WordCamp Miami: Gators, Good Community and why is it so cold inside every building

For the first time ever I traveled to the Magic City. Having been to many other cities in the Sunshine State, I was looking forward to being at one of the largest of the WordCamps and see my WPLife family there. What followed was a few days of blazing sunshine, amazing adventures and a few sad notes. All in all though I am glad I traveled to the FIU Campus to attend WordCamp Miami 2018.

Food and Fun

Arriving a day or so early, I got to visit with my community family and had so many good times. The highlight of all of this was my invitation from Carole and Alain to go on a Fan Boat tour of the Everglades. I had some reservations about this but was very relieved they had found a very legit and overall friendly to the animals native amarican owned and operated Buffalo Tiger Airboat Tours who offered no ‘gator wrassling’ (real thing offered by some of these outfits) or other such shenanigans. Seeing alligators and getting to ask our guide all sorts of questions around their habitat and behaviour was such an amazing experience. Also huge props to Marc B for driving and giving us all a lift back.

Pre-Camp Meetup (Cancelled)

There was a shadow that hung over the camp and that was the tragedy of the pedestrian bridge collapse. I wanted to mention it here and show reverence for the folks who are still in shock and suffering from this event. Here is a link to a story about what happened.
Out of respect, the organizers cancelled the pre-event meetup that was scheduled. I applaud this decision and think it showed grace.

Some of us still met for a small dinner and discussion. It was good to be around like minded people that night and we all reflected on how lucky we all were to have our health and our community.

Friday

Friday I got to go visit the Pantheon co-working space at WeWork in Miami. It was awesome to get to hang out with my amazing co-worker Lizzie, who I rarely get to see in person. This is one of the main issues with remote teams overall, some of the best people in the world you only see online most of the time.

Speaker Dinner

Friday night brought us back together to mentally ramp up for a full, full weekend. The speakers, volunteers and organizers got together at Dave and Busters at the Dolphin Mall. Not a lot of plant based food options at D&B, but the mall had Cilantro Fresh Mexican, which is the only place in the whole mall that had a ‘Vegetarians Welcome’ sign up. I just said “I’m vegan” when ordering and they were happy and accommodating about it. Back at D&B we got to play all manner of games and connect over quite a few libations. I was a touch sad when we had to roll out and go our separate ways to prep for the next day.

Well, I wasn’t so sad, some of us went the same way for one more night cap before bed. I had this amazing cherry barleywine at MIA Brauhaus. I was sad when I had to go home from there though.

Saturday

Coffee, coffee, coffee! I love my coffee in the morning and it was OK at Miami. Lunch had a vegan wrap and BBQ options. I was super happy to get sweet potatoes and corn as well. I love me some sweet potatoes.

After Party

Right across campus, after a very full Saturday we went to the on-campus Chili’s. I was a tad hesitant about this, but $3.00 drink specials all evening and a really robust option for us plant based food lovers in form of a toco bar with veggie burger chunks, beans and rice with all the trimmings. In another room there were pool tables and some light karaoke happenings going on. There was also a massive patio with iguanas in a small pond below. Really a great time

Some of us found a WCKaraoke party as well afterward

Sunday

Coffee was coffee, but there were also bagels. Good ones too.
Lunch was a touch of a let down for me as all options included meat or cheese. They were also all bean based, which for me is not an issue, but I am aware some people have legume allergies. Fortunately fellow plant enthusiast Matt Clancy ordered some tasty but not at all spicy Chinese food from Ho Wah. I completely understand accessibility to food is not the cheapest option and a lot of budget went into the literal 20 pounds of shwag I got, having options for any followers of the strict versions of any of these religious practices would be good as well.

Happiness Bar

While not a session and some people would argue does not fit into Food and Fun, I wanted to call out the awesome experience I got by participating in the Happiness Bar. This is one of the most rewarding parts of any camp. People come in with real problems and they leave with, in best case, real answers. In the worst case they leave knowing how to better look for answers. I was super happy to help one person with WP-CLI. They really wanted to get it working locally and thanks to the fact they were already using Local by Flywheel we get them to a working terminal in less than a minute. It was a proud moment.

