WordCamp Birmingham (UK) 2015 happened last weekend, and seems to have been a great success for all concerned, putting the Birmingham WordPress community in, if you’ll excuse the pun, bullish mood. I certainly enjoyed myself. The event reignited my passion for WordPress and web-work in general, answering a few questions, confirming a few biases and giving me new energy and contacts. For anyone involved in WordPress, whether as a developer, designer, site manager or content creator, I would heartily recommend getting along to your nearest WordCamp. They tend to cater for all tastes and areas of this kind of work, and, as with most conferences and meet-ups, the most interesting conversations occur at the margins outside the programmed content.
But that’s another story. I thought here I’d gather all of the most relevant online stuff I can find from the event: slides of the talks, comments from myself on those talks I attended, comments and a sense of the buzz from others, as well as some of the photos available online. This will be a multi-part post, and in this one I’ll focus on day one.
For programmed content, there were three tracs: Explore, Innovate, and Think & Smile, which I suppose maps roughly to beginner, intermediate/advanced, and workshops respectively, although the distinction between the first two tracs wasn’t to me as clear as it might have been.
Improving the UX of Search in WP – Steven Jones
Explore began with a round-up of ways to improve WordPress search. Steven covered the basic details of what content types WP’s native search queries. I had a specific question about how to index and search any pdf documents in the media library, and was directed by Steven to Search WP, a premium plugin which does indeed advertise this functionality. It was pointed out afterwards that Steven did not mention google custom search, which would also be an option for the lazy, or budget-conscious, developer, or site manager.
Turbo-speed your WordPress website! – Mike Pead
Meanwhile in Innovate, Mike Pead looks at caching, minifying and so on. I can’t find any online content for this talk, but Mike has tweeted that slides will be online soon:
Slides from my talk on boosting your website's loading speed will be online in the next couple of days! Mike 🙂 pic.twitter.com/MsZjB10S6L
— Primary Image (@primaryimage) February 7, 2015
And it sounds like it contained some useful tips and tricks, so I look forward to that.
Theme Building Tricks of the Trade –Jonny A
Here’s Jonny’s slides for those interested in theming with confidence:
Get Your Git On – Matt Radford
Innovate continued with an engaging talk on how Matt’s team has integrated version control and attacked the problems of syncing between dev, stage and production versions of their WP-powered products. Here’s the slides:
Training Clients on how to use WordPress – Brian Duffy
This seems to be one of the most talked about presentations of the weekend. An unpromisingly uncontroversial, if important, subject turned out to be a passionate argument in favour of consolidation over innovation as a priority for the WP community. Brian argued that Matt Mullenweg’s aim of growing WP to power 50% of active websites needs to be achieved through training. He used the analogy of MS Word. How did MS Word become the standard for word processing software? By MicroSoft aggressively going to businesses, educational institutions, and other organsisations, talking up the benefits of the software and offering training on how to use it. Brian argued that we need to do the same for WordPress, and encourage adoption of it as a new standard for web publishing. Without such consolidation, Brian argued, some big company might well introduce a product that can steal WP’s current >20% share of the web from under us if we are not careful. He mentioned that there are already many cheap or gratis WYSIWYG web publishing platforms competing with WP out there, all of which offer people cheaper and easier ways to screw up web design. It was an impassioned plea I think for us to stand strong in our professionalism and not deny that good web design isn’t easy, it’s hard. But with WP, and good WP training, we can help people realise successful websites.
Making WordPress realtime –Josh Hillier
Another much talked-about presentation, Josh explores the cutting edge of using WP as a platform for modern web applications that deal with ‘real time’ data. Here’s the slides:
While all this was going on WP co-creator Mike Little hosted a two hour workshop in Think & Smile with a Hands-on introduction to WordPress. This is kind of like going to a conference on electrical engineering and having Tesla himself as a workshop tutor, so must have been a boon for all concerned.
Catering for WordPress – Kirsty Burgoine
First after lunch, Kirsty spoke about her major project MyEChef, a portal and network for catering professional, built on the WordPress multi-site platform. This complex project certanly seemed to impress Mike Little, WP co-creator, who was watching and congratulated Kirsty on wrangling WP Multisite in such a way.
Content manage everything! – Mark Wilkinson
Meanwhile, Innovate had a great talk on customising WP’s content management on the back end to handle the different types of content individual projects might require. Here’s the slides:
Building a business by using WordPress as an application framework for universities – Nathan Monk
This talk concerned the application Nathan and his team have built for Birmingham University, providing an online open day to cater for potential students from far away who may not be able to visit in person. It’s an impressive piece of work and Nathan has given talks on it before, including at the Brum WordPress meet-up. Here’s a prior YouTube video discussing the app.
Mind your Language! A practical guide to implementing ‘proper’ language encoding on multilingual WordPress websites – Belinda Mustoe, Doug Lawrence
This sounded interesting but I wasn’t able to attend as I was volunteering in the Explore trac to keep speakers on-time. I can’t find anything online about it, but here’s a link to the WordPress resource on WP internationalisation and translation.
WOW Plugins 2015 – Kimb Jones
Maeanwhile Kimb gave his regular talk on his pick of the plugins. Here’s the slides of the 2013 version:
Automate & Integrate WP with Other Applications Jason King
Jason’s talk provided one of the quotes of the weekend when he defined an API as when one application loves another very much, and “they give each other a special hug”. Here’s the slides on this talk with wide appeal.
Finally in Explore we had some lightning talks, including Mark Wilkinson on front-end editing in WP, specifically editing user profiles, especially useful when developing applications for users who may not need access to the back-end dashboard, but still need to able to edit their personal profiles. Slides:
As well as a useful talk by Chelsea Haden on “customer profiling”, similar to what I have elsewhere heard described as developing ‘personas’, as a tool for creating successful content.
Update: Chelsea has written a blog post inspired by her talk. Also, Mike Wilkinson has produced a blog post outlining both his talks.
How to build better businesses for your customers – Mike Killen
This all-afternoon workshop sounded great, and resources, including slides and an audio recording, are available at the low cost of your email address here.
For more about Saturday’s events, you could do worse than to check out Claire Brotherton’s post on her site.
And so, to the social, for falling down, passes and interesting conversations. And that was Saturday.
Stay tuned for part two!