WP plugin that does the job. THis is a stopgap though, since page builders are not final solution since accessibility standards are not addressed which is hard requirement for a universiy.
And sometimes the answer is “Sure, let me add that template to the theme”. The danger here is that it is a one off thing hard to manage as one offs open the door to many others, often with cryptic names and complicated rules. Same goes for custom fields.
The real answer is to “love the Visual Editor”
Enter shortcodes and Shortcake. Shortcodes have been there since 2.5 not going anywhere. If the Shortcake project died, still shortcodes all works for all end users.

The thing on the horizon is Guettenberg. It is a prety cool direction, will likely be the Shortcake killer, but that is not a terrible thing. Shortcake might not be future, but its successor is, the “Editor blocks API”, which is a more robust descendant of the same idea. He can imagine a future with a Guettenberg setting for NCU blocks.
Regardless if what is coming, you should use Shortcake because:
1) SC solves issues right now. AS in today. How long to Guettenberg? Who knows.
2) Shortcake powered shortcodes teaches new way of thinking, future way of thinking about the editor
3) you can just do some cool stuff with Shortcake.

 

Destination Anywhere: Creating the ultimate DMO or Directory website.
Lauren Jeffcoat

Why would anyone want to build a destination website? The real answer is it is self serving. An answer of “me me me!” for self serving a passion. Without this passion not likely to succeed. It requires a you to have patience. A lot of patience.
Persistant updates are the only way to stay relevant. This means you can never. stop. working!
These lessons come from here trying out everything on market before getting to where she is now. Among the gems she dropped:
Phone numbers build trust, provide a phone number you will answer!
Don’t be too clever
Ask for an email if you want an email, just be direct on what you want from users and what you will do with it.
Dont compare yourself to any other site, each is unique and bring own value.
Focus on being awesome! This is the only way to get there.
Don’t stress for what you are not, focus on what you are doing!
And maybe the most important but: “You do you!”
Enjoy the fruites of your labor
but Never. Stop. Working!

 

Using docker for multi-dev/multi-platform development
Doug Cone
This was a solid talk on what Docker is and how to set it up. I am not going to write about those things here. Instead I will focus on the question of if you should use Docker.
You should if you are a developer and…
You are working on a lot of platforms and sites with all different requirements
Version control is tripping you up in your VM approach. With Docker when moving between machines, docker config in the repo, carrying around requirements, it stays with the code, so booting again just there and works on Docker

Reasons Docker is not for you:
You dislike the command line.
You love what you have in place and it works for you (Dev matches Prod)
Your applications need special access to physical resources, like a webcam or security dongle. Docker does not play well those sorts of things yet.

OK, but is it hard?
Yes but no, but now not that hard, especially how stable it has gotten in recent releases.
The community is growing meaning others are working it out. It was a lot harder just a few years ago.
__________

 

DAY 2
Managing Your Iceberg
Cory Miller
Main goal: Let’s eradicate the notion you can’t take care of yourself emotionally!
We must erase mental health care stigma.

Cory used the Iceberg Method. Essentially you have a public and private character, just as an iceberg has a visible and submerged part. The awesome parts are in public on the top and the not good stuff is below, stress, illness, worry, doubt, pain.
Get a group of people you can share with the bottom parts. Grow with them on the same journey.
The key is turning pride into gratefulness. Not bragging about “I won this project” but gratatude of “Because we won this project we get to work together!” and rejoice.
The group must be safe and secrets stay secrets. Ultimate trust is vital. Graw this group over times as well, since ebb and flow are unavoidable.
Go out and create a life support group!

 

Move from HTTP to HTTPS or Become Irrelevant!
Peter La Fond
Basics of https and threats. Much has been written and I am just going to relate the part that i thought was illuminating.
There was an interesting question from audience: “my non-profit marketing site, why does this matter?” Not only did Peter answer this, but the whole crowd was in strong agreement that all sited should be secure. This makes us all more secure since all data over the internet will be encrypted, much harder to select what to target as a bad actor. This is especially true on shared servers. This is sort of a herd immunity issue.
Hackers care about the traffic not your specific site really. The goal of man in the middle attacks is more often that not eavesdropping: Collecting personal data for other use, like credit card data and SSNs. HTTPS protects people form listening in and highjacking traffic. He warned that not all security is solved with HTTPS, need to think about security
several layers. I walked away from that talk and immediately configured the HTTPS for this site. Embarrassed I had not done it, but this talk is a great motivator if you have been waiting to do it. Let’s all be more secure.

 

Using Surveys To Better Understand Your Users
Frank Corso

“Who is a reckless driver?” No one raises a hand.
“Who has a speeding ticket?” Most people will raise their hand.
Asking the question that is unexpected in an unexpected way will yield bad results You need to think through what you really need and how this can best be asked without alienating the user.
User bias is very real and must be considered. You won’t know everyone who answers, so design for people you have not met. Avoid skewing by being transparent and keeping it simple.

If you are wording a question in a way where the user might not understand all the terms, give them clear “opt out” choices, like “I don’t know” or “undecided” wherever it makes sense. You will get higher completion and better data.

User research requires more open ended questions. Great one is “What nearly stopped you from using us?”. People who will have already purchased will give great feedback on what parts of process or data scared them, even though they went for it.

Segmenting users requires asking questions about the questions the users have asked.
Example: ” How responsive has our support team been to your questions or concerns and in
what ways can we improve?”
“how likely to reccomend to a friend?”

A great tool for this is Hotjar, for both pre-sale and post sale. Also, make good use of Survey Monkey. Forms are good too, but primitive compared to other options.

So you wanna dev? Join the team!
Evan Mullins

One of my favorite talks!
Basic, straight forward, direct
Great set of best practices
WP specific, importance of child themes
The loop
DB call cycle
Hooks
Too many nuggets and too fast to take better notes. Seriously go watch this on wordpress.tv. I am going to send it to any site builders who are needing to level up on being a Dev.

THIS POST WILL BE UPDATED WITH THE LINK ONCE IT IS UP ON WORDPRESS.TV

My Session:

It went overall well, but I screwed up my script, much to my embarrassment. Lesson to myself here is to a) not change the scripting for a CLI talk an hour before the presentation and 2) follow the dang script like the robots would. The reason I screwed up is I did a theme and menu change out of order and somehow this caused a failure I either had to accept as a ‘don’t you love live demo’ moment and move on or debug in front of a crowd. I chose to just let it go. Next time I am going to have backup slides of all the things. Also, I had not been mentioning dry-run, which I can see now is one of the more powerful features, empowering anyone to do anything and not fear blowing up their sites!

Wrapping up

I had an amazing time in North Carolina. Thanks to the WordPress folks there who made me feel right at home. It was a great way to kick off my three city tour and I found myself wanting to return as soon as I left. NC might not be perfect but there are a lot of good things going on too.

Onto Baltimore…..

PressNomics: Fun in the sun and heat of Tempe, AZ

I had the extreme fortune to attend PressNomics 5, held at the magnificent Tempe Mission Palms Hotel and Conference Center.  This was a relatively last minute decision from my team to send someone.  I jumped at the chance, not just because this is the premier WordPress business focused event of the year, but also because so many of my WordPress friends were going to be there.  It was a real reunion in the desert, where I walked away with dozens of new friends who I can’t wait to see again.  The event was exhausting and there was barely a minute to myself, but I managed to fill a few of those hours by doing some improv.  Lots to cover this time around, so let’s dive in!

Food and Fun:

Opening Party:
After a long day of travel and doing some non-conference work I was eager to meet up with the Pressnomics crew. I was not alone in my eagerness as the party started a little bit early with some of us arriving well ahead of schedule. Soon enough though the patio area of Rula Bula was swarmed with conference folks. We had a few drink tickets provided by SiteLock and Mojo Marketplace. Aside from the libations there was a fine selection of shrimp skewers, some kind of flatbread pizza, croquettes, fried chicken tenders and an array of other delicacies. It was awesome to see so many old friends and to meet so many new friends for the first time. It was the ideal way to kick off the conference.

Lunch Day 1:
Downtown Tempe is a bustling little berg with a ton of small shops and restaurants. Pressnomics didn’t provide lunch for us, instead encouraging us to find our own small groups to go have a meal together with. I had many a great conversation with the folks who journeyed not too far from the venue to Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. Generous portions were met with tasty Butt Burning Hot Sauce at this popular Mexican spot.

After Party Day 1:
The end of day one snuck up on us and found us all in the courtyard of the Mission Palms where Mojo Marketplace and Envato sponsored a welcome party. The Arizona heat persisted even as the sun set on the day. Crab rangoon, sausage stuffed pastry puffs and miniature tortilla wraps made excellent finger foods for our networking and small talk. Dinner plans were made and new friendships began there in the courtyard. I ducked out to take a small detour.

Improv:
I am ridiculously fortunate to be part of the global improv community. It seems no matter where I go I know a local improvisor and theater. Every so often, I am just exactly in the right time and the right place that my work travels align with an improv festival. Phoenix offered such an opportunity as Bill Binder invited me to perform as part of the Bird City Comedy Festival! I was overjoyed, as I always am, at the stage time, but this was extra special. I got to perform with 3 different friends from Camp Improv Utopia!Banner that says "Space 55 Theater Ensemble"
We performed an Armando using 5 different local storytellers for inspiration. The 80-ish minute show was essentially one long set with various pauses for a new storyteller to give us new information. We learned about the forgiving nature of dogs, even when you accidentally wrong them, we learned about the cruelty of schoolchildren to those that are different, and we learned about the innocent nature of children about their bathroom habits. There was a lot to play with and the set zipped by. It was one of the more fun times I have had on stage4 people on a stage under bright lights, 4 men and one woman, one of the men is addressing the audience recently. A huge thank you to the Torch Theater for letting me guest star. I was even presented with a performer’s pass good for attending any other show in the festival. My sole regret from this trip was I didn’t have time to go see any other shows. Still, this memory will live in my heart forever.

 

After After Party Day 1:
I am a member of the Post Status community and getting to go to the after after party they threw is one of the better examples of ‘membership has it’s advantages.” We gathered at one of the many brewpubs in Tempe, Blasted Barley. Food was not provided but we all got green wristbands that entitled us to free drinks until the tab ran dry. This turned out to be quite a while, much to our collective delight.
This was the party where I met a new friend outside the WP space, a theoretical physicist at ASU, working on some very interesting and promising research on radiation. I didn’t quite follow everything he was saying but we chased down the math with tequila and cheers-ed to his recent successful experiments and proven correct predictions about the data. I rarely write about such encounters, as I do find all people and their stories interesting but too much to write down, but this one stands out as a great case-in-point of talking to people outside of your prescribed peer group to learn more about the world.
It was at this party that I also learned about the ever interesting Mendel’s newest project: Camp.press. Go check it out. It will be in September and I can already tell you it will be the fall’s ‘not to be missed’ event.
Having drank my fill and after a very long day I called it a night and looked forward to the exciting day ahead.


Lunch Day 2:
Day one lunch was a bit of a giant group that sorta walked the same direction, breaking off into naturally selecting groups based on our individual food preferences. On day 2 a few of us clustered around the courtyard looking for a smaller group to go exploring with. A suggestion of a House of Tricks was made and a few of us wandered that direction. The dinner menu was high end and very well regarded, while the lunch menu offered more sensibly priced and well thought out proportions. Everyone found the inventive offerings satisfying. I had a Bun Mee that was pretty fantastic and witnessed a “PB & J” that I will let you find the description of on your own.
We sat in the patio area, which would have been far too hot in the Tempe sun if it were not for constantly spraying misters. Some of the party members were closer to the nozzles and took measures to keep themselves dry:

 

After Party Day 2:
All great things must end and the teams of MOJO Marketplace and Gravity Forms provided quite the refined and enjoyable pool party to commencement of the finally. Drinks flowed and served to wash down spring rolls, stuffed pastry and tiny triangle tortilla wraps. The concrete of the pool area held onto the evening heat and the walls that protected the pool kept off the wind make it a hot time in the old town. The tab closed and people started to say their goodnights and goodbyes, but some of us made our way to the last event of the evening, WCKaraoke!

 

Karaoke:
WCKaraoke stands for WordCamp Karaoke, and up to this point had been reserved for exclusively pouring out the encouragement to go sing at WordCamps. PressNomics marks the change of this policy and I am very glad to see them supporting all WP folks to go sing no matter what the event is called. We sang and we sang and we danced and we sang. So many good times until way too late.


Escape Room Saturday outing:
There was one last final ‘hurrah’ of the event and that was the extra social events, golf or escape room. Not being a fan of being in direct sunlight for hours, I chose the escape room over at Dare to Escape. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, an escape room is a series of puzzles that lead sequentially to you and your teammates opening the door and escaping. The scenario I sent through was one about getting out of a evil scientists’ abandoned lab that had a self destruct sequence counting down. 54 minutes into the puzzle we unlocked the door. They asked us not to take pics but you can check out their pics. I was exhausted but super happy to participate. All too soon I was on my way back to the airport after saying my last goodbyes to my fellow PressNomics attendees.

