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.

Baltimore – Maybe America’s most misrepresented small city

Honestly, I thought I was going to be dodging bullets and John Waters characters.  But man, Baltimore is a pretty cool place.  At least the parts I visited for the 3 days I was there.

I was there for this amazing event

Where I got to give my talk: “WE ARE ALL MAKING THIS UP: LESSONS FOR THE WP DEV FROM IMPROV”

I wrote a whole blog series to support this topic: https://improvdev.wordpress.com/

There is a recording on WordPress.TV

And, boy howdy, did I get to sing some awesome #WCKaraoke:

So much fun.  Even bought a new domain name after a few drinks.

Made so many new friends.

Also got to go to my new favorite awesome museum, the Baltimore Museum of Industry.

If you care to see them, you can see all my pics here.

Baltimore, you are an underrated town.  I will be back in the spring for DrupalCon! 

Berkeley and Seattle and Denver

10/22 – Berkeley – BADCamp

10/29 – Seattle – WordCamp

11/05 – Denver – WordCamp

Whew…3 back to back back camps mean 3 back to back weeks of travel and late nights and meeting so many people.  Sorry if I forgot your name.  It  has been a long 3 weeks.  3 more trips to go too before end of year and maybe a couple more too 🙂

Loving it!

#wckaraoke FTW!

Minneapolis – 2nd office and so much Karaoke!

I was in the 2nd Pantheon office in Minneapolis this past week.  I really like the twin cities and had a marvelous time overall.  The ACE team got a ton of work done and really bonded with the new team members.

I got to see some amazing improv and I found Otter’s Saloon.  The best Karaoke bar maybe ever.  A true dive with colorful locals, I fell in love with the place.

 

The places I have been in 2016

I went on 20 trips out of San Francisco in 2016.

They were (most recent first):

Philadelphia, PA

Pensacola, FL

Baltimore, MD

Denver, CO

Seattle, WA

Berkeley, CA

Minneapolis, MN

Milwaukee, WI

Los Angeles, CA

Yosemite, CA

Denver, CO

Bowling Green,  Ohio (College Reunion)

Boston, MA

Sarasota, FL

Minneapolis, MN

Manila, Philippines (With trip to Cambria, CA and Tokyo, Japan along the way)

New Orleans, LA

Cabo St. Lucas, Mexico

Chicago, IL

Dayton, OH