WordCamp Europe 2014 took place last weekend in Sofia, Bulgaria. It was a city I’ve been to before and the first time wasn’t that great, however this visit was a lot of fun, with a lot of learning and hanging with some great talent in the WordPress Community. I travelled alone, though never ate, drank or was alone, thanks to the wonderful community.
Whilst the weekend featured a great contributor day, an amazing “Paintball of Nations” (which saw the UK/Russia/Ukraine team finish a respectable third place), and a walking tour organised by my good self which – despite the weather – was great, this post focusses on the talks and what was learned in the conference. Unfortunately, “Jet Lag” meant I missed a few talks, but for the ones I attended, here are some notes.
Why sometimes happiness requires effort: depression in IT – Yana Petrova (@ypetrova)
One of the most interesting talks that I wanted to see was Yana Petrova talking about an important subject that is prevalent in IT – Depression. Depression – as Yana said – “killed more people than bad cooking”, and it was interesting that the talk at the end became like a help group. It was fascinating. Yana gave her tips on how to become aware of depression, and how to help overcome it, as most people experience depression once in their lifetime. Yana recommended two books – If You Meet Buddha on the Road, Kill Him & The Other Side of Sadness.
- The first awareness people have of depression is when something is more important than yourself.
- Take a deep breath – Breathing exercises can help you relax.
- Find time for friends, and yourself. Never give away that time.
- Make Lists for yourself & Provide small wins
- Think about your thinking – this takes time, and patience.
- Learn to listen (you can empower people by listening to them), and learn to share.
WordPress: Bringing Ideas to Live – Siobhan McKeown (@SiobhanPMcKeown)
The second talk I saw was Siobhan McKeown was talking about the philophies behind WordPress. The talk was about the power behind WordPress, who has it, and why. It was a fascinating insight into the code, and the reason why developers work to improve the users. Siobhan mentioned the Moveable Type change from a user led philosophy to a developer led philosophy which caused a mass migration to WordPress, and the concept behind WordPress was three ideals – freedom, power & simplicity.
- The liberty of users must depend on the restraint of developers.
- Developers solve problems so that users don’t have to.
- Among competing philosophies select one with the fewest assumptions.
- Design for the majority – make it is easy to use for as many people as possible.
- In a good piece of software all decisions are already made.
Inside Underscores – Konstantin Oberland (@obenland)
Konstantin’s talk focussed on the Underscores project, a project started at Automattic to help WordPress developers develop themes. The talk focussed on the growth of the project, and where it is going in the future.
- Themes shouldn’t have options that affect the front end of the site.
- 1 in 9 themes downloaded from Underscores use Sass.
- Underscores is responsive as there isn’t any styling that makes it unresponsive.
- 350,000 downloads of an unusable theme – and if it was in the repository it would be the 4th most downloaded theme.
Post-Modern WordPress – Andrew Nacin (@nacin)
Andrew Nacin’s talk was the first talk after lunch on the first day. He introduced the concept of Post-Modern WordPress, a concept that where will WordPress goes after becoming a CMS. The talk was all about removing the complexities from WordPress, to encourage more people to develop in WordPress. He explained some new things that are happening in WordPress, including Custom Term Meta Data and a a Rest API.
- WordPress has helped users and developers do things, including make developers.
- WordPress is a gateway drug for web development, due to it’s low barriers to entry.
- One way to bring developers into the fold is improving develop education.
- API inconsistencies are the software equivalent of death by a thousand cuts.
Rethinking Content Creation – Adrian Zumbrunnen (@azumbrunnen_)
This was quite an interesting presentation, that unfortunately I’m not going to due it justice. Adrian shared FrontKit, his front-end editor for WordPress. It is a sleek flow, and allows some great features, such as parallax imaging. I strongly suggest checking it out.
- Showing a product to an audience is like telling somebody you love them.
- Creating a good publishing experience is essential, as it enables people to use their web their way.
- CMS creation will always be evolving, so we need to think in components.
Developers, Get Curious About WordPress Core – Helen Hou-Sandí (@helenhousandi)
Helen’s talk (her first time in Europe – welcome!) centred around WordPress core, and how to use WordPress core to fix problems that you have. It was a much needed reminder as I do discover functions, actions and hooks in WordPress’ core on how to fix things, so rather than reinvent the wheel writing code, there could be something in core that helps you. All you need to do is check.
- Try to use the same naming and coding conventions as core to save writing code.
- If you are not embarrassed by your old code, you’re not learning enough.
- By staying curious where we came from, we can know where we go next.