There was also golf:

The Sessions

Being a single track conference and not having to work a booth, I got to attend every session! Just for this post, due to wanting to get this out the door and not wanting to rewrite all my notes, I am just going to post my raw notes here. Enjoy a view into my stream of consciousness. 🙂

Day 1:
Speaker: Jason Coleman
Title: Haters gonna Hate
Some hate mail examples shown
takes persistence to proceed,
If you scared of failing
We need to talk about the hate
it holds back many businesses out of fear
hate scales 1 to 1 with users/customers.
People can leverage your care against you.
Go to Verizon page to see some fun hate mail
What do we do to invite hate? Anything. Can not be avoided
Anything worth doing upsets someone.
Some things you can do like
100% no questions, money back guarantee
quick turn arounds on refunds
Manage your expectations, can’t make everyone happy
it is hard
DEALING with haters
Look for constructive criticism — got to block out the curses and anger and read the real issue
Write a first draft, delete it – get it off your chest, then release it.
put yourself in the hater’s shoes – everyone is human, humans overreact, have bad days
Reply professionally – look past hate and address issue
working with hostage negotiaions several times a week
Deal with the stress
Use the buddy systemt o get some perspective.
Get a team or network and leverage your peers
Engage the Happy Customers

Speaker: Chris Hooley
Title: Humanity in the Streets
Just who is Chris Hooley,
He tells us
rap SEO got him rich
White guy adopted, lot of privilege
Why he is here, –
Despite all success and love
Still has depression.
Life is not about finding yourself, it is about CREATING yourself.
Gotta believe and be kind

Speaker: Lawdan Shojaee
Title: Creating and Riding the Wave
Saw a need
found an icon
Went ‘viral’ what does that mean
pushing forward no matter what
political/business arn’t supposed to mix
some clients wanted to avoid them as an entity due to politics
Sweden wanted to blast it as a national symbol
Keep riding wave, but took a lot of resources from core business
had to make a call on keep pushing forward. important.
Workshop opportunity for AmEx
Learned a lot, expanded skills
Easier to promote the idea as more known
Challenges: When do it in the company any backlash goes to team, hurdle is how much exposure for scrutiny,
Make optional to not want to, no need to justify if not want to.
Offense comes from culture, we will change culture but we need to talk about it.

Speaker:Andrew Norcross –
Title: Just Keep Showing Up
Sam Ramis story
Terrible, good, then obscure
You got to keep at it
not going to be an overnight success
will stumble along the way
keep going and believe

Speaker:Carl Hancock –
COULD NOT MAKE IT – NO REPLACEMENT 🙁

Speaker: JR Farr –
Title: 10 Years of WordPress: Reflection, Battle Scars and Wins
Crazy at beginning to think about trying something like this.
Idea was to take market and spread all over vendors
chasing carrots
Moment of reflection, is it all worth it?
important to share battle scars
stop doubting and stop doing what is failing, let’s build something bigger together
think of world we are creating in the future!

 

Speaker:Sean Tierney –
Title: Closing deals from 43 cities in 14 countries across 4 continents
(Pagely way to distributed work)
Closing deals from the street, lagoons, bowling alley
Why???
why not!
maybe see more of this digital nomad in future
Re-energizing
Tools and tacticts you can really only learn doing it:
Redundancy Power and Internet and Machine and Everything!
think about points of failure
Infosec VPN everywhere
TravelApps
CommAps
2 game changers
he was the only sales guy so did everyhting but in order to get first new perosn, needed scalable method
Pagely answering questions and
Living on road patience and tolerance
People come and go like seasons and you don’t always know why
Not everyone is kind but seed of tolerance is that understand how they grew up and empathizing
Advice to remote work, do it, life changing
remoteyear.com

Speaker: Kings Corners featuring Chris Lema
Topic: Marketing
Full transcript (as fast as I could write) here:
https://github.com/1dwaynemcdaniel/PublicDocs/blob/master/KingsCornerChrisLemaMarketing.txt

Day 2:

Speaker: Josh Streble
Title: History of Pressnomics Opening remarks
What if we take the hallway track and just make that a conference? That is Pressnomics!

Speaker: Syed Balkhi –
Title: Ecommerce Growth Hacks
Got to use tools to reduce churn
Make up a holiday! fun with physical properties
Upsales, targeted upsales,
Unlock bonus features
returning customer discounts
Only offer some things to pro route
Volume is the only reason to do joint venture deals, has to make sense, scale does

Speaker: Joshua Eichorn –
Title: Working together; a guide for plugin developers from a friendly host
Plugin dev goes host hopping
Jump from host to host and always slow
When go into admin paes take up to 5 seconds, super slow!
plugin not tested at scale
Plugins using SVN
Gihub is what the whole industry uses,
Start releasing on Github, tools can help you push out through SVN for WP
think through assumptions
SIte on Pagely, get on front of Reddit
last week site went down
Oscar had to figure out what changed
they added a plugin
cookie sets and that breaks cache
Everyone makes mistakes, take responsibility
every customer is a contract
if just spare time, that is OK if you let them know that is what it is
but if sell it as professional, have to match responsibility

Speaker: Maura Teal –
Title: My Journey to become a Developer
Started with equestrianism
Horses scar easy
got to learn as you go
all different weird fears
she is thinking of users are riders
can’t make riders do what you want
have alot of outreach and all the things posts
Intertwined her
Can teach horses to belive in you
hard to understand sometimes you can do the same with people
teach to trust
Need to keep improving everyday

Speaker: Jeannette Maré –
Title: Nice vs. Kind
Kindness kept her going when lost her son
she learned that kindness is super critical
Niceness is superficial
maybe even detrimental
Kind – of a good or benevolent nature
This is overall greater good
Niceness is not always the greater good, many times quick solution
Nice definition – pleasing, agreeable, delightful
world id messier than that
Takes work and self awareness
Knowing what is going on in own brain
Empathy vs compassion — emotional empathy vs Cognitive Empathy

Speaker: James Giroux –
Title: Pursuing Your True North
What makes Envato, Envato
True north is who they really are
Customers
Content
Support
Platform.
These are the core true things that they do as a company
More customers
Community
The right content
Iron sharpens iron
Creative leadership can come from best content living in Envato
Create space where creatives feel at home
meant some dramatic changes in products
Support is super important, understand people
Effective platform helps people do what they love
Future? Pretty amazing more creatives doing more of what they love
“Wiggle room creates chaos”

Speaker: Neill Feather –
Title: The Key to Successful B2C Relationships
Sitelock customers feeedback drives their business
Maleware, they deal with a lot of hit
We all know there is a lot
are people really doing all the many many things?
Software remains out of date
Human errors are a huge problem, 25% of data breaches are caused by human error

Speaker:Karim Marucchi –
Title All my mistakes, and then some
300% growth for crowd favorite
Crowd Favorite – Velo media merger
Lessons learned along the way

(We were asked not to report on the candid conversation on social, very valuable though to be there)

LIGHTNING TALKS!!

There were 8, lumping all pics into these two tweets:

Speaker: April Holle
Title:Six P’s before Profit
Purpose – affects everything, precious time, must drive you
Passion – fuel that drives you on your journey
People – the people impacted by your work, external and internal why do we care?
Problems – internal and external
Product – the thing you do, what you are producing
Play – impactful, adults forget how to

Speaker: Scott DeLuzio
Title: “Bite-Sized” Challenges
challenged himself to 50K situps and pushups
breaking down large goals to tiny steps to reach goals
story of finishing breaking down the byte sized challenge
Daily accomplishments, sense of doing something successful every day is good

Speaker: Karthikraj Magapu
Title: Visualize future success
We have all heard about visualization
almost cliché
See yourself clearly achieving your success
Touch and feel your success!
Write your goals down
talk to yourself everyday
be grateful, etc….
Does it work? Is that it?
NO! Why not?
visualization relaxes you and sets you back with urge to do hard work to acheive
Visualize getting over individual obstacles
Review yourself, belive in yourself, self acceptance
action plan
why does it work?
Your subconscious mind rules your life
RAS
Gatekeeper to the Subconscious
API to your brain
Reticular activation system!
everyday process 35 GB everyday
1TB every month
Use brain API to program your success!

Speaker: Chris Wallace
Title: Recovering workaholic
Workaholism – scary to him
almost ruined him
1-Own our won time, don’t let others set your schedule
protect your time
2 – Don’t trade $ for promises. Not worth it
3 – more work does not equal more success.
4- Protect your mental and physical health, don’t ignore warning signs,
if putting ‘the future’ over your health now, you will regret it
5 -replace bad habits with good ones
turning point, throwing his back out reaching for remote
that was moment realized had to get better

Speaker: Aaron Jorbin
Title: Divorcing yourself from your ideas
every contribution matters
wear reverts as badges of honor for trying
he had record for fastest commit to revert
Divorce your ideas from you
ideas not tied to single person,
share ideas early with your team
feedback needs to be actionable and true to be great
especially Design

Speaker: Seth Carstens –
Title: Only Hire Owners
only work with people
loyal
Pets obey, owners innovate
cow path theory
Once cow finds water, that is always the path,
pave the cow path or don’t higher cows
Be a leader not a boss
“TPS reports___” don’t invite this culture!
treat people like people
Character, Culture and Capability (this is the order, it is important)

Speaker: Kyle Maurer
Title: Strategic Product Iterations
Prioritization with a product team is ridiculous and impossible
Deciding on what to do next is hard ….
typically master to do list
ship and look at next item on list, what makes biggest impoact
Common strategies for prioritizing featues
Gut feeling – flawed due to unique perspectives skewing view
Chronological- FIFO, Flawed does not take into account emergency or tech changes
Poll/Surveys – flawed: customers normally don’t have same imagination you have and price concious driven
Score based model, numerical score: flawed: tedious and complex and does not work everyone
Fight! – hurt feeling and sometimes we all lose
But what is voice of the business?
step out of the weeds and look at what the business needs most
4 concepts of how to do this
1)All projects need these 5 things: Validation Users Revenue Savings Retention in some order
Which does your business needs most.
then ready to look at issues and tasks
2) Flaw Tolerance Scale
Tolerant to sensitive, reality of how flawed a produc are you willing to live with?
feature completeness, integrate with all browsers, etc
3) it’s not jus the code
docs, sales, blogs, vids, inline docs, upsells, tooltips, social media, FAQ, testimonials, analytics, advertisements
ID big need, consider stage of business, reflect on flaw tolerance remember there is more than code
listen to Get Opinions Podcast 🙂

Speaker: Scott Bolinger
Title: What I learned from YOU
Be good people
learning from goog people
Pippin all start team!
Being first to market like Pagely was not always good thing
First mover advantage does not always or really exist.  Persistance is key

 

Schwag:
Normally I don’t do a write up about schwag but the thank you gifts but the PressNomics schwag was pretty amazing. We got some fantastic quality all natural and locally produced lip balm, a must for the parching conditions of the desert. We also got some fantastic seasoning that is at once simple and subtly balanced. There were of course t-shirts and hoodies from the sponsors, but the biggest surprise gift was a transparent lock and lock pick set. It was the first time I had gotten any schwag that made me consider local laws about such things and worry about transporting it back in my carry-on luggage. Very fortunately Pagely was quite generous and offered to ship all of our pick sets back to us via USPS at no charge for us. The only item that stole any thunder from this unexpected and unusual gift was a full set of Cards against Humanity type cards featuring WP dev terminology called, of course, Cards Against WordPress. I really look forward to playing this with my team.

The Charging Stations
One of the little things that made this event really nice to attend was the registration table’s ‘coat check’ like charging station. You got a claim check by way of a playing card and could leave your phone or laptop in their care. This was critical because most seats in the convention area could reach power.

Wrapping up

And that was that! 3 extremely full evenings that resulted in amazing connections and unforgettable ‘you-had-to-be-there’ experiences. I know I will for sure be doing this event next year.

Finally, on a personal note: I am going to be completely honest here, I am pretty road weary as I write this, with miles to go before I sleep. I am in love with this life and can’t imagine not being part of this community to the extent that I am currently, but I am going to be glad for a few days at home.

Stay grateful and kind my friends!

 

MidCamp: Chicago and my first time camp organizing

Chicago holds a special place in my heart for a few reasons. It is improv Mecca and I have lost a few friends to her stages over the years and continue to do so. It is also the home of Rock n Roll McDonalds, my favorite Wesley Willis song. And now it is home of the first DrupalCamp I ever helped organize, MidCamp 2017 at DePaul University Lincoln PARK campus.

This 4 day long event offered a full day of training on Thursday, two full days of sessions and a Sunday sprint day. I had volunteered to organize the last part. Having not ever done this before, I entered this trip with a bit of unusually nervous energy. Very fortunately for me the rest of the organizers made me feel very safe and supported and once again my MidCamp experience was awesome.

The Food And The Fun!

