WordCamp London 2013 Highlights

Written by Tom Greenwood - December 9, 2013

Article read time: 10 minutes

It has been a couple of weeks now since Vineeta, Ervin, Eugene and I attended the first ever WordCamp London, where Vineeta and I presented lightning talks on “How WordPress Changed M&S” and “The Future of the Visual Editor“.  We have finally got around to writing up a few notes on our highlights from the event.  I have put the shorterwrite ups first, but saved the best to last so scroll down to see Eugene’s brilliant write-up!

Vineeta’s WordCamp Highlights

WordCamp was overall a great success because it was the first time that the WordPress developers and WordPress makers met in London. It was buzzing with people full of knowledge and passion for WordPress.

Personally, I enjoyed Mike Little’s talk the most. It was fascinating hearing about how WordPress came into being thanks to a small group of enthusiasts trying to build something that they thought would be useful.  I also really enjoyed the talk from David Lockie on how WordPress can save the world.  The lightning talks were short and to the point, which I really enjoyed.

It was great to meet people from WordPress community who have made a great impact on our world by providing people across the globe a means to make a living and share important messages. There were so many people in one room that are thankful to the makers of WordPress, and that was evident.

Other highlights include:

  • Simon Dickson’s quirky cap with the WordPress logo made from buttons
  • Great T-shirts from various exhibitors
  • One year’s free hosting offer from Site Ground
  • Opportunity for Wholegrain to present two lightning talks
  • Hearing our lovely competitor Ilona from Moove Agency talking about ‘Experiences in running a WordPress Agency’
Vineeta pineed a WordPress badge to her WordCampname card
Vineeta’s pimped up WordCamp name badge

Ervin’s WordCamp Highlights

There were several interesting things presented at WordCamp London for the developer.  MP6 is an experimental plugin with a new admin UI.  As far as I remember, new admin features are tested in this plugin before implementing them to the main trunk.  We look forward to the new look WordPress coming soon.

Debugging WP by Mario Peshev was very interesting and listed many tools such as including a few WordPress plugins such as:

These plugins give us info on performance, too. So that can be used for site optimization, too.  Remember that they need to be de-activated after development ends.

Hristo Panadarov gave an interesting presentation called Need for Speed in which he gave a lot of good advice for improving the speed of WordPress sites.  Everything is on the slides here: http://www.slideshare.net/siteground

Tom’s WordCamp Highlights

There were a lot of great people at WordCamp London and tonnes of great ideas, tools and tips to take in.  The main highlight for me was hearing the story WordPress co-founder Mike Little.  We heard the human side of a regular guy who through his talent and enthusiasm helped to change the internet and the world.  Everyone who uses WordPress has a lot to thank him for, or though I think he’d be too modest to admit it.

Mark Jaquith also provoked thought with his honest account of how he led the development of WordPress 3.6, warts and all, highlighting the benefits of a more modular, agile production process that is now reaping benefits in the development of 3.7 and 3.8.

Austin Smith from Alley Interactive gave us some really nice insights into the process of developing big media sites like the New York Post using WordPress.  The intense migration and training process for a media site that is continuously publishing new content was really fascinating.

Sam Hotchkiss from Brute Protect gave a really clear and succinct overview of WordPress security fundamentals.

Finally, David Lockie inspired us to harness the power of WordPress to make the world a better place.  This is something that is all too easy to forget in our busy and hectic lives.  I have written a follow up post on Can WordPress Save the World here.

Overall it was a great event and very well organised.  The only thing that I really felt was missing was more presentations targeted at the WordPress user community instead of the designer and developer community.  Hopefully next year we’ll see more user focussed content on the schedule.

Eugene’s WordCamp Highlights

What a wonderful experience, waking up at 6 am didn’t really bother me much, quite the contrary, I couldn’t wait to get the day under way. It was so exciting I don’t know where to start from.

First and foremost I felt I was part of history making, the first ever WordCamp in London, I got to say thanks to Siobhan McKeown and Keith Devon for organizing it. I bet it must have been very challenging considering the budget guidelines they needed to play within. Look forward to #2.

It was good to finally put a face to a name or a Gravatar. More often than not we deal with names and tags, it was nice to experience the human side of such a digitally based industry. It was like a game of ‘match this face’.

I felt particularly proud of taking part since I volunteered. I decided to do that because the WordPress community gave me a lot, last but not least a job I love I can make a living out of it. I was lucky enough to be given a steward position who helped with registration in the morning. Among the many people I signed in there were Mike Little, Mark Jaquith (who had a totally different haircut from his Gravatar, I didn’t recognize him at first), Daniel Dudzic of WooThemes and Ilona Filipi of Moove Agency.

It was particularly nice to volunteer with people like Graham Armfield, Wesley Burden, Sam Sidler and Rob Cubbon.

The venue was amazing (Bishopsgate Institute), when I heard about the Victorian building I thought it would have been quirky but cold, draughty and a little stale. That was actually far from the truth, the building was very warm, well lit, spacious, comfortable and it felt modern with a Victorian twist. I heard someone complaining about the WiFi but I’ve been so busy listening and talking to people all day that I didn’t need that feature in the first place.

Despite being a volunteer I was actually an agency member in disguise. I’m a project manager for Wholegrain Digital. The other members of the agency also took part, Tom and Vineeta Greenwood (directors) and Ervin Domonkos (lead developer).

