Early next year, on Jan. 28, WordPress development agency Human Made is hosting a conference focusing solely on the WordPress REST API — appropriately named A Day of REST.
While niche WordPress conferences are on the rise — with LoopConf for developers, PressNomics and Prestige Conference for career development, and too many blogging-centric conferences to mention — A Day of Rest is the first of its kind.
The WordPress REST API is an important new feature and faces the challenge of mass adoption. Educating both WordPress developers and those who are looking to integrate WordPress’s content management system with some other framework or technology using the WordPress REST API is a huge task. For this reason, a conference dedicated solely to the REST API makes a lot of sense.
The conference has attracted a lot of attention, including many developers in the US, who hope to see a second Day of REST or something similar held in the states. I asked Joe Hoyle, co-founder of Human Made if such a conference may be coming.
“We don’t have any immediate / definite plans, however if it’s a success and enjoyed I don’t see why wouldn’t try set something up, or partner with someone else to do that,” Hoyle said.
We had a good discussion about A Day of REST, niche WordPress conferences, and on Human Made’s focus on community contribution. (Human Made is the employer of the REST API creator and co-lead developer, Ryan McCue.) I learned a lot from the conversation and would like to share some takeaways.
WordPress Plus X
The WordPress REST API allows WordPress to act as the content management system and database layer for sites and apps created with any framework and written in any language. Many of the speakers at the event work on sites that use a totally decoupled front-end that is not powered by WordPress, but connects to a WordPress back-end using the WP REST API.
Hoyle told me that the conference will split time equally between “building and extending the WordPress API and integrating it elsewhere.” He did say that compared to a typical WordPress conference, there will be more discussions about working outside of WordPress, because of the capabilities of the REST API.
“The REST API has changed how I write plugins and site builds a lot, however I find a lot of the more interesting things are around integrations with other technologies and frameworks,” Hoyle noted.
While I’m personally more interested in using the REST API in WordPress, rather than with things that are not WordPress, I understand the value of being able to integrate with other frameworks. It’s important that conferences cover this topic, though I know it may be difficult to do so at more WordPress-focused conferences, like WordCamps.
“I think the API is very far reaching, so I don’t think it needs to be limited like that. I’d imagine this is going to be just as useful (if not more) to freelancers and small shops due to the typically more insular nature than a larger agency,” Hoyle said. “We are more focused on anyone that’s interested in building with the REST API rather than sizes of companies and clients.”
Why Not A Niche WordCamp?
A Day of REST is significantly more expensive than a WordCamp, which benefits from tons of institutional support and the ability to have more sponsors. WordCamps are also part of a non-profit, allowing them, in many cases, to negotiate better deals. Human Made is a for-profit company, but they are not looking to make any money from the conference. They do, however, need to pay their employees for their time spent, and have contracted with Siobhan McKeown to help organize the conference.
Hoyle told me that he’s not sure if a conference like A Day of REST “would fit within the WordCamp brand as it’s very narrowly focused; this was also a new idea for us to try, so starting off from there probably wouldn’t make sense. My personal opinion is that more non-WordCamp events are a good thing for the community as a whole and shows its maturity.”
Personally, I’d love to see a WordCamp REST API, but I suspect he is probably right. I am also excited for the rise of niche non-WordCamp WordPress events as it allows for different types of conferences that may not be possible without bigger budgets and rely heavily on volunteers who are often over-worked by the conference and their actual jobs.
A Day of REST will be followed by a hack day, which will afford attendees, including REST API contributors who are speakers at the conference, the opportunity to work together on the REST API itself. Many WordCamps do offer contributor days or contributor workshops, which are always excellent entryways to contributing to core. Every WordCamp really should have one of these.
What is clear is that the REST API is an important and exciting new tool for WordPress developers. That said, a one-day conference can’t possibly provide the global education needed on this topic — but it’s a start. Every WordCamp has a talk or two on the REST API — which isn’t enough, but it’s a start.
For many, the WordPress REST API means learning new tools, standards, and best practices. It also means learning how to integrate it with plugins, themes, site builds, and other technologies. Educating people on this may take years to accomplish.
Contribution For The Win
Human Made has put a lot of their own resources into the REST API project. The co-lead developer for the REST API is Ryan McCue. McCue is a senior engineer at Human Made and the lead developer of their product Happy Tables. Hoyle, the co-founder of Human Made, is also a major contributor to the REST API.
Human Made also employs Jenny Wong, who works to build community between WordPress and the rest of the PHP community, and also contributes to many parts of the WordPress project. They also employ several core contributors.
I asked Hoyle if this was always a strategy for Human Made. I was surprised that he said no and that when he and Tom Willmot started the company they were largely unaware of the WordPress community. He sees their commitment to contribution as being important to their goals, as they define them.
“Once we began to get involved, it became pretty clear how it was beneficial as our general goal for Human Made isn’t about profits, but rather lifestyles,” Hoyle said. “Given how excellent the WordPress community is, and the people who work for Human Made it makes sense for us to be part of it.
In terms of advice, it’s difficult to say, as different companies have different definition of success. If you’re just trying to maximize profits I’m not sure you’d be quite as involved as all the members of Human Made are, though if you’re talking tangible deliverables, making the community and contribution part of the company culture is a great hiring tactic!”
This is a great perspective to take, as it acknowledges that contribution is difficult and resource consuming. It does not have direct tangible rewards. That said, Hoyle doesn’t see what they do as being altruistic as it pays off in many ways for their company and for their employees.
No Time To REST
The WordPress REST API is changing how WordPress is used on large and small sites. It’s not just about building big sites using the REST API and other frameworks, nor is it just about making existing WordPress plugins, themes, services, and sites better. It’s about all of these things, and the possibilities we haven’t even thought of yet.
This isn’t going to happen until WordPress developers, and developers considering using WordPress, learn more about the REST API. A Day of REST is a great step to solving this educational challenge. I hope more companies or groups of individuals in the community will step up to create more conferences, workshops, and courses in the future. It’s a big challenge, but we’ll meet that challenge together.
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