WordCamp Denver 2018: In which I learned a lot while preparing to teach something and I talked very fast

Somehow City of the Plains
feels relatively local to me, even though it is 2 full hours in the air to get to and from this high altitude city. Compared to placed like Belgrade or Boston that is basically no real travel time. There are also a lot of similarities between my part of California and that part of Colorado, with all the natural history and airport way outside the downtown area. I was not there for the great outdoors or to sneak into the Underground Music Festival. I got to return to this gem of the West to rejoice with my fellow WordPress community together in person at WordCamp Denver 2018

Food and Fun

Speaker Dinner

No WordCamp would be complete without the speakers, sponsors and organizers getting together for a little celebration for making the whole thing happen. We are all volunteers in this, even those of us who are paid by companies to represent those companies, we still are giving up our weekends and nights and mental energy to make sure the camps happen. It takes a lot of work to organize one of these things, so having a special event where we just celebrate that fact is always a positive experience. This time around we went up to Blackbird Public House for some pizza and craft beverages. Such a great time was had an a new hashtag was born!

Day 1

This camp has a notably later start time, with registration not even starting until 9:00 am, a full hour later than most camps. This meant I could sleep a touch longer and enjoy some coffee before I left the hotel. I gotta say this time around the percolated stuff the volunteers made was superior to the hotel coffee, not an often repeated feat. Candy and snacks flowed throughout the day, thanks in part to the GreenGeeks crew bringing more candy than is healthy for a conference 5 times the size of this one. Lunch was OK. Sandwiches and chips and such.

Sticker Giant’s World Record Sticker Ball

Sticker Giant not only supported this camp by donating lots of awesome stickers, which they do for many a camp, but this time they rolled out the big one! They hold the Guinness World Record for the Largest Ball of Stickers ever!. Coming into the environments at around 231lbs we got to add to it at the event in what was on the schedule as a Goofy Activity. People had a blast adding a whole new layer devoted to the WordPress space. It was a treat to get to help make a record even better.

Dinner and After Party

There has been a noticeable increase in the last couple years of plant based food fans or at least people willing to give it a whirl. Every time I have gone to Denver since making the switch myself, I have been encouraged to go to Watercourse Foods and now I know why. Some of the best prepared and thought through 100% vegan cuisine I have yet to experience. Some of us gathered for a pre-party meal to make sure we had a full stomach before heading to the after party and drinking the wonderful concoctions brewed up by the fine folks at Fermaentra Tap Room. Nothing against their beers, but the real star of their menu had to be the kombucha. Several folks who have never tried it before and folks like me who were so-so on the beverage, were utterly delighted by this bright, refreshing citrusy goodness that they poured. Good job for selecting this sopt and great job to the brewers! Just to not it down, an attempt at WCKaraoke was made over at Ogden Street South, but the evening got away from us before we could make a real collective go of it.

Day 2

The second day was all Workshops. A portion of the previous day’s attendees returned to learn things like SEO and WP-CLI (which I was teaching, more on that later). We were met with coffee and pretty great breakfast burritos, which is one of my favorite breakfast options. The vegan option had corn and mushrooms and I think broccoli. Lunch was pizza. One of the nice things about pizza is that unless you put cheese on it, it can easily be plant based. Unfortunately no tweets exist of either of these offerings I can find, so here is a generic picture of the day with a mention of the food.

Sessions

Opening remarks

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Loop?
Chris Reynolds

I’ll admit it. I have never understood The Loop for exactly the same reasons it took Chris so long to wrap his head around it: The name makes it sound like a magic black box. At some point with magic, you have to throw your hands in the air and just say “I can’t explain it, it just works.” We, however, are doing computer science! Chris’ slides were not just informative and broke down The Loop better than I have seen in a talk yet, but they were also hilarious. Using knock knock jokes to explain ‘if ( have_posts )’ will be burned into my memory forever. I can honestly say this was a talk that pulled me over a line of understanding and I will be forever grateful to Chris.

