WordCamp Los Angeles: Having a birthday the same day as you give a talk makes your alerts go insane

WordCamp Los Angeles: Having a birthday the same day as you give a talk makes your alerts go insane

When I was a kid, I spent multiple birthdays at the annual convention for my church, since my dad was a pastor. I haven’t really thought about that in years, but I have been thinking about that as I travel more myself and my job lets me go to so many events. As a kid, I didn’t have a lot of choice with my venue of choice, but this time, it was all intentional and a very good time. I turned 39 while at one of my favorite events in the world, WordCamp Los Angels, aka: WCLAX.

Food and Fun

Post Beginner Day Lunch

The first time I had the opportunity to have a meal with my fellow WP people, was after the Beginner Day training I got to help teach (more on that later). The teachers visited lovely Pasadena, CA to get some of the most delicious food I have ever experienced in my life at My Vegan Restaurant. If you go, you have to get the vegan beef jerky. I honestly do not have words that describe this amazing dish. It was so good, a group of us went back the following night after the after party to get more jerky. I want to go back right now.

Speaker Dinner

Not too long after we ate way too much vegan food it was time to gather at Angel City Brewing. It was fantastic to see so many old friends and to meet a few new ones. The speakers were given awards! I now have a small trophy that says what tracks I spoke in. I don’t go chasing medals and ribbons, but when these tokens fall into my life I am super grateful! Thank you to the whole WordCamp LAX organizing team!

Day 1

Coffee was alright. I can honestly say when you are at the mercy of university catering, you have to be OK with anything wet. More and more lately I am defaulting to tea to start my day because it is harder to have a bad experience.
Lunch was efficient and pretty good. They had a vegan chicken option that was a little too close to the texture of real chicken. I actually had to confer with my fellow vegans, Marc Benzakein and Josh Pollock to double check my suspicion. We determined it was soy based and delicious.
In the afternoon there were snack bars and trail mix supplied. Very good stuff. Nothing to do with camp, but why you gotta ruin perfectly good trail mix with yogurt covered things? Raisins are great on their own, they don’t need dairy on them Planters. They just don’t. Still, huge thank you to the organizers for supplying this.

After Party

Immediately following the last session on Saturday night we started the official After Party. There was music and food and a bar with free drink tickets! We were outside in the Student Union Plaza and the weather could not have been better. No wind and a perfect ~70 degrees with a setting sun making it beautiful. Thanks again to the organizers for a fun networking function.

WCKaraoke

Not immediately following the party, but before a group us us went to bed, we hit up All Star Lanes, a bowling alley with Karaoke in the back bar area. This place has been a staple of the Eagle Rock neighborhood for many years and the building showed it. I had a great time, but there was a local who performed the best version of “If I Were A Boy” by Beyonce possible. I was so tired and this was so unexpected I literally had tears in my eyes. The power of singing together as a community, no matter what that community is, overwhelms me sometimes. One of my favorite birthday memories of all time! Thanks to everyone who came to make WCKaraoke a thing!

Day 2

The best part of the coffee service of day two was the left over granola bars and snacks from the previous day. Lunch was a duplicate of day one, slightly more green veggies than potato. It was a quick closing set of remarks and a huge send off from the organizing team, leaving us looking forward to next year.

Sessions

Opening Remarks

Beginner day

I was very happy to ge to take part in Beginner Day at this camp. I got to contribute in 2 ways. First I got asked to teach part of the day! I was explaining that you had to get your site up on a server on the internet and you how to use a SFTP client, like CyberDuck, to accomplish this feat. Beginner is a relative term and a good portion of folks played along from their seats and got their files up to a site online. Some folks were a little lost, but it is important to expose ideas for those not quite there yet. I remember when it was a new concept to me as well. It was a pretty great feeling to take people through that process and have them come up later and ask follow up questions. One person even had some git questions for me. It felt awesome.
The second way I got to contribute was to build some demo sites for these students on Pantheon. To do this I learned how to build a bash script that could take in data from a CSV and produce a site on the platform and then hand it off gracefully to the student. I ran into a weird issue early on around the while loop, so the current version of the script requires echoing out the built commands into another script and running that, which seems excessive, but given that this ia a one off use case I decided not to spend too much time debugging the thing. If you want to take a look and let me know why the script would stop after only one row of data, but can echo through the entire csv just fine, the script lives here.