Thursday was trainings, but as with all Drupal events, there was room to Sprint as well. We had some simple box lunches with meat and cheese on wheat bread wrapped in plastic wrap. It has actually been a while since I had such a sandwich and it brought back memories of high school cafeteria lunches and vending machines at the factory I used to work at. Not unpleasant but a tad pedestrian given that the sprint room was in the student center and the air was thick with many varied food service options that ranged from BBQ pork sliders to teriyaki chicken bowls, soup bars to deli counter, sushi to pizza.

A small store with many types of food options, both hot and cold
DePaul’s Student Center Food Options

At the end of the Thursday Training/Sprint day, I was honored to attend the Speaker/Sponsor dinner held at The Red Lion Pub. This delightful English pub offered very charming decor with many books and WWII era posters on very high shelves and dark wood paneling to give it a homey study feel. The bar had my favorite vodka, a locally crafted one. This one was made from the same potatoes they used in the kitchen to make the french fries, Chipperbec. And speaking of the kitchen, there was a delightful assortment of food options, from fish and chips, to a vegan thai curry. Everything was top notch.
The food was only topped by the camaraderie I felt seeing many of my Drupal friends in person for the first time in many months. I left feeling stuffed and feeling really ready for the busy days still ahead.

Tired as I was, I still made time to go see an improv show that night over at The Annoyance. If I am envious of my Chicago friends for anything, it is their proximity to this theater. Given the nature of my talk, I thought it wholly appropriate to do some field research in the improv motherland.The Annoyance THeater sign, it is orange neon.

Friday morning brought the standard coffee, muffins, fruits, yogurt breakfast selections that are the common fare at so many conventions. I drank liberally from the coffee spigot. A brick morning pace had us at lunch before we knew it. Awesome wraps with many, many options for special/restricted diets. At every catered meal at the venue there was a cookie option for dessert. I am very proud to say that I resisted these at every turn.

At the end of the packed day capped by the lightning talks, we started Game Night, sponsored by Palantir.net. They even hired the Döner Men food truck to bring us some of the best döner I can remember having. It was hard to not go back for a second serving. I played a few rounds of Zombie Dice and before there was a movement to go to HopCat, a local diner themed bar with 140 beers on tap.

HopCat is where I met Malort. Take a second and go look at “Malort face“. That is exactly how it tastes and it is a Chicago staple liquor. Coming from the city that drinks 35% of the Fernet consumed in the USA, I totally get having a terrible tasting but worth it for the memorable experience drink. I am glad I drank it, but I do not plan to repeat the feat. HopCat also served up a dish they call Crack Fries. These are just seasoned french fries served with a white cheese dipping sauce. I have no idea what was on the, but I could not stop eating them.

Luckily I was able to tear myself away with a small group to go find karaoke a few blocks away at Harrigan’s.   As most people who know me know, I love karaoke and I am especially in love with small dive bar karaoke. This place was dead as we arrived around 10, but by midnight you could not move around at all it was so crowded. One thing that made this place really stand out was the DJ took pics and posted them on their FB wall in near real time. Really had a blast singing with my fellow Drupal family.

Saturday brought more muffins, fruit, coffee and even hardboiled eggs. This was also the day that one of the organizers brought us donuts. While I successfully avoided all cookies on this trip, I did befall to the temptation of these locally baked delights. The sugar rush made the morning speed by extra quick and crash landed me at the nacho bar for lunch. Many nacho chips, mystery meat scoops and jalapeños later I was sated and ready to give my session.

Saturday night was the platform.sh afterparty at one of the loudest bars I have ever entered. The ‘March Madness’ and the population of the venue assured that the roar was deafening in the main room. Luckily we had a back room reserved for us at far more reasonable volumes. Again I found a ‘semi local’ vodka, Prairie, which is made in the midwest over in Minnesota. Delightful stuff.  I had expected the food to be sports bar quality greasy bites and some of it for sure was, but there was very well executed teriyaki chicken and the best crab cakes I maybe have ever eaten. I was actually extremely glad that I left when I did, not only because the party’s tab had closed and the party was moving on to a karaoke place, but really because I could not stop myself from constantly returning for ‘just one more’ of those crab cakes.

Shoe’s Pub is where the party found itself next and this place was just great. Cheap drinks, many locals and students, and a pair of bullet style mics. The whole evening it was far more common to see duos or even small groups sing than solo performers. This gave the karaoke an extra special ‘we are all doing this together’ kind of vibe.

By midnight, karaoke was overflowing, too crowded to even breathe comfortably, so a motion was made to go see some legendary Chicago blues over at Kingston Mines. Once we arrived we realized that the line would not permit us to enter any time soon, so we went across the street to the slightly less famous but equally as entertaining BLUES bar. It was a night to remember for sure! It was also a great way to officially end the party for MidCamp, leaving only the Sunday Sprint to check off the list.

Thursday Sprints:

As I mentioned, Thursday was the main training day but it also gave room for folks to Sprint.  There was no formal plan or focus for the day, which gave rise to many people working on their own projects and getting help and feedback from their peers.  It was also time for the Organizers to finish many last minute tasks and get set up.  This was a great warm up to the camp days that followed.

Sunday Sprints:

This was not just the first time I organized a Drupal Sprint, this was also the first time I ever attended a formal one. I have attended contributor days on the WP side of the world and I have hacked at many a thing on Drupal, but this was my first real, on the books, official involvement with a Sprint. I loved it! I will at least be volunteering at future Sprint days as often as I can moving ahead.

Huge shout out to the folks who did the real heavy lifting of the day, the Sprint Leads!

First up, by coworker and friend David Needham, lead the first time sprinters on a ‘how to sprint’ session. This session introduced folks to how tickets worked, how to set up their local environments, and the many varied ways they might be able to contribute to the project.

We focused on three main areas for this sprint. Core, Drupal Commerce and Documentation:

The core team was lead by Adam Bergstein, who is not just a nice guy but also a security and best practice expert. I can’t name many other people I would have wanted leading that effort.

Drupal Commerce is a passion of Matt Glaman and it really showed, as he was the first to arrive at sprint day. If you want to contribute to Drupal Commerce, you can find the well organized queue here.

We had the dynamic duo from Drupalize.me: Joe Shindelar and Blake Hall focused on Documentation. This is such a crucial part of the project and one that is entirely accessible to all skill levels, making it very welcoming in general. While I tend to think of this as the ‘go to’ for new contributors, and some new folks for sure focused their energies here, we had newbies at all the tables. It gave me a great sense of hope for the future of the project seeing these new faces make their first contribution and leaving with so much done.

The Sessions

Keynote:
Emma talked about her story of going from feeling like an outsider to being a project lead in a very short stretch of time. Besides focusing on the ‘why it is important’ message that is critical to communicate to new and seasoned folks alike, she also focused on how one can contribute. There are so many ways beyond just writing PHP code to make Drupal move forward. You can write docs, you can volunteer your time, you can team new people things you learned along the way and too many others to list here. Fortunately, thanks to some speedy internet access and the dedication of Kevin Thull you can see her slides and hear this keynote yourself here!

Sessions I saw:

I was very fortunate to have had several members of the Pantheon team with me at MidCamp so I was able to go to many sessions. If you want to see any of these at home, they are all online and available now on the individual MidCamp schedule pages.

I was immediately drawn to this session not for the Project Management or the Yoga, but because it was applying the lessons from one of the speakers’ passions to their tech related work.  This is something I have tried to do with several of my talks.  It turns out that both yoga and project management both use the concept of flows and there are some direct comparisons you can draw.  Agile methodology is analogous Bikram, where Waterfall is more akin to Ashtanga.  Ideas like ‘sticking to the plan’ and ‘internal communication being critical’ are mirrors of ‘practice the poses’ and ‘listen to your body’.  There was even a participatory section where we all learned some poses and stretched out.  I felt more limber and very encouraged about the idea of mapping divergent skills overall.

I was very fortunate to see several of my fellow Pantheors give talks at the camp. The first up was my manager Drew Gorton talking about the very reasons I like working with him. There are many ways to manage a team but it always boils down to some key factors like ‘putting the right person in the right seat.” You can have the most brilliant people on your team but unless they are doing something they feel passionate about and filling a needed function on ‘the bus’ then no one is going to be happy. He also stressed the importance of communication and need for connection beyond what is just on the page of a report data. He fielded some interesting questions as well and I am very glad I attended. Check this one out for sure.

 

 

This was a very fun talk that not only gave a history and ‘how to’ of Mr. Ivy Leadbetter Lee’s priority management strategy, but also how our presenter transformed his life with this method in very short order. The very quick version is “write down the 6 most import things you need to do every day and do them. If any are left at the end of a day, simply move those to the top of tomorrow’s list.” This sounds really simple, and it is, but it is a very powerful tool to get done what needs to get done and feel a sense of success just from marking things off every day. David repeatedly made the point that this always felt amazing to do.
The real take away for me was actually another famous name’s process, Jerry Seinfeld. He was once asked how to be a successful comedian and he answered “write good jokes everyday”. On the surface this sounds like a disingenuous answer, but what he meant was, appy the craft every day and track what you did on a calendar. After a few days there will be a ‘chain’ formed of all the times you did the thing. The funny thing about human beings and these chains, is we do not like to break them once we forge them. I know I will be using this to mark off how I spend some of my time going ahead.

Doug started out this entertaining yet extremely technical talk by explaining that in fact Config Management is not a panacea for all conceivable ways to distribute Db config around the world.  It is for moving config from a dev or stage environment towards a live environment.  This is something I have a good deal of opinion around given where I work.  It is absolutely nor for packaging up config to move between entire projects.  I found it fascinating to hear the reasons why there has been so much love/hate of the Features module and Config Management in general.  Part of this is the gray area that is Content vs Configuration.  Not something I had really thought a lot about before.  My favorite moment came from the Q&A when an audience member lamented that, to him, “features is a hellish solution to a nightmarish problem” but that this talk helped him sort out how to make better use of the concept.

 

Saturday morning sessions kicked off with one of the more fun full length talks of the whole camp, my teammate Steve’s talk about the internet of things.  For this talk he rigged up his great-grandfather’s 150 year old telegraph key (a work of art unto itself) to oranges as a power supply to light up an LED connected to the internet.  While there was a lot of fun and silliness to some of his examples, the core message was actually really powerful, which was “Connect your interests to your workflow” and “Follow the fear”.
The first point is really to start thinking about the tools we use as a part of a larger ecosystem of hooks we can string together to automate all the things.  And by the second point he really was encouraging us to go learn the tech that might intimidate us and trying to do it an a playful way with ‘toys’, maybe silly or childish projects that teach the skills with less pressure.  On that topic he talked about the need for joke modules, which are really meant to show off what a particular hook can do rather than filling production need.  Drupal 7’s Bad Judgment module was the prime example of this.  I am going to be looking into this module moving ahead, as well as all the available webhooks I have in the tools I already use.  If you listen to this recording you will even the infamous FauxAlGore give an intro to the subject.

No one likes having difficult conversations but it is an unavoidable part of life. How to have these conversations is something we also tend to avoid, which I never really thought about until I saw this talk. I have no idea how this topic has not been more widely discussed at camps but can foresee this becoming a much more popular talking point in the future.
The basics are that when people find themselves in uncomfortable discussions they tend to react towards internalizing which results in silence or externalizing, which leads toward violence. You want to stay balanced right in between those extremes in a place of healthy dialogue. This requires some meta conversation sometimes and recognizing that everyone needs to feel safe. If you are in a critical conversation and notice that the other party has shifted to one of these ends, it is OK to ask why and revisit the points that pushed them there in order to find resolution and move ahead.
My favorite part was Chris asking the room if we remembered when we were kids and figured out that adults are not mature? All kids have this moment and it serves to remind us that we should be treating people as people. After all you would not ever say to a toddler ‘they are unfit to lead and are bad people due to their work habits’ but we all too often think things like that of our peers. It is important to turn victims into actors and villains into humans to have constructive dialogue.

 

This was the final talk from a teammate that I got to see. This was a fantastic and very entertaining talk about some basic skills everyone should develop to be more productive.  These were all tips and tricks Tessa learned first hand from being a busy mother and developer and community organizer and many other hats.  The ideas ranged from the importance of journaling to keep yourself focused, on track and motivated on the big picture to the importance of self care and meditation.  Sprinkled in between these meatier subject she sprinkled some great and humorous one liners as Pro Mom Tips.  My favorites where: “Never EVER leave a Sharpie unattended”, “Your keys are always in the other pocket”, and something I can’t use yet in my life, “If you need some alone time, tell your small child to go dress themselves, which we all know is a joke.”

The final session of the camp was more of a group discussion than a lecture on the subject of free speech and free software. Tim reminded us that in fact “Free Software is not the same as Open Source”. That there is a core value to this that goes far beyond the development methodology of sharing the code itself. That there is a responsibility to the freedoms this is build from. It was a great group discussion with topics floating from DRM, desktop linux being a good solution these days and bid data privacy concerns. While energy was overall low due to the timing of the talk and the energy we had already exhausted from the two full days, this was still a very lively discussion with so many great take aways. I know for me, moving ahead, I will be saying I work in Free Software a lot more often.