Raw Notes:
Issue is the loop make it sound like a magic black box
What is it?
codex definition. HUh?
wat?
If have posts : whole have posts : the_post
if ( have_posts())
knock knock, do you have posts?
simple conditional that returns if there are posts, 0 or 1
keep going while it returns true
what are we doing
the_post – sets up the current post
think through all ‘the’ functions
the_ID, the_title, ect
the_posts makes all those work
setup_postdata( $post );
what does it al mean?
the magic
DB interactions
/?s=whosis chris reynolds
SQL query
s post status publish
combine all these things
/?s=rynolds&post_type=wcb_speaker
query = new WP_Query([
‘s’ => ‘reynolds’;
code missing
]);
And even more combining and complex searches and refinements
arrays can even be passed in
((-MISSED SOME STUFF DUE TO EMAIL ACCOUNT HACKING ATTEMPT—All good now))
using queries
used query_posts
national park service different pats of the help center different parts of site
s3q.uswcden2018-searchform
take taxonomy term and add to the search form so only search in taxonomy
in this case Museum management
get_posts
difference between this and wp_query
get_post returns: big array of post objects
dump out a query, you get a whole bunch more stuff, array of post is way tat the bottom
it will tell you the SQL query it used to find the posts
you can debug the query itself
beneath that is array of post objects
doing the same things in general but
query_posts (don’t use it!)
set up the posts but does something
codex say don’t use it
it overrides the main query
manipulates the posts you are in, that is bad
Slides: s3q.uswcden2018-loop

The Basics of Building a WooCommerce Website
Jamie Schmid

I love hearing Jamie present. She presents a ton of data and I always walk away with new perspective on at least a few points. This talk met that expectation and I now know that you always, always, always want to have a backup payment processor already fully thought through from the start. I honestly went in with an attitude that “Paypal is good enough for me” and left saying, “Well, let’s make sure I test Stripe….”. Also her quick point on having a client walk you all the way through multiple packaging and shipping scenario is huge. As a small time online store owner, I would never have thought to make a plan for x items vs x+1 items but those shipping conditions matter and will cost a lot of time to figure out after the project is delivered.

Raw Notes:
Intro to WooCommerce talk, her first one
plan, things she ran into people were not expecting
also, general order of setting things up out of the box
Start with planning
Your product, types and attributes
your requirements, POS, billing, accounting
payment processing
shipping and tax
sitemap
products, not all products the same, what is different
Reqs, do they have brick and mortar? Need POS?
a surprise later is expensive
coming from etsy or Shopify or what?
can it be imported at all? is it easy, almost never.
Payment processing
check the requirements, do you need a backup (yes)
company PayPal, stripe, authorize.net, si this determined?
PCI compliance? this is hard for some hosts
Shipping and Tax.
ask the client to map the whole shipping process
figure out the rules with them
shipping rules, scenarios are import to walk through
Site Mapping, super important
terms and conditions
return policy, they absolutely need this
sizing chart
product pages
Now we get to Build it! If we have all the above info, this is ready to start
The Woo Wizard is actually really helpful to get going from scratch
demo time!
Jetpack and TaxJar
wants to drill into payment gateways
don’t process on your site if you can help it

My Website Is Live, Now What Do I Do With It?
Michele Butcher-Jones

Sometimes you wish someone would just sit you down and tell you what the deal is. Like, what you need to know to be successful and what mistakes you can easily avoid if you see warning signs. Michele did exactly this to a room full of freelancers and agency folk at camp. I love this kind of straight talk. No fluff, no ‘touchy feely’ sentiment, just solid advice, learned the hard way by successfully doing this stuff over a career. This is one of the talks I can point to when people ask me what makes FOSS different than other ways of going about software: We stand up and tell the world exactly how to do it better and never hide what we learned under a bushel. We gotta let it shine!

Raw Notes:
when you inherit a site, they are clueless a lot
Expect them not to know and have to explain these pieces
Hosting and FTP info
logging in for the first time
what plugins are there and why?
whats in the media folder
what is a post vs a page, people will ask!
What theme?
always use a child theme
‘it’s what makes it pretty’ when explaining to clueless client
blog
update the site as soon as information changes
security for your sites
update! Update! UPDATE!!!
security plugins
regular checkups
always make backups
off server backups
without doing this, you can(will) get hacked
lose traffic and interest if not updated

Keynote: Why Community is More Important than Networking
Angela Bowman

A Keynote at the end of the day? Yes, that is what they did and I applaud them for it! I love the idea that we can learn all day long and then, before we go our separate ways to get ready for the after party or back to our families, we can get in one place and be on the same page with one big, well presented idea. And boy howdy, was this well presented. Angela took us on a journey and I think illustrated to a lot of folks that no one is born and expert in WP, or anything else. We all learn from and are encouraged by the people around us, so let’s get to it and start encouraging more people. Let’s connect more. Let’s stop asking ‘what do you do?’ and start asking ‘what do you love?’. We have so much knowledge to share and so much to learn. Only together can we keep advancing and growing.