Discovering The WordPress REST API
Josh Pollock

Josh has a very straightforward presentation style and I really enjoy it. This is a really great example of a ‘teach a person to fish’ talk. I learn best by doing a thing and having the tool itself guide me along. This is part of why I love using WP-CLI and Terminus, because I can just try something and they will guide me along by suggesting what I might have meant. Not quite what this talk was about but it reminds me of that same idea. Still don’t comprehend enough to expand on it more than my raw notes.

Raw Notes:
Route discovery Rest API
Post users, comments, taxonomies, etc…
Philosophically a problem, can’t just teach “do this and then this” becuase each site is different
The REST API tells us that we can do with it
Don’t need to memorize these routes
learn how to process it and understand it, don’t memorize code only
/wp-json (like an index of all apis)
/wp-jason/
_links section of response”
tools for exploring APIs
Postman, ARC REST API -chrome extension
ARC
PAW – desktop app
JSONView – pretty printer for JSON
/wp-json – lear some things about the site
every route where it is
what is available
underscored linked
tells you where the link is documents
route schema
what can it do
Point is: it tells you what it is doing as a human readable description
post endpoint parameters, it will tell you all options
discoverability FTW Every WP site is discoverable!
_links tells you where things are
Can the RESTAPI do something? The answer is in the _links most likely, explains the connections of the data
if the schema says you can do it, you can write more defensive code,
this is how to get started discovering for yourself
Calderalearn is a thing

What’s The Difference Between Blogging and Content Marketing?
Kitty Lusby

I first saw Kitty Lusby speak at WordCamp LA 2016 speaking about how to be a serious blogger. It was a talk full of awesome advice straight talk, which is my favorite kind of talk. I have been following her blog ever since and was delighted to get to hear her again this year. This time she was explaining the difference between blogging and content marketing. Blogging is what I am doing here, pretty much whatever I want to say and no goal of representing a brand or goal other than to share my experiences with my future self and maybe you. Content Marketing, I think, would be the actions I would take to specifically inform you about my brand to inspire confidence enough to give my brand money in exchange for making your life better. Anyway, she says it much better than I can so watch for the video. Meanwhile here she is giving the talk from 2016

Raw notes:
A blog is not content marketing
First let’s define a brand
got a volunteer, some of us know, most do not
this is the same as a brand
we have to inform people what he is about
this is content marketing
what is this perosn about
why do we care?
hard to do
no one goes to your website because they want to give you money
they are trying to make their life better
compelling reason for giving money
go look at competitors
go to google in URL “forum” keyword
forums are the last ditch effort for customers
key to brand is finding intersection who you are, what you do and why people will give you money for value
brands evolve
personality evolves
it helps if you are a sociopath (half joking, need to pick up on other’s personality)
Speak their language – speak on their level
Remember a human is going to read it, write intelligently
Write in slang is fine, but know what it means and your audience
http://buzzsumo.com/ is not a free tool, but very awesome tool
tells her how to better market yourself
content marketing tells you how to reach these audiences
wit is good for twitter
pintrest, can read the image even with no words at all, just tells what is in it
rank better on different platforms
know how to change your content to meet the medium
pay attention to your metrics and analytics
don’t just get caught up in what the latest trends are
video for example, is labor intensive, is it for you??
if just have FB, Twitter, and website and it works, fine!
stay where you are competent and grow gradually
be careful with brand drift
drift is great if it is evolution!
But i you are getting off topic, that is bad

Using WordPress for Social Good
Devin Walker
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I walked into this talk expecting to hear a bit about the non-profit space and how they are leveraging WordPress. While that was certainly part of what happened, this talked was a two fisted, no punches pulled flurry of a sermon. His first slides told folks to get off cheap hosting, use modern tools and think about things like security. The rest of the talk was best practices from design to messaging to donation plugin settings. If you are a developer working at a non-profit, you should likely show this talk to your peers.