Sessions

Quick note: Wow this was a very busy camp. So busy, that I only got to get to a handful of sessions and they were all a bit shorter than I was used to. As a result I think only these four have enough notes to post.

It’s ALIVE! How I built the Wapuu Bot using Javascript, Slack and the WP API
Rick Tuttle

Everyone loves Wapuu. I don’t think this is too arguable. The little, normally yellow unofficial mascot of the WordPress community is pretty well recognized and inoffensively cute. But do you know the backstory? It is a fascinating read. Rick took this lovable critter and turned it, with the help of Michelle Schulp made a slack bot that could provide value to the WCMIA community with real time updates and responses when people interacted with it in channel. Very cool stuff. I didn’t take a ton of notes on the implementation details but that is what WordPress.tv is all about!

Japan 2009
created
then coffee wapuu thank to Michelle Schulp’s design
cafecitowapuu twitter account was born
slackbot
slack app, send a recieve mesaages between endpoint
spanglish ‘no es facil’
WCMia site feeds this slack
can search @wapuu find ____
returns values
pulled WC schedule from the website
mongoDB for a caching layer
more fun to assign him a personality instead of just a pile of code
Wapuu is a ‘Bot user’ in this case
also a bot user app that can reply directly or mention in ambient content
Natural language processing is hard, lot of exceptions
schedule data from WP (npm request-promise)
fetch from wp-json/wp/v2/sessions
cache schedule data (formatted JSON) in MongoDB for quicker/easier retrieval
App used monk from Automattic
WP is really becoming a content repository
finds mentions and posts
likes serving up coffee
load of api and other resources/services used in slides
one of the hardest things is getting started

15 in 15 ‚Äď The Story of WordPress
John James Jacoby

When you only have 15 minutes to give the entire history of a 15 year old project, you are going to leave a few details out. It was very interesting to hear what he left in though. He claimed there is a longer version of this talk, but I can’t find it on WordPress.tv at this point in time. Basically ‘it’s ugly’ – ‘it’s less ugly’ – ‘now it’s blueish’ – ‘the post editor works’ – ‘admin works’. Of course he said it far mor charmingly than I could.

B2
Sourceforge code there but maintainers gone in 2003
Original wp.org was just ugly (very ugly)
slowly got better over time
dashboard was primitive
no theme support
adoption of 1.5 started growing
Dashboard area in WP 2, blue was introduced
post rows manage
meta boxes
no visual editors, precursor to post preview
custom field metadata exposed first time
if we cound re-write WP it would be like BBPress – ma.tt
2.5 first real Admin redesign
this is when some people first took WP seriously
2.7 revisions nitrdcused
still Kubrick in there
WP 3.0 Post editor, inwrtos to 2010 theme
3.2 ‘my account’ is JJJ’s fvorite things’ in WP

On Building Community From Twitter to IRL
Raquel Landefeld

Raquel is one of the best persons I have ever met, especially with regards to community building. I hold this concept pretty near and dear to my heart. It is always a pleasure to see her present as well. I loved her very straightforward advice, which I captured pretty poorly below given that I was hustling pretty quick between sessions and other duties that day.

We hide behind social media
What are motives?
what is the purpose?
connecting with people is what it is all about
not collecting business cards
intentional connecting and human relations building
make friends by being friends
shift focus to create relationships not just grow business

How To Get Involved in Open Source Communities
Karla Campos

I had not ever met Karla before, which I think is a symptom of never getting to go to Miami before. I felt an instant kinship with her, even though we didn’t get to interact too much. I could tell from her talk we shared a lot of the same values around what we are doing here. Making the world better one commit and one conversation at a time. She had a lightning talk, so not a ton of notes, but for sure a great rallying point at the camp that spurned a few good conversations. Worth a watch once the recording is public.