My Session:

This was the 6th time I have had the opportunity to deliver this session. Each time I do I learn a little more and I find new ways to improve upon it. I hope to have the chance to do this a few more times before I retire the talk. The one thing that stands out the most to me is the extreme shyness and introverted-ness of some of the participants. I give some pretty clear trigger warnings and repeated reassurances that it is OK to sit out the exercises or even leave the room without any judgement if they feel uncomfortable. I absolutely and thoroughly applaud the efforts of these folks who stayed and gave it their all. I left feeling inspired by their courage to try something that outgoing in front of their professional peers.
Afterwards I even learned that in one case former teammates that had a terrible working relationship ended up learning they actually had a lot of things in common as a result of my talk. While it is too late to fix the issues they had as a team in the past this gave them new hope that if they worked together again they would be able to find a common chord and better collaborate. This might be my favorite thing I have ever helped anyone do with improv.

Lightning talks:

Friday ended with everyone regathering in the main hall for a round of Lightning Talks. These are ~5 minute talks on any subject of interest from the speaker. These are not done with a lot of prep time, as the speakers signed up on a sheet that went up 15 minutes before we started the talks. I had the extreme honor of going first and delivered a stripped down version of my “Every Project Is A Story” talk I had given at SANDCamp (link to it). Other talks included “How to convert your sodastream canister to be refillable”, “The time I took my mom to Drupal Northern Lights and she learned what “Drupala” is” and my personal favorite, Jim Birch’s “Theremin” history and demo. This last one will live forever as a giphy, which you can download here.

I almost put this up in the Food and Fun session since it was an absolutely outstanding time, but in the end this really does fall under sessions. If you are organizing a camp and reading this, please consider a lightning talk session at the end of one of the days or over lunch. It was such a great way to connect and get some extra learning out of an event!

Last, on a personal and community note I came into camp with a nervousness stemming from more than just my nervousness as an organizer. If you are reading this then you likely are aware of the Drupal drama going on. If you spend any time on subreddits then it would be easy to think that the wheels were coming off and we were taking sides.  I was more than relieved, I was overjoyed, that when I did see my fellow Drupal folks all together there was the same sense of togetherness and camaraderie that I have come to expect.  Even the subject of the drama showed up and I was proud to interact with him as if there was not anything going on at all.  Put everything in perspective for me and I am feeling much better about the state of D8 and the world.

Also, I could not have been successful as a camp organizer without the seasoned experts on the Organizing team!  Huge love to this wonderful amazing group of people.  Take a moment to go look and see the faces of this tremendous team: https://www.midcamp.org/organizers. While we all did a lot for this camp, a very special shout out to the Camp Lead who kept this ship running and made sure we organized, Mr. Jim Birch!

MidCamp was a blast and there were so many good times. I encourage you to go challenge yourself to learn more, better organize your priorities and become better communicators. I know I will. I can’t wait until next year!

WordCamp San Diego: Sunny and staying classy

I landed in beautiful San Diego just in time to go to the Advanced WordPress meetup, hosted by Matt Cromwell. On the Lyft ride there my driver was doing some intense promotion of her brand. I was so impressed with her hustle that I’ll  tell you to go check out her site: byfelicialive.com In it’s own way this was the ideal start to a weekend filled with the hustle and entrepreneurial spirit that is WordCamp San Diego.

The Advanced WordPress meetup featured two amazing speakers who were there to answer questions about their respective products and insights on the whole on the state of WP. From NinjaForms, James Laws had trekked from Tennessee to “America’s Finest City. He was joined by the Developer Advocate of WooCommerce, Michael Tieso. The conversation ranged from when is the right time to use which approach to ecommerce to long term support strategies for rolling out updates to NinjaForms. One interesting tidbit I heard was that there is an internal Woo team called “The Extensibles” who completely focus on, well, extensibility and are one of the main reasons the product is as versatile as it is. It was a wonderful discussion made even better by a few choice refreshments.

My hotel room was huge. I got bumped to an executive suite, which was novel for me. I didn’t exactly know what that meant until I opened the door and did not see a bed, but instead a living room. Then I noticed the other door and found the entire bedroom behind it. It is pretty common for my hotel room to be bigger than my apartment in SF, but this was a whole other level. Very grateful to be upgraded.

The Food And The Fun:

Friday brought an interesting mix of seeing San Diego, preparing my talk and working. Before I knew it I was hanging out with some of the other WCSD folks for some afternoon conversations to ‘pre-party’ for the Speaker/Sponsor/Volunteer dinner. Then I returned to the same venue that I had been at for the AWP MeetUp, the really awesome Downtown Works space. It was great to catch up with a lot of old friends and meet many new ones. The food was fantastic (I had the Ahi tuna) and the wine was even better! Thanks to the WCSD crew for such a great and fun night. Most of us called it an early night because there was an early morning on Saturday, but with so much excitement in the air, I for one, found it a little hard to sleep.

Saturday morning brought with it coffee and many many pastries and tons of snack food options. This was the best provisioned camp I have been to yet! Lunch was pretty awesome ‘box lunches’ with some really fresh and tasty choices. I had a pretty great Thai chicken wrap. The nature of the space meant there was not really any way to sit all together, like there was the last time I was in SD, but I still had many great conversations.

Saturday night was a pretty awesome party at the recently renamed Little Italy’s Loading Dock.  Much fun was had as some intense giant Jenga and Corn Hole games were going on while Anchor Man played on loop in the background, reminding us all to ‘stay classy’.  The party went pretty late which combined with a long and full day left everyone ready to call it a day.  A good day indeed.

Sunday morning started later than most camp days which gave some of us a chance to have some great breakfast at The Broken Yolk.

People around a table

Sunday had no lunch, but all the donuts you could imagine from San Diego’s Famous Donut Bar:

The Sessions:

Unfortunately this time around I wasn’t able to get to everything and most of the ones I went to I had to leave early to keep ‘staffing the booth’ for Pantheon.  I love doing that a lot because it gives rise to many awesome conversations, but it means my notes from sessions are sparse.  Here is what I got.

Continuous Integration for WordPress

I was excited to see Josh Cummings talk for a few reasons.  First and foremost, because it is the right way to approach website projects.  And also because he gave a shout out to my company. He said:  “A lot of this CI  requires command line use.  If you like GUI, use Pantheon”.  I really appreciated his approach of building up the case for CI from first principles like Don’t Repeat Yourself (DRY) and the need to “automate All the things”!

Understanding and Supporting Web Accessibility

Next up, Rachel Carden presented on a topic I have been thinking about a lot in the last year or so.  There are legal changes coming soon to the internet and it is not just a good idea to get ahead of them, it is a great idea to already be compliant and welcoming everyone to use your site.  Rachel did a great job of laying out some simple ways to approach this area to make your site more accessible.  I know I for sure will be rethinking some things around colorblindness and keyboard only users.

 

Flexbox for WordPress

Joseph Abraham gave a really solid overview of Flexbox.  I was only familiar with this tool for CSS thanks to the JavaScript online course I took from Wes Bos. Applying this simple to use yet robust part of the CSS standard can easily make any page automatically adaptive.   The biggest take away for me was finding a new way to learn this tool deeply.  http://flexboxfroggy.com is a little but silly looking browser game but it is absolutely easy to use and I know I am going to walk away with some better CSS chops from mastering it.

My Session

I was very nervous to give a technical presentation for the first time at a WordCamp: “WP-CLI: Don’t Fear The Command Line”.   I have give many demos before, but never in front of a room that packed.  Although this was the second time I was giving this talk ever, it was the first time doing it in person to a crowd.  You learn a lot working on a talk and especially from the feedback from the audience afterward.  I am going to be submitting this talk to other WordCamps and refining it as I go.  I want to give a huge shout out to Shawn Hooper for giving me the courage to do this and permission to leverage a lot of the work he had done in his previous talks on the subject.

The Keynote

Stephen Carnam kicked off day 2 with a rousing keynote all about the golden rule.  He kept driving home that this core principle, whether we consciously think on it or not, drives a great deal about our live and work.  After all, if it were not for our internal desire to create better UX, we would have no way to empathise with the users of our products.  He was able to encapsulate this pretty well in his story on how ThemeDreamer became Serverpress (which is one of the tools I keep installed for quick WP local builds).

 

Last but not least I want to give a huge shout out to the awesome Joseph Abraham for giving me a lift to the airport.  Just an awesome human being and a true hard worker.  We had a really great discussion on work ethic and the importance of being passionate.  I know the world would be a better place if we all believed in the value and virtue of hard work.

Thanks for an awesome weekend San Diego.  Camp was great and I can’t wait until I find a reason to come back.  I hope I don’t have to wait until WordCamp 2018.

 

WordCamp Atlanta: Cold days in Hotlanta and finding community gold

Atlanta was experiencing a cold spell when I got there. It was about 15 degrees colder than my beloved SF. I had last been to ATL in the late summer of 2004, working for the American Red Cross as a disaster relief worker the year before Hurricane Katrina. Most folks don’t recall but there were five hurricanes that swept Florida that year. My unit dropped into Atlanta to stage for the clean up efforts. Very fortunately for me and Florida this time, there was no emergency to deal with, just the fun, fellowship and learnings at WordCamp Atlanta 2017.

The camp fell on the St. Patrick’s Day weekend and shamrocks, leprechauns, rainbows, and pots of gold were prominent in the theme. Saturday brought the flood of people to The Loudermilk Center  to get our WP on. I was especially excited to be going to Atlanta because I was able to fill a gap in the speaker schedule created by a last minute change. I absolutely LOVE contributing at camps by leveraging my public speaking skills. I was lucky enough to get to contribute this way and in some other ways.

CONTRIBUTOR DAY!

Unlike any other WordCamp I had attended, the day long beginner sessions (Site Building, Developing and Designing) as well as Contributor Day fell on the Friday, before the regular days of sessions. I have to say I really liked this arrangement. Instead of being exhausted and having a few days of unanswered emails piled up from the weekend like I do when sprints are on the last day, I felt energized and fresh. I was able to warm up with some socializing and then roll up my sleeves to give full attention and focus to the task at hand.

I was thrilled to learn there was a new community contribution project around marketing WP.  Leading the charge on that Friday, the talented Jason Knill and Bridget Willard from GiveWP.  We got a lot of work done.  One of the main focuses for the team is figuring out how to better communicate the value of WP itself to other developers and to their clients.  This means we need data to figure out how to best create programs and materials.  To that end we focused on building surveys and getting answers.

In the past I have contributed (ever so slightly) to docs. I had originally dipped my toes in the contribution waters back at WordCamp US with the docs team for a couple reasons. First because I firmly believe good docs are the cornerstone of any successful open source project. And on a more personal level, it was something I thought I could realistically do as I am not a great PHP developer.  However, if I am being honest, it turned out not be something I felt super passionate about day to day. On the other hand getting other people excited about an idea and pushing a view into the world on the other hand sounds extremely enticing and something I really look forward to participating in moving forward.  If you have not gone to a contributor day yet or visited make.wordpress.org please consider it. We are literally all responsible for the future of WordPress (and all OSS for that matter).

KidsCamp:

Bringing a lot of energy to the event were 40 kids that came for KidsCamp. It was super exciting to see a group of youngsters excited to be part of our WebDev world. Lead by the super talented Sandy Edwards, they broke into 3 groups: Beginners who would build their first WordPress.com site. Intermediate, who would build and work on their first real WordPress site. Advanced, where they cracked open the hood and learned some PHP for theming and plugin development.

I am very excited for the future of WP. I was 22 years old when WordPress 1.0 dropped. These kids were all born after 2.0 and have never realistically known a world without PHP 5.3 or later. I can’t even imagine what they will dream up as the next generation of application and internet creators.

The Food and the Fun

Thursday before the event I got to hang out and have some of the best BBQ in Atlanta at Sweet Auburn BBQ with the generous and awesome Mike Schinkel.  We had the chance to catch up about his WPLib Box project.  Great stuff and really tasty brisket.

Friday morning brought coffee and a few pastries. But being in the hometown of Waffle House and since there was one on the walk to the venue, I decided to get breakfast there. Lunch however was a pretty great kale salad and buffalo chicken wraps. As it was Contributor day it was really a working lunch, which is something that felt pretty natural given it was a Friday.  I eat a lot of conference food and big applause to the Loudermilk Center.  If you are planning an event in Atlanta, check em out.

Friday night was the Speaker/Sponsor dinner was at the historic CocaCola Northlands Gathering Spot. There was a cash bar and all you can eat buffet of pecan encrusted chicken with green beans, potatoes and wedge salad. Admittedly I went back for seconds of the chicken as it was sweet and savory all at once. Delightful. All too soon it was time to get some rest and prep for the Saturday morning rush of setup and kicking off a day of camp.

Saturday lunch was a variation on the selection from Friday with a nice chicken parm replacing the wraps.  We also returned to the Gathering Spot for the main after party. We were treated to pretty amazing chicken and waffle appetizers, served with syrup thick with roasted pecans, spring rolls, gazpacho and rare stake bruschetta. All elegantly served by a very hospitable and kind staff. Hospitality in the south is renown and I was not disappointed by my experience here.