Raw notes:
Fast talker lot of ideas
must have a solid foundations
Use managed hosting
Https, PHP7, SEO, Updates and maintenance, SEO
Recommended tools
backups, wp-timecaplse is a good one if your host is not providing it directly
ongoing maintenance
(just some really real tools talk!)
Now onto your site
First impressions
average user spends 8 seconds on a site why first impressions matter
The Jane Goodall Institute
Obama foundation
Liberty in North Korea
Effective messaging makes your org work
Deliver from multiple audience points of view
accessible and readable
screen readers
just because you can make a website, should you make a website
you need to figure out your mission before designing
wireframes balsamiq
page builders
5 years ago this would be hard to do by hand
easier now
Effective online campaigns
Donation, peer to peer fundraising
reaching out to your social network for fundraising
inventive ways to make interactive
steps program
Bethlehem theme from themeforest
recurring donations
recurring donors give 42% more than one time givers
give them way to manage donations
let them exit quickly if they want
enable donors to opt in to recurring easily
and share with friends and family
explain how your donations are going to make an impact
“$19.20 to feed and care for 10 people”
Keep people updated on how money is spent
Oxfam America is a good example
Keep it simple – reduce fields
allow customizable amounts
no distractions from the
Don’t forget mobile
accept multiple payment methods
clear terms
use properly terminology
Donation Plugins:
GiveWP
Charitable.com
Seamless Donations
gravity/woo/edd can but should you?
Online donations in reach

Slow sites suck! How to speed up WordPress without touching a line of code.
Andrew Wilder

I went into this talk with a bit of skepticism. Another part of me really loves session titles like that and I knew there was either another angle here. I think performance is one of those evergreen subjects because tech keeps evolving and Google keeps changing how they measure things. I really liked this talk because it was filled with very practical, straightforward advice anyone can follow. Some things I don’t exactly agree with, like page caching with plugins, though caching all the things is a very good idea. I really liked the reinforcement, which I heard echoed in a lot of hallway talk and in a few other sessions, that you should find a quality managed host. I know one of those.

Raw notes:
Speed is super important but not sexy
people don’t wait around on sites
Simplified view of the site
to illustrate how a page loads
the waterfall
load times – every little bit adds up
Declutter
Do you really need that…badge, widget, ed, etc
remove all unused everything
limit plugins
delete inactive plugins
Shrink your homepage and archive pages.
show experts at best
reduce the number of posts per page
remove social sharing from homepage
Cache all the things
optimize your images!
before uploading:
create images at the size they’ll be displayed
use JPG with compression – white with no color takes less space
use PNG for text or line art
imigify, short pixel, ewww image optimizer, kraken
Don’t use a crappy host
don’t be 1 in 1500
change servers every 3-5 years to get
new hardware SSD
New software PHP7
Use SSL!
and HTTP/2 protocol
optimize for above the fold content
Defer CSS and JS
WP rocket-Autoptimize-Above The Fold Optimization
minify
wp-rocket can combine fonts and css and html into one file to speed it all up
use a CDN
Securi Firewall (Cloudproxy)
Cloudflare
Page Speed Insight
don’t chase a number, use as a guide

So Easy Even A Kid Can Do It: Using WordPress as a Platform for Portfolios
Jansen Henschel

Every now and again you see a talk that blows your mind and makes you rethink some of your life choices. Jansen is an 11 year old who started his journey into WordPress 3 years earlier by attending Beginner Day. On this day he stood to teach us all in the best prepared and delivered presentation I have might of ever seen. I very much hope his talk gets on WordPress.tv, but until it does, check out his amazing videos explaining bitcoin in under 3 minutes, how the periodic table is organized, and Geneva Drives in the most elegant ways I have ever heard.