Wanted to build craigslist
found Joomla
got a job as marketing director Telemundo using OSS
May the course be with you.
Why?
Helping Others
Creating amazing things
popularity – for sure if people know about it, it helps
community – she didn’t know anyone in Miami, WP took her in
business
fun

My Session

WP-CLI: Don’t Fear The Command Line

I have given a version of this talk a few times in 2017, but this year I stepped up my game a bit and built in a couple magic tricks. The first trick was I got through all 83 slides in under 25 minutes. The second was building a ‘racing script’ that build a pretty neat looking demo site in well under a minute, 24 to 39 seconds depending on variables i have no control over like wire speed and such. Matt Mullenweg himself snuck into the back of the room and I was super honored he mentioned my talk during his Q&A later in the day. I was also very happy to introduce a bunch of people to the scaffold block command for the first time. Such an amazing tool and it is in such a good position to help us well into the future.

Wrapping up

WordCamp Miami is one of the largest camps. One of the reasons it is so large is the number of children in attendance at Kids Camp. I didn’t participate in this and only am mentioning it here in my conclusion. It is one of the most inspirational parts of the whole darn camp. The literal future of the project and the internet itself rests in the hands of these kids and kids just like them, who are learning how to build plugins and manipulate JS. It is very exciting to know that we are not about to ‘age out’ as a project.

Miami was hot and there was a lot going on. Not sure I captured the event wholly here and that was never my intent. Will I be back for WCMIA 2019? Time will tell.

WCJax: Driving around Jacksonville in circles

It might just be my experience, and it might be specific to the locations I found as destinations, but Jacksonville has a very circular road system. There was a lot of road construction as well. As one friend put it “You’ve got to make 3 rights to take a left. As you pass the place, the GPS still says 5 minutes remaining.” ¬†This aspect had it’s positives. ¬†I only remember a few left hand turns, which as UPS has proven, makes for overall more effective routes and fewer accidents. ¬† It also gave me more time to hang out with the awesome folks who gave me lifts around town at WordCamp Jacksonville, #WCJAX.

 

Food and Fun:

Speaker Dinner:

I went to The Blue Bamboo almost as soon as I arrived, meeting the other speakers for the camp.  It was great to see so many folks, who, in some cases, I had not seen in a long while and who, in other cases, I had seen last only a couple weeks ago.  Most dinners I attend have an open lounge style seating, with a mixture of high and low top tables.  Here we chose banquet tables at the start for our seats to remain in throughout service.  It was cozy and friendly.  Country fried chicken and crab won tons were on the menu and I had salad, broccoli and rolls.

Here we also got some lovely speaker swag including some locally made taffy!

Sunday Lunch:

We didn’t have to leave the premises to find our food at noon time. We had wonderfully prepared BBQ on the first day from Sonny’s BBQ.

While most folks got down on something that looked like this:

They also had some pretty awesome veggie options:

After Party:

We returned to The Blue Bamboo for the after party.  This time we were treated with veggie spring rolls and potato croquettes as well as two different type of dumpling, pork and shrimp.  Board games were out and folks had broken off into various factions battling for Park Place or the coveted moment when you connect four.  Many a good conversation were had.

Unfortunately my phone died while on my way to the after party.  While I did get to charge it there, I was not able to take any pics when I first arrived and the thing was in full swing.  So instead, here is a nice picture of the camp folks in the morning:

We did make an attempt at #WCKaraoke. But alas, the laws of that area made the bar we had chosen a ‘smoking only’ lounge and we couldn’t find group agreement on an alternative. ¬†It was still a good attempt in my opinion and I had a very nice time.

 Sunday lunch:

The picture below is not the exact lunch we had, but it is pretty close. ¬†The best parts were the Soyrizo from a local awesome producer and various hot sauces which I had not seen before. ¬†Unfortunately, no photos I can find exist of this meal. ¬†It was a good one where I got to meet a few new folks, so I am a little bummed at that. ¬†I am also bummed that I didn’t catch the name of the caterer, I will try to update this with that info.