How to be a WordPress Freelance Consultant or Die Trying – Rocío Valdivia (@rociovaldi)
Rocío Valivia’s talk surrounding freelancing. Most developers end up freelancing at some point in their lives, either as a full time job or part time, either as a stop gap or a long time goal. Rocío talked about her time as her freelancer (as she now works for Mailpoet), and things that she learned from that time.
- WordPress is a very big world, be a specialist will help you stand out.
- The best thing you can say as a freelancer is “No, thank you.”
- You only have one battery, a bad customer can sap it.
Running an Open Source Business – Simon Wheatley (@simonwheatley)
Simon’s talk was interesting, as he talked about how contributing to WordPress has lead to clients coming to them. By contributing to WordPress, Simon is effectively helping his clients, but still runs a successful business, as reputation is important. The internet is a giant copying machine, that allows sharing of information. We need to swim with the tide. Open Source has changed the business game, from looking at extracting as much from the market, to one that gives a lot more than it takes. In open source software, everybody gets the product. Companies compete to provide services.
- Many people started using WordPress because of it is free and it has freedoms.
- Share one idea, people will think you have two.
- Stand your ground. Make sure that client knows they cannot own their code.
- Next time somebody wants to own your code, ask them why.
- How you differentiate from everybody – charge for your expertise and experience.
- To differentiate from everybody else, you contribute, collaborate & release.
After lunch on the Sunday was the Matt Mullenweg Q + A session. He was joined on stage by Om Malik, for a question and answer session. Half the session was Om discussing with Matt some new features for WordPress, and where it is going (which seemed like feature requests from Om!), as well as some of the challenges of the last 11 years.
- A lot of features that WordPress have other solutions have, but don’t have the community.
- Everybody acting in their own self interest, can benefit the community.
- The big thing for Automattic was to decide on what not to do when it was formed.
- Looking at an Open Source company, you could see what the future of work will be.
- Best thing that European companies can do is stop comparing themselves to US companies.
- What makes the internet is decentralisation, at the moment we are at a low point of decentralisation with Twitter & Facebook.
The Devastating Power of Defaults – Joost de Valk (@yoast)
Joost’s talk centred around defaults, and how plugins can improve usage for humans. This was due to the change in userbase of his WordPress SEO plugin from SEO’s to general users. This causes underutilisation of some features. For example: Open Graph (switched on by default) is enabled on 81.9% of tracked data, whereas Twitter Card data (switched off by default) is off for over 90% of all installations. Joost then talked about how to gameify, internationalise and dynamic defaults your plugins, and encouraged us to track all data. He has open sourced his tracking code.
- You should be striving for the best product you can.
- Your software is only as good as the defaults it ships with.
- On Boarding – such as a tour – can be great to humanise plugins.
- If WordPress is to be serious as a CMS, it needs to be able to set static pages as a home page as default.
- Gameify your plugins – if you’ve tried to get the green dot on WordPress SEO, I’ve gameified you.
- If it is a setting, can you auto detect what it should be?
Why Don’t You Do WordPress For Yourself – Kimb Jones (@mkjones)
Kimb Jones’ talk was a very personal talk on how he started freelancing, and all the mistakes he made along the way. He also focussed on what he was good at, as well as how he got the boot up the bum to do it. He also mentioned his pricing structures, for high value clients, standard clients and undesirable clients. It was a very inspiring talk and do encourage you to check it out.
- Embrace the unknowns – there are a lot of them when you are working for yourself.
- Your ideas will kill you. Focus on what you are good at.
- Hang with the right people, as you’ll learn from them.
- Don’t Rush – Invest in yourself and it makes your decision easier.
- Know the platform, and love the platform.
- You’re either a genius or an idiot if you build your own CMS, choose wisely.
Gestalt Design Principles for Developers – Davide Casali (@Folletto)
The final talk of the day was Davide Casali’s talk about design principles for developers. Creating a design is hard, but applying a design only needs to support a few things. As such, Davide talked us through the interfaces of various brands, that could help you create designs quickly and easily.
- Law of continuation – Intersecting objects tend to be perceived as a single, uninterrupted object.
- Closure – Our mind will try to completed an incomplete visual stimulus to promote regularity.
- Proximity – Elements close together will be perceived as a whole.
- Law of Similarity – Similar looking elements will be perceived as a whole
- Focal Point – Different or unique element will gain more prominence.
- Grids are great as they do some of these laws automatically if you follow them.
- Global consistency trumps local optimisation.
- You don’t need pixel-perfection, you need gestalt-perfection.
So there were my tips, what about yours? Leave yours below in the comments as well as your thoughts on what was an amazing weekend.