Raw notes:
Missed the first few minutes
Themes explained!
Portfolios are really designed to convince someone of something
you don’t need to do a lot to impress people, just impress yourself.
A portfolio makes it more real and expresses your ability more
Also a proof of work
people have short attention spans
three pieces of content, that is enough to convince someone of something
Don’t bury your best work, put it front and center
people are not going to spend a lot of time on your site
“People get bored easily. so don’t expect a lot out of them.”
faster sites are better
Put your best work forward, don’t bury
preview pics for vids reflect the interesting part – not the first frame
portfolios are convincing someone to do something
Don’t distract from yourself
no ads, they are not about you

Becoming a Community Builder: A WordPress Story
Raquel Landefeld

I got to see the first version of this back at WordCamp Minneapolis 2017 as a lightning talk. I was excited to hear the full version. My raw notes don’t nearly capture the talk and I thought about not posting them here, but I do think they paint the broad brush of her timeline from having an identity completely reliant on the identity of others to a self image of being part of a larger community as a leader. It is inspiring and a story I think should be heard by more people. It is a great reminder that we all have stories to share and we should be encouraging others along their journeys as well.

in her 20s
Identity directly related to others
stay at home mom
2009 economy bad, Cody, her husband, lost job
went into business for self full time
she became co-founder anf team manager
2012 – 1st WordCamp
she loved it!
was this real though?
People were just immediately interested in her as a person
open and loving
identity “wife”
then all the WCs after that!
2014 – Phoenix community
WP Meetups
Phoenix tech
Phoenix creative
WCPHX
2015 – 2016
WCEU
local government
PTA Treasurer
Lead Organizer??
Community = people
you can have the best anything but without people. you don’t have community

My Session

Once again I got to talk about the WP-CLI, which is pretty dang cool. I discovered that my online IDE of choice, Cloud9, was suffering from this issue literally 3 days before the ticket was closed. So I downloaded the British English version of WP (en_GB) which was not affected for some reason. Good thing I spot check these things before I talk. Only other observation from this time out was that no one really asks questions during the WP-CLI talks. Everyone just wants you to show off that ‘one really cool thing I use it for’, which is the best. That also puts me on the spot, as demoing wp shell requires I know enough PHP to demo using the shell itself, which I literally never do.

No pics exists as fas as I could find on Twitter yet, if that changes, I will update this space.

Wrapping Up

I left LA more exhausted than when I showed up, which to me means I tried my best. I am not a fan of Los Angeles overall, with the traffic and the smog, yadda, yadda, yadda. But I am a huge fan of the people in the WP community in LA and those who traveld to the city of angels to take part in this camp. I can not remember a better time being in there than this trip. It was a pleasure to grow a little older and hopefully a little wiser in La La Land. Thanks LA.

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!

WordCamp Boston: Learning so much in Boston in the summertime

Last time I was in Boston, I was really in Cambridge for the most part. I returned for the second time this year for WordCamp Boston 2017 and got to see the nightlife in bean town proper. Once again this camp took place at the Boston University’s George Sherman Union, which features an amazing gigantic pipe organ! It was amazing to see my #WPLife family out there and meet so many new folks. I didn’t get to go to as many sessions this time around, but I stayed super busy at the camp and have so many thoughts. Let’s dig in.

Food and Fun

Friday night

If there is one thing you get used to at any WordCamp or DrupalCamp it is the tradition of the Speaker (and sometimes Sponsor) dinner. Typically the organizers invite the speakers to meet and greet one another. I always love this part because speakers, in general, are super busy during the event itself and this is the best chance to catch up or get to know them in the entire weekend.
Well, WCBos is a little different insofar as they still believe in this idea as you will read a little further down, but there were no pre set plans on Friday. This fact did not go unnoticed by some of the road dogs and we quickly made plans to check out Citizen Public House. Very glad we did, as they had a huge selection of fine spirits, a terrific menu and outstanding service as they gracefully handled an uncertain party size with people trickling in throughout our time there. If you find yourself anywhere near BU, check them out! It was fantastic to get together and catch up with those I knew and had the pleasure of meeting several new friends as well. Well fed and refreshed, we were officially ready for day 1 to begin.