 

The Happiness Bar was in full effect as well.  There were many a good conversation and problem gotten to the bottom of in that little room.  There were also a lot of mini Slim Jims, oranges, nuts and snack mixes to go with the gallons of coffee.

The Sessions

There was no keynote, just opening remarks from the good folks at Keiser University, which was playing host to us that weekend. ¬†“At Keiser University, You Receive Your Education One Class at a Time”. This educational approach is one of intent focus on a single problem set,¬†which I think fits in well with some of the better development practices I have observed over time. ¬†Their website is also WordPress, which make us feel¬†right at home.

Mental Health for Everyone, Esp. WordPress Professionals
Laura Lane

We started with a mindfulness exercise. ¬†A seated dead head roll with focused breathing. ¬†This was a very great way to start the day. ¬†It turns out that this is a great way to start every morning, since Cortisol¬†levels are the highest in the morning. She said you could argue that you really don’t need coffee in the morning, that it would be the afternoon that you might need to step on the gas pedal.

It is important to recenter at least once a day. ¬†It doesn’t have to be elaborate or time consuming. ¬†She suggested using apps to give it a try. ¬†Secret is consistency, trying just 5 minutes a day for 30 days. ¬†That pattern is the key to success with this.

Team Publishing in WordPress
Steve Burge

Let’s face it. ¬†The built in WP default editor is kinda lacking. ¬†Even as I write this here in my editor I am wishing I was just writing in a Google Doc. ¬†Even our beloved Matt Mullenweg called it “the best collaborative document editor on the planet right now.” ¬†Which is exactly why Steve was excited to talk about the idea of leveraging it and other tools to make the team collaboration better for publishing, including tools to publish directly from Google to your WP pages. ¬†PublishPress¬†is another one of the tools making amazing strides in this direction. ¬†Permissions is another area where there is room for improvement and we are seeing some advancements on the horizon. ¬†I had not considered before this talk the possible role of Calypso with the rise of Guttenberg, but there is a compelling case to be made for the future where better page design on a local is the norm. ¬†I left with a lot to think about and a lot of things on the horizon to be excited about.

The Biggest WordPress Myths Debunked
Lauren Jeffcoat
MYTH! It is just for blogs
It is not just for blogs, it got popular that way since it was easy to publish. But you don’t have to just publish blogs.
MYTH! Plugins are bad or cause trouble.
False: Bad plugins are bad and too many overlapping bad plugins are bad. Only use what you need. ¬†Plugins are good. But if you don’t use it, just lose it! Delete those inactive plugins, or keep them up to date.
MYTH! WP is too complex
This is not true, lot of easy ways to get started and many tools and training resources to help. Best practices around standard processes solves a lot of these issues.  Yes there is a learning curve, like with anything else.
MYTH! it is not secure
WP is a big target, that is true, but it certainly can be secure.  It is up to good practices around security from you, your hosting and the code itself.
A good hosting company can help boost your site’s security. (I personally believe this a lot!)
MYTH! You get what you pay for…free = no quality. no support!
Wrong! While there is no no 1-800-wordpress (that domain was available at time of publication by the way) but there is a whole community to help.  Tons of free help options out there if you are willing to learn.

Taming the Whirlwind
Nathan Ingram

This is one of those MUST SEE presentations.  I highly encourage you to find a version of this online.  I will likely update this post when this version gets posted. Meanwhile his slides are here.

No one has all of it under control. You are not alone. The common struggle is real! We understand the need for strategy, but doing it gets messy.  We get distracted and caught up in the day to day emergencies that confront us.
Putting a name to your problems help to understanding and defeating them.
He calls this flurry of distractions “The Whirlwind”, defined as the energy and attention needed to run your business. The Whirlwind is the URGENT! ¬†When urgency and importance clash, urgency wins every time. The whirlwind never goes away!¬†The whirlwind isn’t bad, it just is.
Delaying strategy doesn’t work. You need a plan to accomplish your goals in the middle of the whirlwind. ¬†Without a plan, the whirlwind always wins.
He spends the rest of the talk explaining how to build and execute a plan. Your best friend in this is momentum, plan action items. Rather than try to re-explain it here, just go look at the slides.  This was a fantastic presentation and I am so glad I got the chance to see it.

