Attending WordCamp Northeast Ohio this year was hands-down the best career decision I have made. Though I’ve attended a WordCamp before, I feel as though I had an entirely new experience. I volunteered to help out this time around, that way I would be forced to socialize a bit more than I did at WCA2. I hadn’t been to any of the local Meetups, so it was a pretty huge step to getting involved. I sat in a wide variety of sessions and met some truly amazing people that are shaping the way I view WordPress and my future in the community.
Please Note: The list of sessions below is not exhaustive. I sat in a few others, but these are some of the notes that I took while at the event!
Keynote – Eric A. Meyer
On Saturday, we had an amazing keynote speaker, Eric A. Meyer, who has played a huge part in making the web look like it does today. Meyer is widely known for his CSS Reset, but also for his powerful personal story about the Facebook Year in Review feature – and the larger issue he describes as “Inadvertent Algorithmic Cruelty.”
Meyer gave shared some practical advice to stress-test your site/applications. He suggested simulating a stressed-out person by trying to find something on your site while only looking for 2 seconds, or standing far away from the monitor. He urged the WordCamp attendees to avoid using the term “edge case,” because it implies that those cases are unimportant, but to instead use the term “stress case.” Some additional examples of organizations that have failed to “stress-test” their sites include the Google April Fools Day Mic Drop Feature, the #MayTheFourth hashflag on Twitter, and the “Cheatin’ uh?” error message in WordPress core.
The point of sharing these mishaps is to illustrate that we as developers need to communicate intent, and not disregard the users that we would typically consider “edge cases.”
Eric Meyer closes out his keynote by asking us to add more humanity to the web #wcneo
— Jeff (@jeffr0) June 11, 2016
Accelerating the Mobile Web with AMP – Steve Grunwell
The first of two sessions given by Steve Grunwell related to the newest initiative by Google and other organizations, Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). Grunwell shared with us the specifics of AMP, such as who will benefit the most from the project (journalists, bloggers, and news websites), how to track errors, how the AMP plugin works on WordPress by default, and required image sizes to show in the Top Stories carousel in Google. He has a blog post with more info, and he suggests using the plugin Glue for Yoast SEO & AMP if you are using Yoast SEO on your site.
From Service to Product: How I Broke Out of Client Work and Started a Successful Plugin Business – Ross Johnson
Hearing from the founder of a successful plugin business was a great experience. Johnson shared a ton of advice on how to make the transition from developing sites for clients to running a plugin business. He described a few possible ideas for choosing what to develop and sell, which included: scratch your own itch, create an add-on, develop a premium version of an existing plugin, create a generic version of a client’s project, “WordPressify” a SaaS, or compete with an existing plugin. Some of the other tips that Johnson gave were more business-oriented, like how to validate your market, maintaining momentum with progress, documentation, and how to optimize your support. With support, he recommends having customers send screenshots, asking for experience level in the support forum (whether or not they have coding/technical experience), setting clearly defined support hours, and answering support tickets in batches.
Keynote – Chris Lema
Chris Lema has spent years as a business coach for companies that specialize in WordPress products and services. He shared his insight into the future of WordPress and the steps we should take to keep the community as a whole moving forward. Lema stressed the importance of recognizing that without the community, the code wouldn’t exist. He urged developers, users, and business-owners alike to focus on the path, rather than the destination and never stop learning. He also talked about the importance of sharing information, as it can help your own learning process as well as help others. Lema encouraged us to “find the places where WordPress and the real world don’t fit.” He ended on a strong note by pointing out that the WordPress community isn’t some other group, it’s all of us.
The Joy of… Being a Considerate Developer – Nowell VanHoesen
At first, I expected the session to cover how developers can be considerate to users, but I really liked that it was focused on developers being considerate to other developers. Nowell VanHoesen talked about the specific ways developers can be proactive when writing their themes and/or plugins like providing sound documentation and making functions pluggable.
Professional Development for Professional Developers – Steve Grunwell
Grunwell’s session on professional development encompassed a ton of techniques to keep on track with your career goals. He talked about ways to continue to improve like being passionate about your work, keeping up with the technology, and continuously learning as well as things that will hinder your growth like comparing yourself to others, not taking breaks/vacations, or trying to tackle everything alone.
— Chris Lema (@chrislema) June 12, 2016
How to Ruin Your WordPress Business in 10 Easy Steps – Angie Meeker
This is one of the sessions I stepped into on the fly. I’m glad I did, because Angie Meeker was charismatically and openly sharing her business failures in the hopes that attendees could learn from her mistakes. She described how she set herself up for failure by setting low prices, accepting any work that came her way, and trying to do it all herself. Some methods she suggested for finding success in client work were to qualify your clients before accepting work, schedule regular meetings with clients to update them on your progress, and have a designated backup person to help when you don’t have time to work on freelance.
WCNEO was a great experience, but it’s really just the start of my involvement in the WordPress community. I’d love to meet up with some new people at the next couple I’ll be at. I’m planning on attending WordCamp Columbus August 26-28 and WordCamp Ann Arbor October 12-15.
Hit me up on Twitter if you want to chat about attending an upcoming WordCamp! (Or shoot me a message if that’s more your speed.) I’m also looking for some PHP-related Meetups/conferences/whatever-I-can-get-to’s, so any suggestions in that regard are much appreciated!
I also want to give a HUGE thank-you to the organizers for making this possible!