It’s been almost a couple of weeks now since WordCamp Melbourne and I’m still reeling from information overload.
If you’ve never been to a WordCamp, consider going along to one.
The atmosphere is fun, the networking opportunities are fantastic and the talks are intense.
This year the WordCamp had two streams. One for the User or Blogger and another for the Developer or High Tech users.
As is usual with WordCamps, you get a fluttering of guys from Automattic – the guys who developed the WordPress CMS.
The last minute keynote speaker this year was an Automattician called Jen Mylo (Jane Wells) who spoke about empowering women in such a male oriented industry and her experiences working in Automattic.
Jen gave a great talk and was really enthusiastic to hear that 41% of the conference attendees that weekend were women.
Saturday – Day 1 – Developer Stream
101 Ways to Elevate Yourself and Demand Higher Fees
It was on. The first talk of the weekend was given by Troy Dean and it was brilliant. Troy went through 101 slides (plus a few bonus ones) in just over 25 minutes.
The information in his talk was jam-packed full of great tips on how you can really improve your client relationship, your business professionalism, make yourself stand out from the crowd and hence be able to charge more for the work you do.
His presentation is up on slideshare. I recommend you read and implement!
Managing a Web Design Project from Start to Finish
Lachlan MacPherson gave a great talk from the business side on managing client projects.
Included were insights into getting quotes out, getting the right client fit, invoicing, payments and launching.
Ten Ways to Screw up with Google and 10 Ways to Fix it
The next talk was given by Dan Petrovic and it was all about avoiding common mistakes that could cost you valuable ranking points on Google.
He talked about the Panda and Penguin Google algorithm updates and how much the SEO landscape has changed in the space of a couple of years.
There were some excellent tips including how adding your web development company name as a link on a clients footer could now damage your Google rankings and how some companies are now turning to black-hat negative link generation in order to damage the rankings of their competitors.
A Blank Canvas, WooThemes Canvas as a Theme Framework
As a developer I’ve heard of the Canvas theme from WooThemes and I’m fairly sure I’ve downloaded it and played around with the thing for a while.
But I’m no expert in using it as a framework and that’s what Sofia Wood‘s talk was all about.
She took us through the huge amount of options and layout settings available for the theme and how non-developers can create sites without getting their hands dirty on code. GASP!
Sofia really did a great job in covering how flexible the theme is and how designers and developers can use it to their advantage in creating great WordPress sites in a fraction of the time it would take to do it ground-up from scratch.
WordPress Performance Tuning
This was going to be the talk that I had the most interest in over the weekend. Gary Pendergast is an Automattician living in Melbourne and has worked on the huge scaling efforts Automattic employ to keep the millions of websites running fast and secure on WordPress.com.
BTW – if anyone asks you whether or not WordPress as a CMS can scale up for huge traffic – point them at WordPress.com for a reference site.
Gary’s talk was jam packed with very tech nerdy tips on how to tune your website, your database, then your server and finally how to scale out and make WordPress run over multiple web and database servers.
Gary mentioned that the first thing he does on a website is to install WP Super Cache, saying that for 99% of the time the default settings are just fine.
He talked about MySQL performance tuning and the other options that WordPress can use; Percona and Maria.
The multi-server approach of scaling-out* was fascinating where you install server tools such as memcached and batcache to help the web server and use hyperDB to connect multiple databases together.
*Scaling-out is when you start to employ multiple servers to run multiple instances of your web and database servers.
I asked Gary this question at the end.
Me: “Gary – Is there any scenario where you wouldn’t install NGINX on a server to replace Apache?“
— pauses for a couple of seconds —
Working with Massive WordPress Sites, Clients and Enterprise
I must say that this was the most disappointing talk of the entire weekend.
The subject seemed great, however, Ben May gave a poor rendition of it.
There wasn’t so much of the specifics of working with massive sites or clients rather more of a CV of some of the sites he’s worked on.
The most shocking thing I learned is that he described how he makes updates to live sites and then if something goes pear-shaped tries to fix it before the client finds out. *mouth agape*
His attitude to best practices and other developers was simply, screw them – this is the way I do things and I don’t care what anyone else says (my conclusion – not his words).
These short 5-10 minute talks are becoming more and more popular. All of the talks were brief but very very interesting.
- Tim Osborn – Shielding yr staging site with htaccess + cookies
- Kristen Symonds – A look at the WordPress iPhone app
- Jodie Miners – Creating a help system for users in WordPress
- Takumi Miyaji – Developing WordPress Themes for Sports
- Helena Denley – Social Media and your website
- Infinite WP – Demo
- Glenn Todd – PressJam
- Bronson Quick – WordPress Community in Australia.
The After Party
And that was it for day one. The only thing left to do was to attend the after party drinks at the Lion Hotel which was sponsored by our good friends Troy and Brian at Video User Manuals.
They put a large whack of coins behind the bar and we all had some great free beer, pizza and networked like mad.
Mental Note: don’t talk about anything important when networking and drinking beer. You tend to forget it the next day.