Connecting in a Digital World
Jodie Riccelli
Like most people I meet in the WP space, her background is not a dev or a designer, nor a true agency model.  However, an agency, WebDev Studios, is where she works interacting with devs and designers all day.  More importantly she works with the clients doing something very near and dear to my heart, helping them implement their dreams.  Interpreting what the client wants into docs, some of which are very long and complex.
Through her experience she has noticed that there is a perception that ‘sales’ has became a bit of a dirty word. ¬†She¬†aims to change that.
“We don’t know how to engage, we want to be at a distance”. Apps do this for us and this is partly why we hide behind screens.
One of the things that made a difference for her cognition of this was a The Atlantic article from Paul Barnwell¬†“My Students don’t know how to have a conversation“. He really illustrates that the main thing people what their children to learn to survive and thrive in the world is communication. ¬†This is vital!
Sales really breaks down to the act of providing solutions the challenges the client might be having while being conscious of their budget. ¬†That is all. ¬†Really engage at every chance because everyone has something to teach you, if you will listen. ¬†Let’s use words that entice engagement. Keep Informed!

You Created A Plugin. Now What?
Adam Warner
So you have a plugin.  Awesome.  Get that thing on the directory! It all starts with wordpress.org. This is the largest collected pool of users in the world.  Getting it out there is step one, but upgrades and extensions are the way to monetize!
Once you have that sorted, increasing sales is next goal.  Repo reputation really matters. 5 star reviews are great but replying to the 1 star reviews is super important too.  If your plugin is seen as having really good support then people will trust it more and be more willing to buy things.
Take care with how you write.  Good copy will drive installs. Good marketing content and good docs are equally important.  Content marketing is important!
THink about discounting and presenting the messaging at key junctures.  Things like exit discounts (when you get a pop up offer as you are about to leave a page really do work.  Cross promotions are a win-win situation.  Get your product and service associated with another reputable plugin to reach an even wider audience and build that credibility.
What will you charge, what will the market bare?  It turns out this just takes the courage to try what you think you can get and not be afraid to raise price, or lower them, as the market responds.  No secret magic formula.

 

A/B Testing, Which Way Does Your Duck Face?
Mike “Demo” Demopoulos

Yes I am going to still write this up, but stop reading this for 45 minutes (even if you don’t think you have the time to spare) and go watch this video.

A/B Testing is:
-Controlled – you can explain how things relate to one another
-Statistically Relevant – educated guessing
-Uses Micro Testing – changing one thing at a time

Don’t try to assign reason to user actions, you can’t. It will drive you batty. Let the data drive all decisions.
What to test?  Tese the buttons shape, drop shadows, color, size, font, text, images.  Basically test everything!! Everything!!!
But at this is your chance to play and have fun too.

 

My Session:

WP-CLI: wp yes you –can (AKA Don‚Äôt Fear The Command Line)

People were really engaged and asked questions throughout.  While time sorta got away from me, I felt as though I had a better conversation throughout.  This was my favorite time giving this talk yet and I am really looking forward to getting to do this again.

 Wrapping up

This camp was actually a lot of fun. ¬†I know I started out with a complaint about the roads, but Jacksonville had some really cool parts and some really nice and interesting people. ¬†One of my favorite moments though came from seeing how happy this man was because of finally getting his CalderaWP “Catdera Wapuu” Sticker.

Quick note: This was actually the second time I had made it to Florida in 2 weeks. ¬†The previous week I was fortunate enough to attend my sister’s wedding. ¬†It was a beautiful ceremony on the beach at sunset. ¬†I could not be happier for her or her wife! ¬†However, I am not going to miss the sand of that beach, since it is in all of my stuff still, almost 2 weeks later.

I might not make it back to Florida any time soon, but I am glad I went.  Winding streets and endless road construction aside, the Jacksonville WP community seems pretty good.