Raw Notes:
(I got in a little late thanks to cleaning up the sponsor booth)
her history, working with Nonprofits
learned some CSS
then learned about CSS
started on WP on v2.0
outside the box thinking
alone, didn’t know anyone else doing this
meetup group of graphic designers
pivoted her life
partners and supporters
possibilities grow so much more
learned dos and don’t together with Bethany Siegler
started teaching classes together to learn
first WordCamp in 2010
WP is bigger on the inside
her first talk soon thereafter
camps are not just about free shirts
also about stickers and such
people put a lot of hope into WordPress
got to learn from each other
build relationships, it is why we are here
don’t begin conversations with what do you do?
something different
asking what they do outside of their job
how can I help you vs what can you do to me
You never know how you are going to affect other people

My Sessions

Nobody wants a website. They want results!

I ended up talking really, really fast. Jamming the same amount of information into half the time it took me to give the same talk last time certainly interjected a lot of energy into the thing. It was fantastic to have a pretty big room reverberating that energy back to me. I loved all the feedback I got afterward and it was super awesome to meet so many new people. I hope I can give this talk a few more times before it evolves into another form. Thanks to all that came out!

WP-CLI – Don’t Fear The Command Line

Giving workshops is fun, but I would put it as a bigger challenge overall than a talk. Both definitely take preparation and time and a lot of mental energy, but in a general lecture style WordCamp session you rarely stop and help someone try to figure out to debug a composer issue. I hope people got a lot out of it and I was thrilled to do it, but wow, I sitting and writing this later the same day I delivered it, I think I need to put many hours into a revamp before I submitted for a 3 hour workshop on this subject again. I also thought that I might just require everyone to install Lando before we started so we would all have the same issues in the same environments. Still, very glad I got the opportunity to learn as much as I did while doing this and hope others found it useful as well.

Wrapping Up

Denver is an interesting town in a lot of ways to me, but the real joy is the community. Being a shorter camp and the fact that I was there solo meant I saw far fewer talks than I normally do, but wow, those hallways conversations that I did not take notes on for public consumption taught me a whole lot. Speaking to people about what they are passionate about and helping to further some of their thoughts around this market and various technology points. I always learn so much. I think that if WordCamp.org was an accredited university I would have a Masters by now.
I am already looking forward to the next time I get to go to Denver for any reason, and though it is a full year out I am already looking forward to an even bigger and better WordCamp Denver 2019!

WordCamp Denver: A very full schedule and a few surprises

WordCamp Denver: A very full schedule and a few surprises

For the second time in 2 weeks I made my way back to the mile high city but this time spent most of my time there in a much different part than I had in the past. Previous adventures had lead me to the downtown area, close to the 16th street mall but this time I found myself in the Southern neighborhoods, close to the beautiful University of Denver campus. It was a bit of a whirlwind trip that found me going directly from the airport to the speaker dinner and from my session to lunch and then the airport, so not a lot of time to explore the awesome trails and get in a little nature this go round. But overall this was a great experience and I did learn a bit at WordCamp Denver 2017.

Speaker Dinner:

My flight got delayed about 2 hours, which normally isn’t a huge deal, but this trip I had not left myself much leeway for such a thing. As a result I arrived at the speaker dinner direct from the conspiracy filled Denver International Airport with bags in tow but was met with a very warm and wonderful reception by the camp organizers. They even had the kitchen accomodate me with some non-dairy cheese and mushroom pizza. Tip of the hat to Ernie’s Bar & Pizza for a really good spread. It was fun to see so many familiar faces and get to connect with a few new ones. The exhaustion of the road soon hit me and I left to check in for my 75th night at a Marriott property.

Day 1

Getting to the venue was a breeze as the team had signs out very early and took the extra step of chalking WP logos on the ground so people could find their way even easier. This was a great accessibility move as it made getting to and from the parking lot a much less intimidating feat.

The coffee was particularly good in my opinion, even though I didn’t have much. I don’t know if it is a Denver thing or not, but every coffee service I have experienced there puts out little tiny lemon slices for your tea. Forgoing the team and just having some fresh lemon juice in my hot water kept me hydrated and refreshed most of the day.
Lunch was preprepared sandwiches, chips, a couple salad options and cookies. The vegan quinoa salad was my favorite part of the meal. The University of Denver campus is very well maintained and we took advantage of the summer sun to dine on the quad as many a student has done over the years there.

After Party

The after party was advertised as a taco party, which I normally love. The menu though didn’t seem super veg friendly and combined with the later start time for the party it seemed a good idea to find alternative dining. I was very glad to be joined by some other plant based food fans at the highly rated Thai Pot Cafe.