Then the after-after party where we were to sing some #WCKaraoke tried to get going at the Metro Diner. Normally this really interesting looking 24 hour diner/bar has karaoke nightly, but due to an emergency maintenance it was shutting down at 10:30 and no Karaoke offered. Very luckily Kyrk Ullman stepped up to find an alternative and we rerouted to the Midtown Tavern. A very spacious bar that was hopping on a Saturday night. There was a huge turnout for a #WCKaraoke event, spurned on by our collective desire to sing together and to not be outdone by the folks at WordCamp London which had their #WCKaraoke event a number of hours before. Even Troy Dean, our keynote speaker (and one of the nicest human beings I have ever met) came out to lift his voice in collective song.

Sunday morning came all too soon and I again indulged in Waffle House. There is just something about those hashbrowns scattered, capped and peppered that is irresistible to me making me very glad there is not one near me in SF. Saturday lunch again brought yummy wraps and the joy of hanging out with campers while they ate. There is something primally satisfying about eating together. Always glad to eat with my fellow WordPress people.

The Sessions

The Keynote

Troy Dean flew all the way from Australia to deliver one of the most inspirational Keynotes I have heard yet. He told us of his transformation from a broke and depressed nearly homeless man to living a very rich life by focusing on helping people. My biggest take away was something he said rather early on, “If you have nothing to fear, you have nothing to lose.”  If you are not scared then you are in a comfortable place and that prevents you from changing and improving.  Very wise words and it was a great way to kick off a camp!

You can even hear a bit of this here:

My session

I am grateful to again have had the chance to deliver my We Are All Making This Up, Improv Lessons for Developers talk at camp. This was the fifth time have given this talk and the first time I had repeat audience members. Their feedback was really helpful. I am refining this talk as time goes on and am very much looking forward to giving it again in Chicago for MidCamp and again in Raleigh next month as well as for a much larger audience very soon.

My only regret about giving this talk is that it meant I could not see Mr.Shawn Hooper talk about the WP-CLI. I am slated to give a similar session in San Diego and was hoping to see him in action, as my slides are very much based on his. Fortunately in the long run we can all see his talk on WordPress.tv

Sessions I saw:

Namespaces, Autoloading, and Improving Plugin Architecture

Tom McFarlin cleared up a few points that had confused me for some time.   While I felt I had a reasonable understanding of why you would want a namespace as a developer, I never really grasped why until I saw this talk.  I know a lot of people left the room with a much clearer sense of this best practice as well as a lot of other great info on plugin building.

How WordPress Will Change Your Life

I feel very fortunate to be part of the WordPress community and really feel it has changed my life. Brian Rontsztein’s talk encapsulated how it can change yours as well if you let it.  We work in an isolating industry and we sometimes lose site of the fact that we are all in one community.  It is really important to share your journey and story with those around you.  You likely already have enough specialized knowledge to give your own talk.  Or blog. Or just comment on other’s work.  Contribute in any way you can to keep this amazing community going and help change someone else’s life today!

How to use teaching as a learning tool

I was excited to this this talk as this was the first time I would be seeing Carl Alexander speak in person.  Mostly I see him on my laptop as the CarlBoard His presentation skills were only out shined by the brilliance of the content itself.  To sum up: “The best way to learn anything is to teach it.”  I 100% agree with this.  Having to explain a concept makes your brain absorb the knowledge like nothing else can.  He encouraged us to challenge ourselves and find a topic that excites us and then signing up to teach a class or session on the matter.  That might sound terrifying but this is an incredible way to give yourself a deadline and force you to focus.

Framework Springboard- Build Faster and Better Websites in WAY Less Time

People lined the walls and sat on the floor to hear Shelly Peacock give us the low down on frameworks.  I learned about a few new frameworks like Beans which I know I will be tinkering with in the near future.  She also walked us through, step by step, how to get her framework of choice, Genesis, up and running in no time.  This is one to catch on WordPress.TV for sure if you are at all interested in theming and frameworks.

WordPress Deployment for Professionals: How to Solve the Problem of Multiple WordPress Installs in 30 Minutes or Less

This was a technical session from Jason Lengstorf and like all great talks, it was like drinking from a firehose.  Delivering a lot of material in under 40 minutes, Jason explained the underlying principals of why you would want to use an automated process to get for your local to a production environment.  TL;DR: “Every manual step in a process increases risk of failure!”

I have some strong feelings on using tools like Kalabox to further automate some of the setup, which he urges some caution around due to it making the deploy process a bit of a magic black box.  We are in complete agreement though that any developer should understand a bit on how the internals of the tools they are using work. Really a fascinating topic and very well delivered.

Meetups: Why is it important to invest in the WordPress Community?

Wrapping up the camp was one of my favorite people talking about one of my favorite topics: Community!  Bridget Willard delivered an impassioned and impactful talk about the importance of connecting with other human beings.  I did not know going in that the stats are 33% of entrepreneurs battle depression vs 7% of the general population.  That is 1 in 3 of the most successful, outgoing and busiest people you know.  Compounding this stress is the isolation we get working behind screens.  She started this with a pretty amazing CS Lewis quote I was not familiar with: “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”

Fortunately for us WordPress has an ecosystem anyone can tap into.  Meetups and WordCamps!  If you are reading this and NOT going to either, find your local Meetup now and sign up and go.  Go a few times.  After a few you will find yourself as the ‘old pro’ welcoming the new people and taking on more responsibilities for making them happen.  There is not quite another feeling like that in the world.

CART services

I would be remiss to not mention that this camp’s wonderful accessibility.  Not just in the fact the venue was very accessible but that every session had live captioning!  It was great to see the words in near real time projected behind every speaker. It made it very easy to follow along and I think it helped me take better notes a few times for sure.  Big thanks to these talented men and women!

To wrap up, WordCamp Atlanta 2017 was a pretty amazing time with so many awesome organizers, speakers, sponsors and volunteers.  And special thanks to the volunteers who made this camp happen.  I am very fortunate to get to travel to many camps and can safely say the good folks of Atlanta have one of the best WordCamps in the world in their hometown.  Can’t wait until next year!

Stanford DrupalCamp: Down on the farm

A very bright weekend greeted us at Stanford DrupalCamp.  After a really rainy winter with crazy weather that seemed to follow me to SANDCamp and Drupal Northern Lights, it was really awesome to have clear skies and the warm spring weather of Palo Alto.  I was very excited to be able to attend a camp close to home and to be joined by a couple colleagues who I do not normally get to travel with.

Unlike most camps and conferences I attend, most of the attendees at the camp worked for the same employer.  Stanford.  It seemed that many of the folks attending were there to learn about what other parts of their university were doing. And that makes sense given the size of the university and how many departments utilize Drupal in some way.   It gave this camp a very special feeling of purpose to have so many colleagues who rarely work directly together come under one banner for a weekend.

It also focused the discussion on internally promoting Drupal as the right solution for many of their needs.  This is an interesting problem set and one I have thought about a lot since I first attended WPCampus last year.  It was remarkable how the different departments and organizations sounded like the web development agencies I have worked with. Similar in goals and processes but with some additional problem variables on top.  While the challenges are great, I think the folks working in these institutions are doing great work and helping keep information moving fast and free.  I left with high hopes for the future of Drupal and its use in higher education.

The Food and the Fun:

A lack of planning on my part Friday left me without lunch as my team was setting up for the camp.  Very fortunately, the campus food court system was in full swing and I was able to buy some wonderful vegetarian stew to tide me over.  The conference coffee was pretty OK and they had a great tea selection.

5:00pm Friday found us outside The Treehouse for some fun, nachos, fries, wine and beer paid for by the awesome sponsors of the camp.  Many good times were had. Having talks the next day to prepare for and some other plans, all too soon we had to take off our homes.

Saturday started out with an amazingly awesome Lyft ride.

The sessions were great and the weather was unbelievably nice out.  It felt like summer had come to the peninsula.  We had standard fare camp lunch with sandwiches, apples, chips and cookies with our coffees and teas.  What make it awesome was sitting outside in the warm air on the quiet campus.

Saturday evening had us return one again to the quite nice Treehouse courtyard for some more food and fun.  All too soon we parted ways but not before some great times.

The Sessions:

Keynote:

It was a real treat to hear Dr Ronald Vogl talk about how and why LegalTech is or is not disrupting the legal industry.  I will admit, at first I was rather apprehensive about this talk.  While an interesting abstract, I was not sure how this would lead into our camp.  After all, the keynote is often what sets the tone for the general conversations at these get together. My hesitations were unfounded though, as I listened to his presentation.  On top of being a brilliant speaker, Dr. Vogl held our attention by laying out the realities of how technology is impacting one of the oldest professions on earth.

I had not really thought about it in the terms of automation of processes, but this is what technology based solutions like LegalZoom and RocketLawyer are essentially doing.  Making the dreary monotony of paralegal work the stuff robots can do easily.  The questions though become; how far up can we automate?  What does this mean for the current aging lawyers practicing who are seeing the market ‘disrupted’ vs the student or new attorney  who have had these as realities in the market since they began. Clearly someone who understand the technical side and the people side, our presenter was able to leave us thinking that technology is only going to keep evolving and thought must be given to how we choose to encourage how it evolves.

I am only going to talk about 3 other sessions for this post, but everything I saw or participated in was great.  Including talks by 2 of my colleagues, Greg and Peter.

How To Make a Snowflake with a Cookie Cutter: Innovative Site Building on Stanford Sites was a session on how the Office of International Affairs went from a hosted solution that had many barriers to make any changes to an internally managed Drupal installation that they could edit at will.  It was not an easy road but one that empowered their department to do more faster using an agile method.  The quote that really stuck with me though was “All good CMS implementations serve a content strategy”.  I think you can even remove the work good here, since at the end of the day we are just manipulating strings of content, that all CMS have a content strategy, intentionally managed or not.

The impact and power of this talk was magnified by the audience being made up of other Stanford staff who were learning how their colleagues in the OIA  took control of their own destiny, the risks that can bring and the big picture view of how this impacted their mission.  Really inspiring stuff.

Case Study: Big Data Visualizations with Carto & Highcharts was a talk from Jordon Koplowicz I really thought would be on how mapping data functions and flows.  It for sure covered aspects of that but it really was a fascinating story of how a company went from one technology for mapping to another and the challenges that brought.  While conceptually it was just taking data from one JSON file to another and crunching some numbers, that number crunching proved to be a serious challenge.  His slides highlight that there are some things that PHP and NginX do well and some things that do not.

More important than the technical specs was the journey he went through as a new developer on this project.  He also addressed the very real issue that sometimes a new technology gets forced onto a project for one reason or another. This lead to a line that got an audible chuckle from the crowd: “I hate this for 2 reasons.”  First that it was yet another layer of technical complexity and second it meant another developer was to be added into the mix who was an expert on the new tech.  He discussed how he dealt with those complexities and his enthusiasm about the problem itself was downright inspiring. He set a great example for every developer.

Website Musts: How to Define Everything That Your Website Needs to Do

This talk started with the question “How do we know when a project is done?”. Much like my talk about Discovery, the intent of Anne Stefanyk’s session was to give project managers and other client facing folks the tools to better manage expectations.  One of my big take aways is that the key to any successful engagement is clear scope and transparency of process.

Anne’s process relies on the the User Story and how they leverage these to great effect at Kanopi Studios and for projects like BADCamp.  The power of the user story is that they can tell you what the end looks like before you start.  She highlighted that while these user stories can be generated rapidly they should also come with early user testing and data gathering to drive their application.

 

My Sessions:

I gave two talks at this camp and I am very grateful to have had the opportunity.

My first talk was a new one I had prepared especially for this camp.  Discovery, discovery, discovery, discovery! The most import part of successful projects.  Originally I had proposed to have this be “the most import part of a sale.”  My background is in sales and I understand that topic pretty well.  After a conversation with the camp organizers who suggested generalizing this up to be more project focused rather than just sales, I did a good deal of research, modified the talk and learned a few things along the way.  I am very happy with the way this turned into a group discussion and sharing by the end of the session.  Truly great when we can learn from each other.

My other talk of the day was We Are All Making This Up: Improv Lessons For Developers.  This makes the 4th time I have delivered this session and I am really honing it in.  I am very much looking forward to giving this again at MidCamp 2017!  Being the last slot on the last day my attendance was about a third of the Discovery talk right after lunch, but the enthusiasm of the smaller crowd and the interactiveness of the example exercises made this the perfect sized audience.

Stanford is unlike almost any other camp I have been to.  It was the best weather of any camp I had attended in 2017 so far.  The people cold not have been nicer and the good times were had by all!

DrupalCamp Northern Lights: The time I went to Iceland and it snowed a lot.

