I’ve always fancied going to a WordCamp conference but never known what to expect – or even what I would get out of it. I’ve been to other conferences before so I guess the format shouldn’t have surprised me – but I found it both fascinating and inspirational.
It was great to see so many people, from so many different countries, who are passionate about one of the things I am passionate about, gathered together in one place. It was also great to see all the awesome talks from people I have admired for years.
Across the 2 days I saw 12 different talks. They were of varying levels of quality but a few really stood out for me and I’ve highlighted them below.
Kim Gjerstad – Is the Freemium Model Right for your Plugin?
Kim was actually a stand in since Sean Herron who was meant to be presenting but was trapped in the USA (he works for the Whitehouse who are in lock down cos of weird government shutdown thing that is crazy).
Anyway – considering Kim stepped in at the last-minute he did a really engaging presentation going into the pros and cons and technical considerations of running a premium plugin business.
Vladimir Prelovac – A ManageWP Case Study
Like Kim, Vladimir was talking about his WordPress business (ManageWP) and how it grew. I found it particularly interesting how ManageWP look after customers (obsessively – even going so far as to invite some to their office!), and how they get feedback on their products (any way they can). Add to that things like pointing me to the One Metric that Matters and Net Promoter Score there was lots to learn.
Bram Duvigneau – Practical WordPress Accessibility
This one was the highlight for me. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the title – but it turned out to be a real eye opener. Bram is a blind web developer, and he did a short demo showing how he uses his computer and, more importantly for the attendees, how he browses the web.
It was absolutely fascinating. Bram uses a screen reader to navigate – running super fast. So fast that nobody could understand what was being said – he slowed it down so we could hear better, and added a text output overlay that displayed exactly what was being described (the speech was still running quite fast). He then showed how screen readers ‘display’ web content and what could be done to make it easier for disabled users to use.
One thing he said, that stood out to me, is that he didn’t think he was the best person to test website accessibility. In fact there is no best person. You simply have to test and test and react based upon feedback. For example, Bram is blind so when he uses a website he can suggest changes or improvements based upon what he can see with his screen reader – but if there is Flash content then he will not see it since screen readers don’t read them. Since he’s blind he wouldn’t know he’d missed a whole section of the page. Likewise sighted users can’t use a screen reader to test since we don’t use them every day and so won’t use them the way a blind/ otherwise disabled person would.
Noel Tock – Less is More: the Journey of Happytables as a WordPress SAAS
Obviously I had heard of Happytables but since I don’t run a restaurant I hadn’t bothered trying it out. I’m tempted to now though. The things they have brought to the WordPress SAAS style business are great. The big takeaway though, and I guess this applies to all SAAS businesses – is to focus 100% on making your customers successful. I know it should be obvious – but there’s all sorts of things they have implemented that actually help their customers to make their websites generate more income (and so encourage people to continue subscribing).
Joost de Valk: The Victory of the Commons
I’m sure everyone has heard of Joost and his WP SEO plugin. I run it on all my websites. His presentation was all about how we need to help WordPress to grow. There were actually a few people who mentioned similar things – but in essence – if we can help WordPress to grow, then everyone benefits. The more WordPress grows the more potential customers we will have.
You can view his presentation below – or read the story about it on his blog.
Since there were 2 tracks there’s 12 I didn’t get to see. I will be catching up on some of them as they’re added to wp.tv. In particular I’d like to see Ptah Dunbars presentation on Unit Testing, and Boone Gorges talk about BuddyPress. Nikolay Bachiyski did a presentation on OOP in WordPress which is also something I feel I should put some time into – there’s a collection of some of the presentations available on WordPress Tavern. Note that the WPTavern article was written by someone who didn’t go to WordCamp EU. They missed a lot of other outstanding presentations
Things I learned at WordCamp EU…
Well – I know I’m not very outgoing. This is a weakness I’m aware of. As such I approached very few people to talk – and I suspect I missed out on some opportunities to connect with people. I even had a few people send me tweets asking what I looked like so that they could chat. Some of them I met, and others I missed (so we’ll have to say hi another time).
So – for the next conference (WordCamp London next month) I need to plan a bit better and at least make sure I am around to chat with those who actually want to say hi. In fact – to force myself to talk to people – I have volunteered to help at the Happiness Bar. Hopefully they’ll accept me!
In addition – because of travel – I missed out on the WordCamp EU contributor day. This is an extra day where people help out with WordPress, either developing new functionality or testing things, or writing documentation. Anything that helps the software & community to improve. So for WCLDN I am going to make sure I am around for that as well.