Sunday – Day 2 – Developer Stream
I love these sessions. The whole group got together in the main auditorium and shouted out a barrage of questions and issues for our “panel” and attendees to hint, solve and reference.
My WP Development WorkFlow
The day two talks in the developer stream kicked off with Bronson Quick talking about the tools and systems he uses when developing client sites.
This was an insight into a developers daily activities and he talked about using Basecamp for project management, GitHub repository for code management, PHPStorm, SASS and Compass, testing, BackupBuddy and ongoing maintenance.
The session was fantastic and looking around the room I could see lots of heads down and frantic scribbling along with those looks on faces that go something like this “Ahhh – yes!”.
WordPress and Git
If you’re a WordPress developer then of course you use version control for your code don’t you. Don’t you?
There are two big version control systems out there; SVN (WordPress uses this for core and plugin code repositories) and Git. The difference between the two is that SVN requires a central repository that you check in/out with.
Git is distributed meaning that you can work off-line and then sync changes. Amelia Smith gave a really great introduction to Git and her experiences in using it to-date.
How to Survive People Discovering your Plugin
Mikey De Wildt gave a super presentation on his very popular plugin wp2db which allows you to backup WordPress to DropBox.
He took us through the early idea and development time scales, then through the raft of requests he gets for new features.
Mikey has a strong opinion that a plugin should do just one job and do it well, so resisted the temptation to include some of the more bizarre requests from users. I wholeheartedly agree with that.
He holds down a full-time job, so this plugin development is done in his spare time and he talked about the increase in support and maintenance requests that he has to manage as the result of the plugin being so popular.
Fascinating stuff and great timing as we’re developing commercial plugins too.
One of the most valuable things I took away from the talk was Mikey’s strategy for adding new features to the plugin to extend it.
A feature he wanted to add which had been requested many times by his then growing user base was to send an email backup and report as well as the regular DropBox backup.
Rather than add this into the core of the plugin code, which had been tested and was working well, Mikey opted for an “extension” approach.
Users could purchase the email extension and add it into the core plugin. This satisfied those who needed that feature while leaving the core code untouched for the majority of plugin users who didn’t
He explained that if he had added the email code into the core plugin code, this could introduce errors, support and maintenance which the vast majority of users didn’t actually use.
I scribbled lots of goodies down.
Mobile First Development and Design for WordPress
Another good session was given by James Banks who talked us through developing responsive sites for mobiles and other devices.
His approach recommended thinking about the smallest devices a website would support then expanding up to the desktop and beyond.
This allows designers and developers to concentrate on the content that needs to be displayed and produces clear and uncluttered mobile browsing experiences.
He also recommended placing media queries at the top of your CSS so that mobiles and tablets will only load in their required resources first.
Made sense to me.
James also took us through some of the latest mobile device stats which showed just how rapidly the mobile industry is growing.
Photoshop Best Practice for WordPress
This was one of the most entertaining talks of the weekend.
Blaz Robar gave a brilliant and funny presentation on how to use photoshop for WordPress website design, from a designers point of view, to minimise the “moaning and whining” that would inevitably come from the developers who get the PSD file. 😛
He talked about using proper layering which mirrored the HTML layout, e.g. header, footer, content, aside etc. along with comments that shows the developer which widgets, plugins and post types the designer was thinking about using.
I’m sure some of his slides were not meant to be funny but he had the whole auditorium in hoots with his relaxed presentational style.
I must admit that prior to the weekend I had never heard of the commercial plugin MasterPress by developer Travis Hensgen.
If I had to sum it up I would say that it’s like Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) on steroids!
Travis took us through the idea and planning stages, then the development techniques and choices he made during the coding.
He decided right at the beginning to make this a purely commercial plugin.
MasterPress allows you to create custom post types and custom meta boxes with associated field groups. And much much more too.
Travis also showed us how the plugin worked by creating new post types and extracting information from the new data fields.
Yes – he was actually writing PHP code.
One tweet on the #wcmelb hashtag summed it up like this -“Dear lord – he’s writing code!”
Inclusive Design for WordPress
Joe Ortenzi talked about accessibility principles that designers and developers can include when create a WordPress website.
He took us through the accessibility standards and ratings that can be achieved and just how hard it is to get them.
Mentioning WordPress specifically, he said that it was a great platform for accessibility and while not 100% compliant it was a great base to start from.
Joe demonstrated how the popular recaptcha system obfuscates the letters when listening to the audio and played a recoding which was completely inaudible.
How could people with visual impairments and using a screen reader make any sense of those? They can’t!
He also talked about how important content layout is and how it should flow together and not jump around so that screen readers can properly present the information on screen.
Very valuable information – thanks Joe.
Farewell, Prizes and Giveaways
Code Poet T-Shirts and WordCamp Melbourne hoodies were given away to various lucky attendees then with a loud round of applauses, the weekend was over and I was off to the airport for the short flight back to Sydney.
Not to worry. All the talks were recorded and should be up on WordPress.tv very soon. I’ll post a link here when they go up.
We’re looking to organise WordCamp Brisbane and WordCamp Sydney for 2014 so keep an eye out in the discussion forums of your local WordPress meetup.
A selection of images from the weekend.