I trudged though 51cm (20.07 inches) of snowfall to make it to Sunday sessions of Iceland’s first ever DrupalCamp Northern Lights  (#DCNLights).  I had to walk down the middle of the not yet plowed Reykjavik streets, still dark at 8:00am, beside cars covered in the most snowfall in a single night since 1937.  I was the first to the venue and was glad for that fact. It gave me time to dry my socks in the restroom without witnesses.  Baddy, our organizer, soon arrived. She said we were going to plan Z and if that failed we should not worry since the Icelandic alphabet has 3 additional letters than English, Þ, Æ, and Ö.

51cm of snow on cars in Reykjavik
51cm of snow on cars in Reykjavik

Hold on.  Let’s back up a few steps.

I was really excited to have my talk “We are making all of this up: Improv lessons for the developer” accepted to this camp.  This was out of the normal regions where I had been focusing on session submissions and I was pleasantly surprised I was accepted, especially after seeing the caliber of the other speakers on the schedule.  I am very grateful to my company for giving me the chance to attend and develop myself.  I have been to Iceland once before so, this was not intended to be a sightseeing vacation, but instead a chance to learn what the European Drupal world has been up to.  What transpired truly transcended either of these goals making #DCNLights a unique experience which I can only really described as a real adventure!

Iceland is an 8 hour ride from my home in San Francisco and an 8 hour time difference.  Taking off Thursday at noon PST put me on the ground Friday at 4:00am UTC.  Keflavík airport is approximately 50 minutes from Reykjavik and all the needed transportation to the awesome Galaxy Pod Hostel meant I got to bed at about 5:45am.
I was greeted with the worst weather Iceland has seen all year.  This caused havoc with the initial, and most subsequent, plans.  Fortunately the Icelandic way is to have backup plans to backup plans. This spirit of rolling with the punches really made this event amazing.

The Food and the Fun:

Plan A had consisted of all the speakers and attendees who could arrive on Friday to go on a Golden Circle tour, paid for by the largest organization to use Drupal in Iceland, Landsvirkjun, the national power company.  We were even going to tour their completely sustainable renewable energy plant that leverages Iceland’s geothermal properties.  We were to end the day with a reception thrown by the mayor of Reykjavik.  However, due to the storm, this plan was scrapped by the time I was on the airplane, since the tour bus would not be able to navigate the icy roads.

Plan B was to go for a city walking tour in the morning, maybe some ice skating donated by the city rink and finally the the mayors reception.  The rain and wind destroyed this plan as well by the time I woke up at 9:30am.  Honestly I was a bit grateful to get a few more hours of sleep.

Plan C was to just meet for Ice Skating and then to the mayors.  I valiantly attempted the 1km walk from my hostel to the rink but the sidewalks were a mess of ice and slush and the sleet was being whipped by the wind into my eyes, so I opted to get some work done and just go meet the mayor later. A few Drupalers did make it out and it looked like they had a stellar time.

23 people dressed for ice skating. half of them are sitting down
https://twitter.com/mcaleaa/status/835239718694567936

I met up with the crew who were pre-partying for the mayor at American Bar.  That’s right, I flew 4,199 miles to eat ribs at a place that is specializing in my country’s cuisine.  It was awesome to see familiar faces in this land of ice and snow so far from my home.  I was greeted as an old friend by all the Drupalers, even ones I didn’t yet know.

Red haired man with large glasses. named halldor audar svansson
Halldór Auðar Svansson

Plan D kicked in when we showed up to the mayors office and found that he was not able to attend due to other responsibilities.  Instead he sent us a member of the Pirate Party, city council member Halldór Auðar Svansson, who gave one of the best speeches I have ever heard from outside of our community on the importance of open source.  To paraphrase: “Drupal is free as in beer, which is something Icelanders like. It is good to be wise with the people’s resources.  But it is also free in another way that Icelanders also feel strongly about, transparency and commitment to community’.  We were given very nice beer and wine and hor d’oeuvres reflecting the local culinary pallet.

group of drupal developers around a large table, it is a selfie pic
https://twitter.com/rouvenvolk/status/835173696658604034

Plan D also had a reserved room awaiting us in a bar atop a hotel where I learned many after parties have been thrown by the national opera and symphony, which are only a few blocks away.  Aside from a helicopter ride I can’t imagine a better perspective on seeing the city lit up in the cold northern dark.

Night view of the Reykjavik skyline
Reykjavik at night

The final piece of Plan D was the wonderful surprise that all the Saturday sessions had been reorganized and we were still going on the sightseeing trip, minus the power plant tour since they do not give those on the weekend.  Capping the first night was a local rock band at a coffee shop and a late night hot dog with fried onions and brown mustard.  If there is a better way to serve a hot dog I have not encountered it.

Saturday brought a snow flurry that started as I walked from my hostel to the venue, about 3km away.  It ended when I was a block from the University of Iceland’s Oddi School of Business and I was completely white from head to toe with snow.  I was not the only one.  Even with the slipperiness of the sidewalks and the windy route that google maps suggested I arrived just in time for the opening remarks.

Lunch was served at the RÚV (Icelandic National Broadcast Service) cafeteria. It was a traditional preserved whitefish lunch.  The Drupal Viking told us all that this exact menu was a staple on a Saturday for his entire life. More reliable than the sun coming up.  We were very well fed and then got a quick tour and heard an awesome presentation (detailed below in Sessions).

7 people around a table with trays of food, iceland skyline in background
https://twitter.com/YesCT/status/835467173871161344

We then boarded 2 very large tour buses and away we went to see the continental divide, which is the original location of their parliament, Althing. An Icelandic flag marks where the Speaker of the Law would have to stand to deliver the rule to the people a millennia ago.

It snowed on us the entire time we were off the bus but immediately cleared to a beautiful day as we continued on towards the geysers.  We stopped for about an hour at some of the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen, Gullfoss.

Gullfoss waterfall, large powerful river guching waterfall over cliff
Gullfoss https://twitter.com/BryanGullan/status/835550459201011712

See some awesome drone footage from Spillebeen Mathieu here:  https://www.skypixel.com/share/video/iceland-golden-tour

The next stop was the original Icelandic Geysir. This is the original one where we get the word geyser from.  Geothermal hot springs contain a large amount of sulfur.  This means that all the hot water in the country, including these 95deg (Celsius) and hotter pools and eruptions smelled like rotten eggs, tinting the landscape a yellowish brown.  Still it was an amazing natural phenomenon to behold.

a geyser erupting
https://twitter.com/BryanGullan/status/835567905639116800

As the sun set we found our way to a place that specializes in artificial light, an organic green house tomato farm, Friðheimar.  Iceland offers some of the world’s cheapest energy and they were putting it to good use at Friðheimar.  One ton of tomato per day are produced in this facility that is in constant sunlight using hydroponics and imported bumblebees.

The meal was a fresh tomato soup and if all tomato soup tasted like that I would be eating a lot more of it.  It was served with very hearty breads and coffee or tea.  I capped my meal off with some tomato ice cream with tomato based toppings. We were scheduled to stay for a much longer time to enjoy the facility and the adjacent horse farm, but again the snow had started and the drivers where concerned with road conditions.

Drupal devs eating together in front of hanging tomato plants in a greenhouse
https://twitter.com/baddysonja/status/835594346648989696/photo/1

Arriving back in the city very late at night made me decide to call it a night and I walked home with the largest snowflakes I maybe have ever seen floating down.

Sunday morning I awoke to the record snows and a city infrastructure overwhelmed with the historic accumulation. Having travelled as far as I had and connecting so strongly with my peers, I was determined to make it to the event.  Most of the way I was able to walk in the middle of the street in the tire tracks left from the few cars that did manage to stay mobile overnight.  The snow ceased as I walked but I kicked up a lot of drift in my trouncing though knee high snow on the not yet shovelled paths of the university campus.  It was incredible to be alone with so much snow and the rising sun.

a trail through 51cm high snow, I am standing on the steps of a building looking to the north
My path through the snow

Plan D had to be abandoned since the unexpected blizzard made it impossible for most attendees to make it on time.  There were a few other plans was told had been attempted and failed so far, so we went with Plan Z.  A newly jostled schedule allowed the coffee people some extra time to arrive, a late start time and slightly shorter sessions with no breaks between.  It allowed us to get it all packed in.  Fortunately, lunch was served by the university cafeteria and the buildings are all connected by underground tunnels.  We didn’t even have to put our coats back on to comfortably stroll to lunch. We had Lasagne, salad and what I assume were vegetable protein potato nuggets.  Whatever they where, they were delicious with the sweet chili sauce they served.  Baddy even played some wonderful accompaniment.

Baddy Breidert playing piano
A musical lunch experience

Plan Z also included another surprise, an expedition was planned for that night to go to try and see the northern lights.  Again paid for by the conference and free to attend by us all.  Unfortunately nature did not cooperate with us and we had to return to town and say our goodbyes without having experienced the Aurora Borealis, but the joy of being together and seeing the vividly clear stars in the freezing night sky made the trip worth every second.

overexposed picture of the night sky with hundreds and hundreds of stars visible
https://twitter.com/BryanGullan/status/835998861239939073

By happenstance the returning bus route drove directly in front of my hostel and I wasn’t able to say goodbye to everyone in the commotion of departing.  It sure was nice not having to walk further in the snow on uneven icy ground as I had done previous nights.

The Sessions

The changing plans meant that day one only had 5 total sessions to make room for the tour. Baddy and Hilmar (perhaps better known as DrupalViking), our 2 camp organizers, kicked things off with a slide showing all the different countries who were represented.  This immediately set this camp apart from almost any other event I have ever attended aside from maybe DrupalCon Barcelona.  We celebrated our diversity right from the start and it carried through until the last goodbyes.

23 countries listed on a screen
https://twitter.com/allisonmanley/status/835424279357435905

The Keynote:

Johanna Bergmann from Amazee gave us a very good insight into how she came into the Drupal space.  Not from a development perspective but, like me, from a business one.  Her revelation that these agency owners openly shared their trade secrets went against everything she had thought was necessary to maintain a competitive advantage.  She soon discovered that this was a real ‘cooperative advantage’ in this community of people that were building the very tool they were basing their businesses on.  She said the thing that made this community work was our string ethics, guided by our code of conduct.  I have never heard this point articulated better and it really set the tone for the rest of our time together in sessions and in hallway conversations.

Johanna Bergmann delivering a talk in front of a whiteboard
https://twitter.com/thejimbirch/status/835438936180785161

The theme of cooperation really shone though the next session I saw. Allison Manley delivered a brilliant talk on the kickoff meeting with a client.  Clear and easy to follow, she laid out the steps they take at Palantir to set expectations and deliver projects. She really focused on how to communicate clearly with multiple stakeholders to be able to get the best results on what are sometimes very complex matters.  Some solid takeaways for all folks working on client facing teams.

Alison Manley in front of a screen that says Manage Expectations
https://twitter.com/McDwayne/status/835443569234169856

The third session was delivered by Helgi Páll Þórisson, the lead developer at RÚV who had implemented Drupal 6, which had replaced a proprietary and outdated CMS.  Rather than just laying out the technical specs of what they had done the presentation really highlighted the journey the team had taken to get to success.  We all shared their pain as he recounted that on the initial launch day, with the VP of the network standing behind DrupalViking, they had to try and restart Apache servers and inadvertently taking down everything.  But they persisted. And now are one of the largest companies in Iceland to use Drupal.  It was a real treat at a DrupalCamp to hear these types of stories from an internal development perspective as opposed to an agency delivery one.

A man giving a talk in front of old televisions
https://twitter.com/McDwayne/status/835479436417974273

Day 2 had too many awesome talks to write about them all.  The augmented schedule and some  actually prevented me from seeing everything I wanted to see but what I saw was awesome.  In the interest of content length I am only going to write about 4

Mike Miles‘ talk ‘Inclusive Design: Thinking beyond accessibility’ was a great way to start day 2.  The biggest take away was that ‘if you design for average, you design for no one.’  He told the story of the air force having a failing jet program due to user issues and not being able to sort out why.  It wasn’t until engineers focused on the extreme size difference between the tallest pilots and the shortest ones that they came up with adjustable seats and the user issues were greatly reduced.  By focusing on the limitations and designing for that, we can expect to have better results for everyone.  One of my favorite links he shared was the BBC’s standards to make their content more accessible: http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/futuremedia/technical/semantic_markup.shtml

Mike standing in front of a whiteboard witht he title of the talk on the screen
https://twitter.com/McDwayne/status/835793156742459392

Janne Koponen brilliant talk ‘Holistic development and operations environment’ was less about operations and more about ‘The Wunder Process’ was uplifting and invigorating.  Starting with the concept of ‘the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts’ thinking, Wunder believes that small process improvements, no matter how marginal, add up to large improvements.  They mirrors Toyota’s continual process improvement mechanisms.  He said Toyota gets about a million process improvement suggestions from employees per year and nearly 90% are implemented.  The results are a much more efficient overall machine.  Focus on the parts of the process and you will get the larger goals you are working towards.

