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Weekend Review : WordCamp Atlanta

WCATL 2014 Banner 570x170

Got back from WordCamp Atlanta (#wcatl) a few hours ago and am about to assimilate as much of the information overload as I can.   Before I get into the depths of technical research, or get mired in the bazillion emails that accumulated over the past 96 hours, I thought I’d touch on some of the highlights for those of you who have never been to WordCamp.  Granted, my view is from that of an uber-tech-geek but there truly is something for EVERYONE at WordCamp.  In fact there are far more non-uber-geek elements to the event that one might expect.

If you do ANYTHING with WordPress and have not been to a WordCamp yet, I strongly advise getting to one.  You WILL learn something new and make at least a half-dozen social and professional connections while you are there.   If you want a smaller , “lighter” version of WordCamp than the two-day 400-person event of WordCamp Atlanta,  you may want to consider WordCamp Charleston coming this May.   It is a one-day event being held in one of the top-rated “foodie” cities in the world that constantly rates a top “must visit city” in America.

What Did I Learn?

After attending WordCamp Atlanta 2013 and learning some new tricks I was a bit worried about attending this year.   My first thought was “I wonder if there is anything new or if it will be a rehash of the same content”.   Well, I certainly did learn something new.   To say I was pleasantly surprised is an  understatement.   Before I made it to lunch break on the first day, I was already thinking “Holy Smokes… I have so much to learn!”.   It started in the first 30 minutes with the keynote speech by Syed Balkhi from WPBeginner.

Syed Opening WCATL 2014

Leverage Free

What did I learn from the opening presentation?  Leverage more free. 

I think I’ve done a decent job of doing that with the Store Locator Plus plugin and “leveraging free”.   However after listening to one of the most entertaining keynote presentations I’ve heard in a very long time, I realized I could be doing even MORE with the “give something away, get something in return” concept.    I’ve not yet come up with the precise action plan, but I certainly have some ideas on how this may work with the premium add-on packs for Store Locator Plus.

I Know  So Little…

After several other presentations and scribbling lots of notes I realized there are a LOT of people at these events that bring expertise and fresh insights to EVERY ASPECT of running a WordPress-centric business.    Business owners and executives, WordPress users, graphic design talent, plugin and theme coders, and even the exceptional talent of the WordPress core contributors are at hand.   Every one of them will get you thinking about what you can do better.  The only thing you need to do? Listen.   When day one wrapped up I thought I would be able to go into “brain hibernation mode”, but even the after-party turned out to be loaded with information about the WordPress community and dynamics of the WordPress ecosystem.

Day one, met some cool people and made some great connections.  Learned some cool tricks and came away with ideas on how to improve my products and services.   What could I possibly take away from day two?

Turns out… A WHOLE LOT.

Suzette Ponies

Day 2, Session 1 : Saas

Suzzette from MediaTemple put on a great presentation, My-Pretty-Pony-unicorns and cool animations included,  about Saas.    If you don’t know what Saas is and you do a lot of CSS stuff, you need to look into it.   Saas is a preprocessor for CSS that essentially gives you programmable CSS sheets.    Saas is not a live-interactive “program” like JavaScript, but it is a GREAT way to simplify and partially automate repetitive CSS work on the development side of things.     Since Store Locator Plus has over 2-dozen “plugin themes” that are heavy CSS with a LOT of repeated rule-sets, you can bet I will be spending some time over the next month converting all of my CSS work in to Saas files on the development systems and adding it to my “production development kit” arsenal.    If I had known the details like I do know I could have saved at least 200 hours of CSS “coding” in the past year.      Where was Suzette in 2013?  Maybe I was in another session then.

Productive Production

Speaking of Production Development Kit, my own terms for my collection of scripts and methodologies for putting my plugins into the hands of users, Session 2 on the second day was just as useful.  The talk on the Grunt and Bower tools and how  you can use them to keep a development environment updated was a great introduction.     While we did not have enough time to get into the details, for the more geeky people in the crowd like myself, I learned enough to realize this can be a HUGE time saver in a typical software production cycle.    Between this session and the Saas session before it, I realized “I am SOOOOOO outdated”.     The copy-paste CSS editing and my super-cool (in my mind) advanced Bash shell scripts that I coded to keep my development environment updated now seemed so …. “quaint”.

Two sessions, two more actions items on the list.

Geeks Rule

By the time the day was done I had made a half-dozen new connections.    I got overly excited when another database-geek and I started a “hallway chat” about using PostgreSQL as a data engine instead of MySQL under WordPress and how that might be accomplished.    I learned about Nginx (pronounced “Engine-X” if you are as clueless as I was about that before the weekend) and the differences between APC, Memcache, and Varnish and why they may be less effective on speeding up a site like mine.    Fairly amazing as I consider myself a decent, if not 100-percent-up-to-date, system admin.   After having written several “deep down dark places” data-engine-to-operating-system level interfaces I realized I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did in system tuning.   I also learned that Batcache is actually named after Batman.   Yes, I was as surprised as Evan to learn that is the REAL reason they named it that (thanks Mika).

Connections Rule More

WordCamp Atlanta 2014 was a resounding success from my viewpoint.    I learned a LOT of new things and met a lot of cool new people.    Thank you to EVERYONE that participated this year.     I could not be happier having been  a Gold Sponsor for this event… not to promote my brand or my products, but to give back to the community that continues to give back to me.    Thank you WordCamp and thank you to the very cool people I met this week for sharing your time and thoughts with me:

 @GetSource for the tips on Core patches, @SyedBalkhi for the entertaining keynote speech, @CoryMiller303 for sharing the team building stories at your talk and at the after-party, @Ipstenu for reminding me I no longer receive a paper that the dog can fetch, @HotchkissWeb for sharing brute force attack notes and discussing my multisite concept, @ibakunet for the ride share and good conversation over beers during the event, @EvanVolgas for “geeking out” over PostgreSQL, @JudiKnight for all the WordCamp contributions and sharing “war stories” at Nonis, @karlkanall for the WordCamp Charleston efforts, and @CarelBekker for the Atlanta flavor of WordCamp.

Great people, great info.   What more could you want from a conference?

See what happened on the WordCamp Atlanta 2014 site, #wcatl hashtag on Twitter, and FB Page.


 WordCamp Charleston 2014

Now let’s see what we can do in my hometown with WordCamp Charleston 2014.   I’m sure Karl will do a great job and yes, I will be sponsoring that event as well.