Day one

The morning was met with the normal pastry, fruit, coffee catering you know and love. Well love is a strong term. I was thrilled when the GoDaddyPro crew pulled up with growlers full of iced coffee, which was tremendous. I didn’t get the name of the place they ordered from, but it was fine!
I was delightfully surprised by my vegan option at lunch. We had brown bags prepared for us and I, unsurprisingly, had a wrap of some kind. Surprisingly it was ‘meaty’ with thick eggplant slices and a generous amount of hummus and came with an oatmeal raisin cookie that satiated my sweet tooth, which had been triggered by all the donuts being offered that morning. Afternoon snack was ice cream and lemon sorbet.
Picture of a vegan wrap, a red aple and a half eaten cookie

After Party

Immediately after the final session, ending at 5:20, we migrated down the street a ways to the Brighton district and the White Horse Tavern for a very well attended after party. This local sports pub had a lovely patio and really friendly staff. There are some advantages and disadvantages to starting an after party immediately after a camp day. On the one hand it means your attendance is going to be much higher, as the stride of being together isn’t broken and the rest of your life hasn’t had the chance to seep in and distract you away. but I find it makes for a higher early attrition rate as folks need to go get a ‘real meal’ since hungry crowds tear through appetizers which only whet the appetites after burning so many calories swimming though so many bits of new information and conversations. It also means you don’t have any recovery period from the day. I, for one, get exhausted interacting with people and need little pockets of quiet and reflection to recharge. It does not mean I don’t enjoy people but it does mean that without a break I am noticeably more exhausted when my head hits the pillow and I find my mind less at peace as it churns through examination of the day. All in all this was a great, very well run party and I 100% applaud the organizers for making a very inclusive and well attended after party! I had a great time.

WCKaraoke!

“After the party, there’s the after party” – Remix to Ignition. I got to hear a spectacular version of this sung by one of the local regulars to our spot of choice for WCBos WCKaraoke party, Limelight Stage and Studios. While only beer/wine, this place had a full izakaya menu. There are many private studios you can rent out but we were there to use their main stage that night. This place was happening on a weekend night, but fortunately for us most of the people there to sing were in the private rooms which let 20some of us campers sort of take over the main stage area. I was delighted to read on twitter at one point that WordCamp Ottawa was not only having their own WCKaraoke party but actually where challenging us in Boston to ‘show them what we got”. Which of course we did!

Sunday Brunch

As I said above, the organizers believe in the speaker/sponsor get together fully, but they are unique in the WC world (as far as I know) with having a speaker brunch, with is logistically possible thanks to an 11:30 start time for the camp itself. We got together at Tavern in the Square for a delightful brunch buffet. I ate way too many waffle fries and not nearly enough fruit. There is no lunch on day 2 so I figured that was a good idea at the time. The iced coffee they served up was tremendous. Next time I am near there, I am going just for that. Full and caffeinated we headed to the venue to. . . .

Sessions

Keynote:

Design and inclusion John Maeda

This talk immediately took an unexpected format, as it was not your typical “here are slides about a thing” setup. Instead he asked folks to find the red slips of paper that were distributed and write down their fears. Then he collected them and directly addressed them. His logic: “To talk about the future you must address the fears.” While I don’t think he, or any one person, has the full answer to many of these concerns, he gave everyone in that room a jumping off point to articulate our fears and begin a communal dialogue about our future overcoming them. I was very glad to be a part of that room. I will put my raw notes below this paragraph, which you will see are a tad disjointed as the topics changed rather rapidly. Highly recommend watching this when it gets on WordPress.tv.