The after party was at Cochino Taco. We got to enjoy the patio and a pretty well stocked bar, using copper tokens instead of paper drink tickets, which I really appreciated. As most folks who know me know, a vodka soda ‘tall’ is my drink of choice and I almost always just go with whatever they have for well. The house well vodka at this joint was Reyka from Iceland. It was a pleasant surprise and the bartenders were very proud of the quality in all they made. If you are ever in that part of Denver, go give them some business.
It was a great time catching up with folks about their day at camp and swapping stories and plans around contributing. I was glad to see one of the participants from the previous week’s WP-CLI workshop and got to talk about the pull requests he had made at the previous week’s camp. It is exhilarating to watch folks go from user to contributor and to be part of their journey. Share what you know with folks and let’s make the world better together.

Karaoke

A few of us actually made it out to sing some #WCKaraoke after such a long day. We went to Sobo151 and got there just as the Bronco’s preseason game was wrapping up and they were warming up the karaoke equipment. Not the largest event ever but happy to report we saw a 33% increase in attendance over the previous year’s festivities and had one person sing for the first time ever. Very much a great part of any WordCamp.

Sessions

Opening remarks:

Most of the time I don’t write any comments on opening remarks, but this camp had one of the best pre-keynote warm ups I have seen. It started with Gordon Seirup getting our attention with an anecdote about his original misunderstanding of the nature of WordCamps. He did a fantastic job of warming us up. At one point he had us introduce ourselves to folks around us. It was a very nice welcome, especially with so many folks experiencing their first WordCamp. It set a very nice tone for the rest of the event.

Keynote

The Future of WordPress
Zack Katz

I was very glad to hear that they got Zack to speak at this camp. I had not heard him speak before but reading up on him a bit before the camp he seemed like someone with a lot of experience and knowledge around this space, hopefully meaning he would have a solid opinion on our future. He started with a crash history of of WP and I had never heard anyone articulate this forking of B2 and the reasoning behind it so clearly. It gave me a new perspective on the origin. This definitely colored the rest of the presentation as he painted a world where Gutenberg and Customizer are giving the admin a lot more flexibility in the near future. If you have been wondering where the project is going, this is a must see talk.

Raw notes:
Gravity View, Small team, 5 people all over the world
WP makes it happen
History of WP
His WP story
Future of WP and You
A fun surprise
In 2003 Ma.tt was a college student
lot of photos
B2 – was cool, allowe to be upated
B2 maintainer dissapeared and it stop being updated
Matt could either wait for the dev to come back or he could take b2 and make it his own
Mike Little thought one or 2 people might be interested 🙂
Zack started in 2007 making GravityViews
worked at Fast Signs
learned how to do web design, PHP and mySQL
best tool was his phone
he cold called and got clients
was building static pages
and clients wanted to change content themselves
they wanted a way to manage their content, CMS
Then clients wanted custom functionality
the custom code he built became Gravityviews
he has 38 plugins on wp.org
Future of WP
Matt is pushing us back to be the best in publishing
Gutenberg: from text to blocks
blocks are consistent interface for all the elements of your site
everything is a block now
Gutenberg demo
feels normal and cool
It is the future of content editing
The Customizer is how to change view
Not much at the moment, but future is how to interact with your site
Edit existing content with customizer soon
Really cool live preview demo
Customizer Change set have multiple people and multiple changes scheduled at once
this is 4.9 core!
Implications: page building is in core now
for Page builders need to either embrace customizer or do their own thing
get involved now with Gutenberg, this is the future
and there is a lot more
The four freedoms of Open Source
the contract of using WP
1) the freedom to run the program in any way you want
2) you can study code and change it
3) share it
4) modify and fork with a diffrent name

What I Wish I’d Known About Freelancing
Nathan Ingram

The very first time I heard Nathan speak it was at WordCamp Denver 2016, where he gave a talk that remains to this day one of my favorite talks. It was a treat to get to hear a new talk from him that was jammed full of amazing advice to the freelancer and really anyone that has to manage their own time, which I think is everyone. There was one quote that I am going to remember and recite as I am thinking through priorities: “People are more important than projects!” I know this is true but as someone on the road a lot and with a fair amount to get done, sometimes I forget this. It was great to be reminded of this and to hear that I am not alone in this struggle.

