In April I attended WordCamp San Diego at NTC at Liberty Station. In this article, I’m going to share some of my experiences and takeaways from the event.
First, let me thank the good people at WordImpress, makers of the Give plugin, for helping to make my trip possible. I’d also like to thank all of the organizers, speakers, and volunteers who made the event possible.
WordPress Fandom Is Strong
In his keynote, Chris Lema talked about how the WordPress project held a tenth birthday party for WordPress. Not only that, but people actually showed up to the party, and an overwhelming number of folks even tuned in for the live stream.
So many people rely on WordPress to make a living or share their stories, and as such it has a growing number of fans and megafans. Lema asked how many people in the room have a WordPress tattoo, and while only a few raised their hands, it’s still indicative of the impact WordPress has had on their lives.
When I first switched my blog from Blogger to WordPress.com, I had no idea how much it would change my life. If you told me that only a few years later that decision would lead me to a career in WordPress and send me to San Diego to speak in a huge room filled with WordPress professionals, have a great time staying with my WP Crowd friends, and be part of a great event like WordCamp San Diego, I would have laughed in disbelief.
A Turning Point For The WordPress REST API
My talk, which I also gave the previous weekend at WordCamp Jacksonville, was on what we can do with the WordPress REST API and why it’s important. This was a developer talk without a single line of code.
I would have never given a talk like this a year ago, or even six months ago for that matter. But, WordPress.tv now has plenty of talks explaining what the WordPress REST API is and giving clear examples of how it can be used. Similarly, Torque, Tuts+, and Lynda all have lots of content on how to use the REST API and there are several video courses out there on using it.
Just because you know how to use the REST API doesn’t necessarily mean you know what to use it for and why it is so significant. I was a little worried about giving a developer talk without any code, but it was well received. Moreover, AJ Zane gave a talk on a practical use of the REST API — building hybrid apps.
I look forward to more specific examples and more discussions on why it’s important and how it can move WordPress forward.
Growing By Conquering Developer Anxiety
One of the major highlights of the camp for me was Tom McFarlin’s talk on conquering developer anxiety. I expected him to give a developer talk, but he spoke in the business track, which was important. Tom shared his journey learning code and music.
He also talked about how he used to constantly worry about having to know so many things and the number of new technologies that were always popping up. He spoke about how he got over his fear of missing out and made his peace with not knowing everything.
This is great advice for not just developers, but any type of person who makes a living in this space. Things move so fast that you can’t keep up with it all. When we learn to focus on what we are good at it reduces the amount of things we have to keep up with and lets us adapt to changes because we need to improve our work, not because we’re afraid of getting left behind.
I got time to have lunch with Tom and his wife Megan and were joined at some point by Carl Alexander. We talked about his career, music, and writing about WordPress. The opportunity to talk about technical writing with the two people who I think are the best at it when it comes to WordPress was a great experience.
WordCamps are about a lot more than the formal talks. I actually went to a lot more talks than I normally do. I normally don’t go to a lot of talks for fear of missing out on conversations and networking. This time, I let go of that anxiety and ended up having more useful interactions.
Knowing The Stack
Carl Alexander gave a great talk on how the modern WordPress server stack works. It was both the most detailed and easy to follow talk that I have seen on this subject. I am not a “server person” but it’s a topic that we all need to understand.
Too often we simplify the interaction of HTTP request and WordPress by thinking about WordPress and the database only. Carl broke down each step in the process with PHP followed by MySQL at the end.
This kind of step-by-step explanation is necessary for understanding caching and other server optimization steps. Too often we think of caching as one monolithic thing. Without understanding each part of the server stack we can’t disambiguate between all of the different types of caching and know where they happen, what they do, why we do them, and what unique problems they solve (and cause).
Carl has published an article based on his talk that is very much worth reading.
One of the reasons I go to WordCamps is to get advice from people I respect. I had really useful conversations with Matt Cromwell, Pippin Williamson, Marc Benzakein, and Chris Lema. Conversing with talented and intelligent industry leaders helps me with my own relatively new business.
Making use of everything I learned from presentations and conversations can be overwhelming. I know many people come away from WordCamps with a bit of “good advice overload.” Tony Perez of Sucuri gave a talk on how to make use of advice.
He spoke about how to evaluate good advice to figure out if it was applicable, and when it is right to act on advice versus wait on it. As an example, he talked about advice they got from the beginning of Sucuri to raise their prices.
While Tony agreed this was good advice, he thinks if they had taken it right away they wouldn’t have been successful. They started with prices that were more palatable to those not used to paying for the kind of service Sucuri offers and then worked their way up as they had proven their value and built a loyal following.
The talk helped me see how a lot of advice I get, which I can see is probably totally correct might not yet be applicable to me. When someone gives me a great idea that I have no way of acting on, I need to not let that upset me. Instead, I can sit on it until I am ready.
San Diego Is Awesome
We stayed in a house that was at the top of a hill, every time we drove towards the venue we got a great view of downtown San Diego and the ocean. I had to laugh every time at how pretty this city is.
I’ve traveled a lot in the last few years, probably too much, but I have to say San Diego is one of the nicest cities I’ve been to. It’s pretty and the weather is great. Way to go San Diego. The event was held at a former naval base that was very nice and had a ton of great outdoor spaces.
Waves Were Made
WordCamp San Diego was a great experience and I had a blast. I am grateful to everyone who made it possible. Also, super impressed by San Diego, what a great city. I hope to be able to make it back next year.