Janne Koponen in front of a whiteboard
https://twitter.com/McDwayne/status/835821977826897920

My session went over well and I am very proud to say it was the most international crowd to which I have ever spoken.  10 people in the room represented 6 different nationalities and all sorts of backgrounds.  Some of my humor fell a little flat I think due to language and poplar culture limitations across borders.  It was a good reminder to me that not everyone has seen as much American television as I have.  The crowd went along with my requests to actually do some improv exercises at the end.  There was a interesting twist that almost no one participating natively spoke the same language though their English was impeccable.  Still, we managed to end up with many smiles and new techniques to break the ice for teams and to engage with clients in a fun yet meaningful way.

Wes Ruvalcaba talk ‘Virtual Reality on the Web – Introduction and How’ brought us into the world of VR and showed me for the first time, the possibilities of WebVR.  While I was nominally familiar with the concept of virtual reality over the internet it wasn’t until this talk that the development side of that work came into focus.  He showed us his code for some pretty interesting demos of VR using A-FRAME a Mozilla project with some very straightforward notation.  Next time the conversation of ‘what do we do as a CMS after websites’ comes up, I will have some very handy facts to cite.

Wes behind his computer
https://twitter.com/McDwayne/status/835858107955884032

Jim Birch ended the planned sessions on Sunday with Holistic SEO and Drupal, which is about a day and a half long workshop’s worth of SEO tips and tricks delivered in just over 35 minutes.  A literal blur of information was delivered and as you can see from his slides, dozens of links were shared that each needs its own exploration and study.  Holistic SEO is not something I spend too much of my time thinking on, but I walked away with some realizations and some next steps to improve my own small projects.

Jim in front of a whiteboard and a screen with his talk title
https://twitter.com/McDwayne/status/835886092247306242

Baddy and DrupalViking wrapped up the day and we celebrated making this camp happen.  They said when they first planned this, in their minds maybe 30 people would attend.  In the end 95 people from 25 different countries assembled and bonded over the worst snow in many years, the freezing cold and our renewed sense of purpose that we are in fact creating something bigger than the sum of the parts.  Namely Drupal.
Currently there is no plan to have a DrupalCamp Northern Lights 2018.  It is a good thing that #DCNLights 2017 was enough fun for multiple years!

All the attendees on the stairs at Ruv
https://twitter.com/DrupalIceland/status/836572434115473408

 

SANDCamp 2017: It rained, there were many doughnuts, and a good time was had by all

My second trip of 2017 was my first Drupal event of the year and my first speaking sessions of the year for San Diego for SANDCamp.  Held in the very beautiful Marina Village right on the water, we had a pretty amazing backdrop for 3 days of learning and sharing.
SANDCamp Logo: Drupal on the Beach

boats in a marina blue sky some clouds
https://twitter.com/cspin/status/833012055279968258

Thursday was training days and I didn’t get to go to those. Pantheon was having a function with about 100 of us in the SF office at once.  The company is about 45% distributed so this was a very big deal for us all.  I stayed with my co-workers for as long as I could, but got to San Diego in time to set up our booth and be ready to go Friday morning.

Pantheon booth set up at SANDCamp
https://twitter.com/McDwayne/status/832624423551135745

THE FOOD AND THE FUN:

Friday morning brought with it many breakfast choices.  There were awesome doughnuts from my fellow sponsors Sagetree Solutions and Achieve Internet.  SANDCamp provided warm bagel sandwiches and plenty of regular bagels with accoutrements.  Coffee came by way of San Diego’s own award winning Dark Horse Coffee Roasters.   Some of the best cold brew iced coffee I have ever had.
Dark Horse Coffee logo, horse in a suit and tie.
Lunch was the standard fare box lunch sandwich, chips, cookies and fruit with some pizzas ordered to cover any gaps.  SANDCamp stands out to me not for the food itself but the fact we all sat together in one room and the Keynotes were delivered for us while we ate our lunch.  More on those amazing sessions later.

crowd of people at sand camp eating lunch, picture taken from balcony looking down
https://twitter.com/lukeherrington/status/832688475333726209

Friday evening we had catered food truck tacos and nachos served with plenty of local beers and wines.  Many awesome conversations and it was pretty convenient to just go from the last session of the day straight to hanging out and pouring a drink. This was super nice because it was pouring rain outside with some very fierce winds pounding down on us. Many locals and the news told me this was the worst storm in many years. Staying dry and eating tacos was pretty awesome.

A bottle of Alpine Beer, Duet in front of a computer displaying drupal.org page
https://untappd.com/user/Toddrink/checkin/418354560?ref=social

Breakfast and lunch on Saturday copied the previous day but the after party most certainly did not.  We were hosted at the pretty hip and hopping Wonderland Ocean Pub.   The place was very lively, as we were not the only people who wanted to party after their weekend event. A large Rugby tournament was happening simultaneous to SANDCamp and we shared the bar.  While it make it noisy and a tad crowded, we got reasonable service and many awesome drink tokens.  When I come back to San Diego I am for sure returning here to get more of the coconut calamari. It was a fantastic way to cap a great event.

group of Drupal people drinking beer and waving at camera
https://twitter.com/tatewaky/status/833142894349283328

 

THE SESSIONS:

Unfortunately, due to time constraints I was not able to see as many of the talks as I would have liked.  But the ones I did see were great!  Here is my wrap up of the ones that stood out from the ones I saw.

Two years of Backdrop CMS
Jen Lampton and Nate Haug gave a couple talks but I was only able to attend one, their two year retrospective of BackDrop CMS.  I have heard a variation of this talk before, but as more of a general ‘Why Backdrop’ discussion, which had inspired me to experiment with this Open Source fork of Drupal.  It is exciting to see how far the project has come and I was surprised by the number of contributors they reported.  I also learned that contributing has some very nice benefits, they would be happy to tell you more.  Very well done and the fact that Jen and Nate are two of the nicest people in the world made this a good time.

Jen and Nate from Backdrop giving a presentation to a room full of people
https://twitter.com/McDwayne/status/832720565307740161

Know Thyself or Perish
Robert Manigold’s session really had two key takeaways from me.  I learned a very sharp and succinct reply to the reaction ‘that seems expensive.  That reply is “Expensive to who?”.  I have not heard this before but I will be using this moving forward. It immediately changes the conversation from one about a price point to one of worldview and if this product is even the right fit for them.  The other major take away is the claim that only four (4) pricing strategies make a profit: Luxury, Premium, Low Cost and Ultra Low Cost. Robert explained that everything in between will self select out and end up with friction with mismatched customers in the process.  This seems like a bold statement to me, but the further I think about it the more correct this seems.  When confronted with ‘there needs to be a price in between’ I am going to start exploring which bucket the client really wants to be in and how we can help accommodate that to make everyone happier.

Robert standing in front of a screen that says Self Examination
https://twitter.com/McDwayne/status/832735560812765184

Man vs. Machine: Successful Client/Vendor Communications
I am guessing you have heard he phrase ‘signal to noise’ ratio a number of times in your life.  I know I have. But I have never before seen this represented in such a clear and straightforward fashion that on this single diagram from James Smith:

diagram showing cycle of communication and various points where noise can interfere with transmission and receiving infoThere are so many places where communication can get disrupted or poorly transmitted it is almost absurd we communicate as well as we do.  This talk was fantastic in revealing that not only must we strive for clearer expression of our ideas but we must also follow through to confirm that delivery, and maybe more importantly, comprehension has occurred. The Q&A had many insights from the crowd and was one of my favorite exampled of how we can learn from each other at these sessions.

James Smith standing in front of a screen that says Man vs Machine
https://twitter.com/McDwayne/status/832999957988716547

MY TALKS:

I had the extreme honor of having 3 of my talks accepted at SANDCamp.  Two were talks I have previously given: ‘We Are All Making This Up: Improv Lessons For Developers‘ and ‘Pricing Strategy and Tactics For Agencies‘. One though, was created and delivered just for SANDCamp: ‘Every project is a story: Applying storytelling to your client interactions
I gave the Storytelling talk first and to a full room which really helped the energy of my talk.  There is a tremendous power to leveraging The Story Spine, defined by Kenn Adams, to translate any client or other request into a cohesive narrative. We think in stories and being able to help other people realize their thoughts in a more articulate and prescribed fashion is key to meeting their needs with great results.  You can find my slides here I was really grateful for the feedback and there is a bit of tuning and tweaking to do but based on the reception here I really look forward to given this talk again.

Me in front of a slide that shows the story spine applied to a story arc graph
Special thanks to @that1dood https://twitter.com/CodeKoalas/status/833017700670590976

The pricing talk (slides here) is the one that is specifically targeted to the  exact audience of freelancers and new agencies that are just starting to grow.  Having established business owners in the room and some non-business side folks led to some interesting discussions.  My biggest take away on this talk was I need to tighten it up to leave more room for discussion.  Coming right after a keynote that sparked a lively discussion on the identity and marketing of Drupal, there was a palpable sense of conversation in the Q&A where we were really learning from each other.
My improv talk is my most accepted talk by various camps yet and the one were I feel I have the least imposter syndrome.  I have been doing improv for 7 years now, over twice as long as I have been in the Drupal or WordPress communities.  I had a smaller but highly engaged group that went right along with the exercises and gave some very positive feedback.  You can find the slides, previous video and a whole blog series I wrote about it from here.  I learned a few things myself and will be incorporating a few more ‘applied’ games when I next deliver this (which will be in Iceland)

While it was pretty rad to give three talks, they were all scheduled for Saturday.  I can safely say that giving multiple talks in a single day is exhausting and might have affected quality of delivery by the end.  I think if I face this situation again in the future I will ask for some additional spacing between talks.   Still very grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to the conversations.

Keynotes:

There were two keynotes at SANDCamp.  As I mentioned before these were delivered while all the attendees ate lunch in the same place, at the same time.  This created a super connected feeling among the attendees, sharing the larger discussions that spawned from these topics.
Friday Todd Ross Nienkerk, CEO and co-founder of Four Kitchens talked about the Future of the CMS.  I felt he gave a pretty good summary of why we need to think in decoupled architectures for better client experience.  I have heard multiple talks about this subject from a wide range of speaker but the thoughtfulness of Todd’s comments and slides really made this sink in for a few of the folks I spoke with.  Making this even more remarkable was Todd stepped up literally at the last minute to do this talk as a replacement for Darin Andersen, who’s fight was cancelled due to the unusual weather conditions.  I am sure his talk would have been awesome as well, but Todd’s was outstanding.

Todd from four kitchens in front of a screen that says the future of the CMS
https://twitter.com/McDwayne/status/832685810264584192

Saturday we got to hear our regularly scheduled speaker Tom McCracken from LevelTen give the highlights and insights he garnered from the great 2016 LevelTen Roadshow.  His slides and comments reminded me much of my own journeys around this country and all the great communities I have had the pleasure of participating in.  Tom shared his observations that indeed there is much to learn from other communities such as WordPress; a sentiment shared by a growing number of thought leaders, echoed by the likes of Josh Koenig just a week prior at LoopConf.
The Q&A session of Tom’s talk turned into lively discussion on the future of Drupal itself.  There are very few moments I can point to where a group that large was fully engaged in such an open, honest and thoughtful discussion.  This topic was on everyone’s tongue for the rest of the day and well into the awesome party.  There are no easy answers to what we need to do as an industry next, but if we can keep sharing our experiences and thoughts in such a civilized discourse, I for one think that the future looks fairly bright.

Tom in front of a screen, too much backlight to see what is on the screen
https://twitter.com/McDwayne/status/833048535155167232

Synchronicity:

Aside from arriving for The-Storm-Of-The-Century-So-Far I also just happened to be in San Diego for the San Diego Improv Festival.  Dozens of my awesome improvisor friends from all over the country were in town doing that art form I love so much.  I had the extreme pleasure of getting to hang out with my people from Michigan, Utah, San Francisco, LA, Riverside and of course SD’s Finest City Improv.  I unfortunately didn’t get to see an actual improv show though since it was completely sold out, but with all the bits (which is all improvisors do) it felt like I was just part of one massive show.  This was the 4th time in my life my work travel just so happened to coincide with an improv festival, joining Sarasota, LA and Minneapolis.  It makes all the travel that much better since it feels like I have family all over the place.

Me and 2 other improvisors in front of a sign for San Diego Improv Festival
https://twitter.com/FinestCityImpro/status/833207732677152769

TO SUM UP:

SANDCamp was a blast and I am very glad I got to visit San Diego.  I am pretty sure it is an awesome city, but I didn’t get to go see too much of it this time around thanks to the rain and my time limitations.  What I did get to see was pretty awesome.    I feel very fortunate to have seen the sessions I did and got to be part of the larger conversation that really solidified around Saturday’s keynote.  The future of Drupal is not set in stone but we pretty much all agreed that this community and what we have accomplished so far is pretty special and awesome.

LoopConf SLC: Getting fired up for developing WP

Although WPCampus Online was the first conference I saw in 2017, the first one I had the privilege of attending in person was LoopConf in Salt Lake City .

View of Downtown Salt Lake City

My mind was simply blow by the quality of the event and the staggeringly awesome speakers. There was only one session track at this conference, which was aimed at the hard core devs who build WordPress and make it amazing. This did make it easy to attend almost all the talks. Check out the full schedule here.