Raw notes:
You don’t have to know everything, no one does!
Become a person who is good to know!
Stay out of debt
Checklist manifesto
Put everything in a list in order and that means you can streamline
and when you onboard people, you have process you can pass on
difference between owning job and building business
Focus on process, not heroics
There are seasons in freelance work, don’t waste the slow times
We stay in a cycle of stress, must make best use of time and dont freak out
business will come back
The ‘someday list’ when slow times come, you can do that list!
being busy is not a badge of honor
Don’t forget what matters in life,
lost opportunities for family and friends don’t come back
midset shift that it is good to be too busy to have leisure, a status symbol
People are more import than projects!

After the Post: SEO, Images, and Meta Descriptions
Mendel Kurland

There was some technical difficulties in this session room as Mendel got underway and he had to deliver without his slides. Fortunately for all of us Mendel is a tremendous storyteller and a natural entertainer, so he handled the projector outage with grace and charm. He told us an intense at time story of being scared in bear country and avoiding crocodiles before having a nice relaxing time by a lake. Afterwards he broke down the story into some component parts and explained the layout of a story arc. This is very much along the same lines as the story spine I teach in my session and was glad to hear a variant perspective that still conveyed the same underlying value around the importance of storytelling.

Raw notes:
Technical SEO go to Yoast
instead we are going to be talking about telling your story with your content
3 things
1) being descriptive and interesting
Writing for humans, conversational and eas to read, some
basics of story anatomy
Tells a story and then explained the story arc
also is an article part
intro to a topic H1, H2, H3
2) Enjoyable and illustrative
shows progress form boring Lorum Ipsum -> Bacon Ipsum – pic -> animated gif
more info
more interesting to look at better for SEO
generate this stuff
3) making things sharable
click to sweet, share icons
basic plugins
write your own meta, just gives you control, not SEO tip

Creating & Telling Your Brand Story
Pamela Herrmann

Every camp lives on a spectrum of all technical and all business side. This camp is more focused on SEO and business side of things than technical skills. This meant, much to my approval, that there was time for multiple talks on storytelling and I was glad to hear Pamela lay out her thoughts on the subject. She focused on a character driven story approach which I had not encountered before and felt like it came from a much more literary view of things rather than a theatrical one, which I am more accustom. I walked away with a new perspective, which I believe makes this a very succesful session.

Raw notes:
Story
brain science
reptillian brain, conundrum
want to talk to middle brain
cast a net, just under the boat – leading with science for IVF vs how changes family
instead think of fly fisherman
highly targeted
Garret White Wake Up Warrior
knows who he is fishing for
how to create a brand story
Joseph Campbell Hero’s Journey
3 element to her Hollywood
1- the character, the desire and the obstacle to the future
Rose from Titanic example
ordinary world- what makes them relatable (reliable?)
fabricating your first customer profiles
Rose is pressured into marriage, high society, free thinker, etc
Translate into brand story
Weight Watchers – because it works
2- the desire
Chuck from Castaway
goal is to escape the island alive get back home
Design arounf 4 goals
Win
Escape
Stop
and Retrieve
Dollar shave club example –
the desire of the customer is
quality, save money, delivered to door
shave time and shave money
Focus on the result // the plotline
connect the dots, create the glue
3- the obstacle
Ray from Field of Dreams
Plowing under field – now his home and livelyhood is in danger
AirBnB
overcoming objections from both sides of transaction
No fail template
story spine! 🙂

My Session

Workshop: Let’s learn Git. No more excuses.

I got to teach Git as part of the three hour Sunday workshop day. I love teaching Git. The first time I taught this workshop I was a bit nervous, but this time I felt way more solid in the updated materials and anticipated some of the questions better. It was a complete thrill to take one student, who had issues even installing git on their machine, all the way from git init to submitting a successful pull request. Not bad for 3 hours on a Sunday morning. They left feeling very confident they could use this tool and planned to teach it to their significant other. Everyone gave me some great feedback and I learned a few new things along the way. I got one question I had no idea how to answer, so we just replicated the issue on my machine and solved it together, which felt amazing. I am hoping this workshop gets accepted at more camps in the future so I can keep spreading the love.

Wrapping up

Given this was a one day camp, I spent a little more time in the ‘hallway track’ having some great and meaningful conversations with community folks. It meant I saw fewer sessions and meant I didn’t have any time to hang out at the Happiness Bar, one of my favorite things this community makes happen.
I left Denver pretty tired, as I found little time to myself and no time to see mush of the natural beauty that is hidden all throughout the urban landscape. Still, I walked away very happy with the trip and am already looking forward to next year when I can return for WordCamp Denver 2018!