Last weekend, Jeff and I had the opportunity to participate in the inaugural WordCamp US. This was the first national WordPress related conference of its kind and it was located in the wonderful city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This was one of the most incredible experiences of our lives as it gave us a wider perspective into just how amazing the WordPress community is.
Upon entering the conference building, which is huge and beautiful by the way, we were greeted with a packed room full of vendors giving out all sorts of free stuff. The t-shirt count before leaving was around 6 shirts for each of us and at least 100 stickers. We also got some really cool beanies and official t-shirts for attending. It was very interesting to interact with employees who work for some of the companies we regularly do business with. The Yoast crew was there and we got to meet Taco Verdo, who gave me a Yoast Lego figure. If you want some stickers, hit us up.
Pro Tip: If you ever attend a conference of this size, make sure you bring a backpack with you because you are going to need it to carry all the awesome stuff you get!
There were a lot of amazing speakers this year. A couple of them were people I have talked to in some capacity online, so it was really cool to talk to them in person. Some of our favorites included Chris Wiegman’s talk about WP-CLI, a way to manage websites through the command line, Tracey Rotton’s presentation on a modern developer’s workflow, and Scott Taylor’s speech about the New York Times’ live coverage platform.
Accessibility, making sure your website is useable to people with certain disabilities, was also a theme at many of the sessions. While not a requirement on websites unless they are for the government, it may not be long until there is at least some bare minimum level of needs that a site must meet.
At one of the presentations we were given a little advice that we would also like to pass along to everyone, “White Space is Not A Missed Opportunity”. We try to drive that point home when we are designing sites and it can sometimes be a very difficult message to convey. You don’t need lots of fancy doodads, just give ’em what they need!
Another big announcement we heard quite a bit about was the REST API. In non-geek, it is a simple way to connect to the data of a website without loading it. This is quite an important change because it allows WordPress sites to act as a database for things like apps. The New York Times has already been doing something similar for a while and we expect to see more sites doing very similar integrations in the future.
We have actually done something very similar using the rest api for the Find Art Doors project. There is a custom post type that a user can input data for the doors on the map such as the coordinates, a picture , some descriptive text, and other attributes. Once it is published it will display on the map.
For me, this section of the conference really hit home and made me realize just how much WordPress matters to the world, especially since it powers over 25% of the internet. Furthermore, I think that we will start seeing WordPress in some pretty interesting places where you would least likely expect it, such as major news sites, e-commerce, and more.
We also learned that the next WordCamp US will be held at the same place next year, which is exciting because it means attending is a no-brainer!
No conference would be complete without an official after party. The location was Lucky Strike, a multi-level bowling alley only a few blocks from the convention center. There was plenty of ping-pong (sorry Jeff, 21-5) and bowling to be had, as well as food and drinks. A few of our friends met up with us and we proceeded to hang out for the night. Once the party was over, we went for a quick walk over to City Hall and got to see some ice-skating and a pretty cool looking Christmas tree.
Oh yeah, we also had the opportunity to have a photo-op with the man himself, Matt Mullenweg (thanks, Matt!)!
We’ll definitely be attending next year. If you are a WordPress developer, there really isn’t a reason not to go. You’ll certainly learn a lot. But more importantly, you will meet a lot of very interesting and intelligent people. The community is one of the most important aspects of what makes the WordPress ecosystem strong.