The Food and The Fun:
Monday night capped off with an extended ‘team’ dinner, which involved trivia, which was a surprise to us when we showed up at Twist.  My team, “Team Foss” came in 2nd thanks to the awesome talents of Steve and Chris from HumanMade,  and Demo from BoldGrid. I got to cap off the night with some karaoke as well! SLC knows how to sing!

2 dueling pianos that have Tavernacle stenciled onto them. In a bar with a mic on a stage.
https://twitter.com/CdrMarks/status/829393042297663488

I also discovered that Utah makes the smoothest vodka on earth, Five Wives. Seriously, go buy some of this stuff, you will not regret it, assuming you like vodkas.

bottle of five wives vodka, there are 5 women holding small cats, dressed from the 1880's
Tuesday morning brought the familiar rush and hustle bustle of a convention. People slowly wandering in and looking for coffee. LoopConf coffee was outstandingly good and they even provided a hot breakfast, plus many, many snack type foods. I have not been better fed at any other conference.
The Tuesday night after party was simply fantastic! Live music and a local game shop brought over their demo copies of dozens of games. There was so much to do and so many people to hang out with. And so much good food. Hand-crafted burgers, assembled on demand, served with milkshakes, french fries and, what I came to find out all of Utah is sort of obsessed with, french fry sauce. I even got a few bottles to take back with me to share with the folks in SF.

Frch Fry Sauce in the bottle. Kinda a bbq sauce bottle but it is yellowish orange substance
https://twitter.com/SteveRudolfi/status/829107964090867712

We all made it back to the venue Wednesday morning after not too crazy of a Tuesday night.  We were greeted by breakfast burritos from a food truck and tons of snacks.  Again, most well fed I have ever felt at a camp. Wednesday night found me again hanging out with some of the awesomest people in the community!

The Trainings:

Monday kicked off with training sessions. Due to my other responsibilities, I wasn’t able to attend either of these, but my colleague Andrew Taylor got to teach with two living WP legends, Daniel Bachhuber and Weston Ruter, on the Customizer.
Roy Sivan and Josh Pollock were also on duty laying down the fundamentally important lessons of building better interfaces leveraging the WP REST api and AngularJS. I would have loved to have been there, but I was setting up our booth and did have some awesome conversations with the folks from some of the other sponsors.

The Sessions:

I am not going to go over all the talks. There were so many awesome ones I kind of feel bad not just writing a full post for each one but want to post this while I am still in SLC. Aside from the keynote, which really set the tone, there are three talks from this week that blew my mind a little bit and I want to spend the rest of this post reflecting on those.

Josh Koenig delivering his Why WordPress talk, a gif of Ziodberg below it asking,
https://twitter.com/SteveRudolfi/status/829003889089261568

I was excited to see the opening keynote, even though I have the extreme pleasure of working with the presenter, Josh Koenig, on a daily basis. One of the fundamental questions we do have to ask ourselves in our profession is: Why WordPress? I can honestly say I felt inspired by this talk and I think that energy was felt throughout the crowd as the event ramped up. The air was electric with a feeling we were united by a common purpose; to make WordPress even more awesome than it already is and make sure the rest of the world, no matter where in the market you are, feels that too.

Steve Grunwell presenting in front of slide that says Welcome to WP-CLI

Steve Grunwell’s Writing WP-CLI Commands That Work was like drinking from a fire hose. Seriously covered a week’s worth of material in 30 minutes, which is how I prefer my technical talks. Since discovering the power of ‘wp search-replace’ last year I have been hooked on this exceptionally useful tool but the extensibility has been a bit of a mystery to me. This talk lifted the fog of complexity and I am pretty confident I could extend the tool if I need to. The most amazing part to me was the fact that –help is autogenerated from the comments in your code. Make sure you check out his post on it here: https://github.com/stevegrunwell/writing-wp-cli-scripts-that-work

Sharon Steed in front of a screen that says Communication at its core should be an act of great empathy

Next was Sharon Steed presenting the powerful session, Empathetic Communication: Why Vulnerability Is The Key To Connection. This is such an important lesson everyone in tech needs to hear and delivered so powerfully by Sharon that it stands out in my mind as one of the best talks I have ever had the privilege of seeing live. Walking away with points that ’empathetic communication drives collaboration’ and ‘tech can not replace face to face communication’ confirmed things I have been thinking for so long but had not articulated this well. Being reminded that all people are afraid of being wrong and begin misunderstood makes me really want to strive to do better with my online communication. But the single quote I am going to be reciting long into the future is “failures of communication can not be automated away.” Fortunately for everyone there is a recording of an earlier version of this talk here: https://youtu.be/4O4-poBoTck

Andrew Norcross in front of a screen that says Stand up for those that cannot
https://twitter.com/aaroncampbell/status/829417588547391489

Finally was maybe the most important and moving talk I have ever seen: Andrew Norcross‘ Create The Community You Crave. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect going in, but quickly realized this was not going to be another run-of-the-mill talk. Andrew, dressed in a shirt that had a US flag with the words ‘Made By Immigrants’, gave us a warning that part of his talk might offend some folks and children watching at home might not need to see all of this. He then showed slide after slide of horrific, publicly made, comments that were misogynistic, transphobic, bigoted, and just flat out horrible, but completely real. These were not from 4chan or some other underbelly of the internet, but on pull requests from the WordPress.org community and GitHub. Public places intended for collaboration. My stomach churned and even now I am getting upset recalling what I saw. After a really grim and alarming start he went on to give some very practical and realistic ways we can try to remedy this toxicity.
First, let’s start recognizing our own privilege. I am a white heterosexual man, college educated and fear absolutely no reprisal for anything I say or do that points out that privileged position. There is a societal power to this and just admitting it out loud can help me focus on using that power to help and not hinder others.
Next, before we comment on something online, let’s ask ourselves a few key questions: Does it need said? Does it need said publicly? Does it need said to that person? Does it need to be said right now? and most importantly, does it need said by me?  Sometimes the answers are yes.  Especially if it is in defense of the defenseless.
He also made the very astute observation that sometimes, in some circumstances, there is no fixing of an injury outside of amputation. Some small handful of vicious trolls who do nothing to help and only can destroy the community we all love should be removed and perma-banned. As he put it “if you keep walking into a place and get punched every time you walk in, eventually you stop going back, we all have better things to do.” Some folks are just never going to stop trying to punch people and need to be removed.
At your own discretion, here are his slides: https://speakerdeck.com/norcross/create-the-community-you-crave Seriously, this talk was a wake up call and should be given in some form at every camp from here on out if we are going to make sure the WP community keeps growing and being awesome.

And the WP community is awesome.  Do not let that go unnoticed or uncelebrated!

7 guys from the camp smiling for a selfie
https://twitter.com/wpmodder/status/829726023402938370

So, go to LoopConf next year.  It is one of the best events I have ever attended and the quality of speaker was just mind blowing.  No matter where it is it will be one of the best places to be!

I went to WPCampus ONLINE… and I liked it

I know what most of you are thinking: “What the heck is WPCampus ONLINE?”
Well to use their exact words:  A Virtual Conference for WordPress in Higher Education put on by WPCampus.

And next question might be “Who is WPCampus?”
“WPCampus is a community and conference for web professionals, educators and people dedicated to the confluence of WordPress in higher education. Our goal is to provide a wealth of knowledge for anyone who’s interested in using WordPress and allow people to share and learn about WordPress in the world of higher education.” – https://wpcampus.org/
You can find the full conference schedule here: https://online.wpcampus.org/schedule/

Well in MY own words: I got to go to my first WP event of 2017 without leaving the comfy Pantheon office or having to drink conference coffee! Starting at 7:00am PST I got to see the kickoff of this amazing event put on by the most dedicated team of higher ed WP professionals ever (@wpcampusorg) .

And I bet at least someone reading this is thinking: “Wait a minute, you don’t work in higher ed. Why were you there?”. Well that is true, I work for a platform as a service company not a university, but I do love me some WordPress! Last year I had the awesome honor of attending the first WPCampus event in Sarasota.  There I got to meet so many amazing people and hear so many stories from the front lines of higher ed web development. Getting to be a part of that event was one of my favorite things about 2016 for so many reasons, including WCKaraoke and meeting so many of my favorite WP friends. So when the chance rolled around to once again be part of one of their events I jumped at the chance.

The day started out awesome, watching “From Moodle to WordPress – what we learnt and why we moved” from AdvantageLearn.com founder James Lees (@jamestrevorlees). To be quite honest I knew the name moodle, but nothing more, going into that session. Sure WP is not a Learning Management System, or LMS, but as I learned here and also later in the day it sure can fill the need. This session really is a great showcase of why WP is the ideal solution for something immediately customizable that can also easily scale.

Next up for me was the main talk I was excited about. I have had the pleasure of seeing Roy Sivan (@royboy789) talk before but not about the “The Case for the WordPress REST API”. If you have any lingering doubts about if you should be using it or not, go watch this presentation now! Sure, you could live without the REST API, just like you could also live without WP-CLI. Could. But really shouldn’t. The use cases he describes might be aimed at higher ed but you will quickly see how this can be applied to all sorts of verticals. For sure, it is important to the future of WP.

Third in the day for me was “The Making of a Web Team” from Jennifer McFarland (@ncsumarit). It was extremely illuminating to how a university approaches the rather specialized problem set that such an institution presents. I work mostly with agencies who are trying to sort out how best to use our platform, so I am very used to thinking about their team dynamics and how they stack up against billable deliverables. One thing that stood out was the concept of just opening your doors and time to ‘office hours’ to help all the users. It was refreshing but also sounded like it could potentially cause some interesting issues.

After that was the session that I was surprised to find on the schedule “Learning from Drupal: Implementing WordPress in a Drupal-Majority Institutional Environment” from Eric Sembrat (@esembrat). I’ll let you read that again and soak it in. Drupal at a WP event. Working where I do, we focus on specifically those 2 CMS and we have long been saying that these communities have a lot to learn from one another. The communities are way more similar than they are different, even though the products themselves diverge quite a lot and have very different sweet spots. To hear this same sentiment from Eric was quite nice.  I will often discuss, with a new dev or someone outside the industry, what exactly are the differences between Drupal and WP. I am going to quote and point people to this presentation from here on out.

I was not able to catch most of it, but from what I heard and read on the slides of  “WordPress as an LMS” from Krista Lambert (@contentkrista) Melanie Meyers (@teltjibc) was awesome. My main walk away was an echo from James Lee’s talk, LMS is expensive, brittle and very hard to scale. WP is the opposite but while it can be an LMS, that does take some thoughtfulness and planning.

From there, I say a presentation that admittedly I had intended to just listen to while I ate my lunch: “Easy, Affordable Digital Signs with WordPress” from Greg Marshall (@mogmarsh). “Yep”, I thought, “this is going to be one talk where I might learn something but not planning to take notes.” This is the only session where I downloaded something from GitHub and spun up a fresh WP install. Seriously folks, I never considered WP as a solution to the sign issue, but after doing as many events as I have done and worked with as many gum and bailing wire (looking at you Google Slides) solutions for coherently displaying what I want on a monitor in a consistent fashion, this made my mouth water a bit. Next time you see me at a camp with a display it very well might be WP. (*don’t tell the DrupalCamp organizers*)

Second to last of the day was a thoughtful and inspiring story from Joe McGill ( @joemcgill), “Showing up: learning how to make a contribution.” If you have ever thought “I sure would like to be a contributor, but man, I don’t think I can do it.”, then stop everything and go watch this. No slides. no BS. Just an honest conversation with the audience that in fact you can do it. That imposter syndrome will be there and you can overcome it. That this stuff is hard and you will always expect that someone smarter or better than you is going to come along and take over your project or criticize you and you will get over that fear. Contribute to literally make the world you want to see. That is what Open Source is all about.

Finally, the day ended with a really tough decision:  Higher Ed WordPress Showcase from Travis Totz (@travistotz) OR BuddyPress and Higher Education from David Bisset(@dimensionmedia). Fortunately David helped me decide 🙂
I went with Travis’s session and wow, talk about drinking from a fire hose, I am very glad I had his slides downloaded already, 108 of them! So many awesome examples of WP in higher ed in so many variations. Huge props to him and team for putting this resource together. Highly recommend having this deck as a reference if you are ever wondering ‘would WP fit my use case’. The answer is probably yes.

Oh and by the way there were 8 other talks I didn’t see. Good thing they recorded them all 🙂  Watch them here: https://online.wpcampus.org/schedule/

The biggest downside to this event was there was no after party and no karaoke. 🙁 But I didn’t have the stress of traveling and was still able to hang out with the amazing WPCampus folks on twitter and slack all day 🙂 Everyone was so generous with their time and answers. It was an exceptional day and really sets the bar pretty high for any other organization that tries this whole online conference idea. Applauds are definitely in order.

Make some time to check out the session recordings and experience WPCampus ONLINE for yourself.