PHP based, not the new kid on the block, but still solid and massive use First exposure to the community? Fears of not knowing what up, inclusion If someone tells you Open SOurce like WP is not secure, remind them that all systems have vulnerabilities we just DON’T KNOW! Facebook does not disclose their flaws for example Many older people use all upper case since it is more legible, not all old people are yelling at you. Lose new users with changes like Gutenberg Resistance means somebody cares it means people care when you meet it, get excited things are moving fast, don’t be afraid of that, be afraid it it moving too slow the way we age is not the way the world really works things speed up, not slow down

Plugins panel:

Adam W. Warner, Christian Nolen, Lisa B Snyder, Lauren Jeffcoat

Of of the things I really appreciate about this camp is the panel discussions. Rather than have speakers with prepared statements and slides, we have thought leaders and a moderator answering questions around a specific topic. In this case we got to hear very good questions, both pre prepared and sourced from the audience, about plugins. Some questions of note: What is the safest way to update plugins? How to get the last % of way there for projects? How do I go from stage to live? How to determine what is a ‘good’ plugin, how do you evaluate? What are your favorite plugins.
It turns out the answer to almost all of these begins with the phrase “it depends” since the topic of plugins covers such a wide swath. This is a great one to watch at home when it gets uploaded.

My session

Open source panel Dwayne McDaniel, Jared Novack, Mel Choyce, Steven Word

I was very fortunate to be invited to moderate the open source panel at the event. When I was told I would be moderating, something I had volunteered to do if needed, I was not given too specific instructions on how to structure the panel or what topics around Open Source would be suggested. Given this opportunity I steered the conversation to 3 main areas. 1) What is Free and Open Source Software and why does that matter 2) How each person has contributed and how anyone can contribute and 3) what does the future of Open Source mean for WordPress. I feel pretty strongly about FOSS and I was thrilled to hear this passion from my fellow panelist as well. The biggest thing I wanted people to understand is that the community is that makes open source technology possible and it is up to each and everyone who is in the community to keep that community growing and vibrant. Without that, open source is just a pile of text files you can go look at.
Unfortunately I can find no pictures of this panel at this time.

Day 2
Keynote:

Democratizing Software

K.Adam White

I was excited to see this man’s name as the day 2 keynote presenter. Even though I have gotten to hear a number of his talks over the years every time I learn something new or find a new perspective. This was no exception and I left feeling inspired.
He talked about the reality that while anyone theoretically can code, not everyone gets the opportunity to code. Starting from there, he took us down a road of how those that have the opportunity to go this route learn as they go. I found it really interesting to hear his explanation that PHP, which stands for Pretty HTML according to him, is mostly learned through HTML and sort of in a backwards way in WordPress. This stumbling into it does not work for any other language like JavaScript, which is why that seems as hard as it does to most people starting out.
He also touched on the importance of a highly skilled and specialized community acting as a backbone to allow every person to develop their own niche, further strengthening the whole body when collaborating.
The best line from the whole talk I think though is “WordPress is for learners”. WP become a learning community. That is what we are even doing going to camps, either learning new skills or sharing the knowledge that we have with others. I am very grateful to be part of such a vibrant, supporting culture.

Contributor Day

I am working on a separate blog post about this. Will link here when it is posted.

Freelancing Panel

Amanda Giles, Jennifer Nickerson, Kyle Maurer, Adam Silver

I always enjoy these panels. Not a lot to say as the questions varied wildly as the answers. Go check it out when up on wordpress.tv. Here are some tweets about it though.