With regards of the talks, I haven’t been very lucky or indeed clever. I missed the first two because of my volunteer role. Then the first talk I went to, ‘The magic of WordPress’ by Andrew Nacin, was a little over the top for me, too technical I would say. I should have really gone for Rachel McCollin‘s ‘Responsive Theming’.

I particularly enjoyed the following talk by Hristo Pandzharov about ‘Need for Speed’. It’s very true, you can have some oozing content onto an amazing looking design but if the whole thing is not delivered in a timely fashion the visitors of that website will be put off and might never be back. There are many ways to optimize someone’s website and I look forward to explore each and everyone in details.

Mike Little’s talk was the best of the day. Way too often we forget that behind any plugin, any theme, any website there is a human being with a story to tell. Mike shared with us his human experience with WordPress since day 1, 10 years ago and a little background before that. His ride has been rough at times but his passion for helping people and solving problems made him the twin pillar of WordPress. This was a very inspirational talk. Regardless how technically good you might be, if you lack drive, enthusiasm, commitment and good will you won’t go too far. It was also good to know we share something more than WordPress as his passion for music it’s a essential part of his life as much as it is in mine. Mike – thanks for being such a great source of inspiration.

A quick note about the catering, I was impressed with the quality of the food both at the venue and at the pub. I’ve gone to some IT events in the past and the lunch bags were just lame.

The after break talk was by Mark Jaquith, a lead developer of the WordPress core, who talked about his experience leading the development and launch of 3.6. Rather than a technical talk, this was a one about time and resource management. As I experience everyday, work estimation is extremely difficult as often we get to work on briefs we’ve never done before.

The WordCamp also featured some lightning talks, 5 minutes presentations no questions asked. This was extremely dynamic as you get to hear many different people and topics in a short time, they were all good in their own rights. The directors of the agency I work for – Wholegrain Digital – took the stage as well. Vineeta Greenwood talked about ‘How WordPress changed Marks and Spencer’ and Tom Greenwood about ‘What is the future of the visual editor?’, I’m very curious to see how the latter topic evolves as I genuinely agree with Tom, there is a large margin for improvement needed.

I also found of particular interest ‘UI guidelines for plugin developers’ by Kim Gjerstad, he also recommended to read the book ‘Don’t Make Me Think’ by Steve Krug. Usability is one of the topics I enjoy the most because I strongly believe a website visitor’s experience should be smooth and meaningful.

After the break for cake the talk I looked forward to the most took place. Ilona Filipi, one of the director of Moove agency, shared with us ‘Do’s and dont’s of running a WordPress agency’. It was interesting to get a small insight of the way they developed and now run a business. As Vineeta said, ours is a healthy rivalry where we push each other to deliver better websites and better service. What I learnt was that 1) they are doing something right since they grew in organic at a steady pace since they started 3 and half years ago 2) they really take extra care in training new members of staff 3) they go the extra mile on any projects as part of their philosophy.

The following talk: ’10 Ways That WordPress Can Make the World a Better Place’ by David Lockie fell a little short for me. I only recall 3 valid points after what it appeared to be mainly a presentation about himself. Those points were 1) getting the big companies to use WordPress 2) make a small donation to the people looking after the open source code any time you use it 3) improve your skills to be a better web master. Nevertheless it was positive message and one that we should not take for granted.

The last talk of the day for me was ‘On Learning’ by Nikolay Bachiyski. I’m a little obsessed with the topic since I believe keep on learning is the best ageing prevention technique and it’s also a basic requirement of the IT industry. I also missed out a lot when I was young for some reasons, thus I find any talk about learning and or self improvement very fascinating. Nikolay taught me that the best way to learn should be deliberate & non-productive. What I think he meant, is that we should learn in an academic way and not in a real production environment. I don’t necessarily agree with this concept. As he also said, learning by doing might be an effective way of doing it. I reckon it depends very much by the individuality of the learner and the topic. I like to test myself how I best learn things and … I’m still learning.

It was somehow disappointing not to see a closing event talk to wrap it up. Siobhan did officially thank everyone but I was hoping for something more interactive and formal.

The after event party was a very good occasion to debrief and network with people. Tom, Vineeta, Ervin and I finally had sometimes to talk about what was that we enjoyed the most. Among others it was good to bump into Humberto Suastegui, who’s here for a PhD and back home in Mexico City he runs a WordPress agency. Remkus de Vries was so keen on Wholegrain Digital t-shirt slogan (Open Eyes, Ears, Minds, Hearts, Source) that he took a picture for future reference. I finally get to meet Sara Rosso, who works at WordPress VIP but I was mostly curious to know why someone from California would live in Milan (I was born there and I don’t like it as much). Good to hear Elzette Roelofse and Sonja Leix sharing their passion for travelling and web design.

I’m sorry to say I had neither physical strength nor room left in my brain for the Contributor Day. I wish I would have gone, even only to stand in a corner, just to soak up the atmosphere of people working on such a large project with massive impact on the globe.

What I learnt from WordCamp London 2013 is:

  1. I’m in the right industry with the right platform and the right people.
  2. There should have been more interaction between attendees, such workshops. They should have included Friday in the event.
  3. WordPress have done a lot for many but it’s now time to step up the game. There are lots of things that can be improved.
  4. I’m proud to work with one of the best WordPress agency in London and the brightest people.
  5. I want more, I can’t wait for the next event and 24 hours in a day are not enough.

I hope you found this somehow informative.