CSS Grids are here

Juan Pablo Gomez

I am always quick to admit that design is not my strong suit and something I know very little about. I still hold the first part of that to be true (as evidenced by this site’s layout [twentysixteen FTW!], but the second half of that becomes less true every single time I go to a camp thanks to amazing presentations like this one. He started us off with a quick history of design tooling, starting with raw HTML, going through Flash and Responsive design and added a few critiques of the resulting world. He holds a premise that as we have simplified for accommodating ‘all‘ devices, we got too simple and all sites started to once again look too much alike. But now, here in the present and looking into the future, we have grids.
Firefox was the first to embrace this standard and all the others, even Microsoft’s Edge, have since followed.
At it’s core it sets to achieve the goals that Responsive introduced. Which I am going to oversimplify as ‘have the browser do the math’. This is seen in things like the use of ‘fr’ or fractions to set column and rows dimensions, template elements, implicit and explicit mixed use of elements and repeat built in. He also took care to thank the thought leaders that pushed this standard and made his work possible, like Jenn Simmons. The Q&A was delightful. If you are even the slightest bit curious about CSS Grid, this is the intro talk for you.

Automating WordPress Updates With Visual Regression

Andrew Taylor

You know what robots are really, really good at? Repetitive tasks. You know what repetitive task is really boring and tedious but the entire security of the internet depends on? Updates. Let’s make the robots do the work.
The short version, which Andrew has spelled out in detail in his blog and github example repo is this:
wp-cli update plugin/theme –all is awesome but dangerous. Doing it in a staging environment is really good path, but manually testing gets monotonous, neglected and frankly impossible at scale. Continuous Integration services can be set up with testing tools to test every page, every time when doing updates. Further, it can report and automate emails to you and clients who you are charging update maintenance fees. It is a win-win, since they get frequent updates, you get far less manual effort required and there is a ton of safety built into the process to never take down a live site with a update ever again!

Happiness Bar

I looked back through my notes (Thank you to github for making that so simple btw) for any mention of happiness bar and I realized that I have never written about what goes on at these things.
For those who have never been to a WordCamp, there is a designated table or space for volunteers to basically hold open office hours for any and all WordPress related questions. And when I say any and all, I mean it quite literally.
At one point two of us were diving into a javascript issue with a single asset load malfunctioning on the most recent Chrome update. For a good 20 minutes we dug and dug. Finally we made some suggestions of solving this but they left with the issue still affecting live traffic. I was overjoyed the next day to have the person find me to report that one of the solutions we suggested had been implemented and the issue was solved! There is nothing quite like that feeling of “we fixed this together”!
Other questions ranged from HTTPS issues, design suggestions and plugin related discussions. As quite often happens with any technical discussions I was introduced to several bits of software for the first time and got to spread my love of the WP-CLI and LastPass (well password managers in general but that is my go to). You meet folks from all walks of life and stages of their WordPress learning curve. While it is awesome to know the answers to certain questions from memory I absolutely love having to look up information and show people how I got to the solution. No one knows everything, but Google knows where to find any bit of technical knowledge if you learn how to ask.
If you are going to WordCamps and want to get in on this action, definitely reach out to the organizers and let them know. This is such a vital part of what makes WordCamps special.

Contributor Day

I am working on a separate blog post about this. Will link here when it is posted.

Wrapping Up

While I am awaiting the Gutenberg to harden a bit more I decided to start using the markdown language editor, if you see something weird (other than my spelling and grammar) please let me know.

This was my 16th conference in 2017. Not a significant number in and of itself. I have 10 more trips booked at the moment and likely will have 3 to 5 more added on to make me hit or get really close to my arbitrary goal fo 30 for the year. So this trip was the 53.3% mark on that path.
So much has changed since the last time I was in Boston for this event, not just in the world and state of the Word, but in me as well. I often think of the words of Sean Tierney from back at Pressnomics Paraphrasing – “People come and go like seasons and you don’t always know wYou can never be mad at summer for passing though.”
I have gotten to bask in the glow of so many bright and warm individuals in the course of my adventures and I hold each memory dear. I do get a longing feeling sometimes when I think about the fact that I only see certain people so few times a year and some people I might never see again. I can’t say thank you enough for being part of my journey. It has made every step of it worth it.

I seriously am looking forward to my next chance to visit the old city and find myself in the silicon valley of the east again. Hopefully sooner than later. At worst, it will be for WordCamp Boston 2018!