This past Saturday I worked the CloudU booth at San Antonio's WordCamp 2015 in San Antonio. This is a conference for all things Wordpress. There were developers, marketers and bloggers in attendance. People were there to learn more about Wordpress and how they could better use the technology.
Wordpress is probably the most popular content management system in use today. According to the stats from the opening keynote, Wordpress powers "over 60% of the top 10 million websites using an available CMS (23% of the top 10 million websites overall)." Although these conferences had been held in other cities including Austin, this was San Antonio's first for this user group.
In this post I am going write about what I saw at the conference and what I would like to see at future conferences.
What I Saw
The first thing you notice is that people were genuinely excited about being there. At the conference I saw a good deal of passion for the code, deploying the code and how to be better users. The people there really embrace the software. I didn't hear one disparaging remark about the code base itself.
Many were seeking how to adapt it more. Some were running static pages and looking to leverage Wordpress to take their site to the next level. Others were looking to know more about the tool they were already using. All-in-all they were passionate about getting more from this content management system.
Attendees were seeking a deeper knowledge on Wordpress usage. First thing to mention is the software. Many had questions about what's new in Wordpress. They were sharing stories about plugins, themes and lessons learned.
Next, caching and page load times was a hot topic. Anthony Burchell provided more advanced technical knowledge as he shared how to use caching both internally and externally. From past experiences at similar conferences I have found that topics around faster page load times are always popular. Anthony is known as the Wordpress guy at Rackspace and a new plug-in he introduced was the caching plugin using Redis.
I was able to peek into the Zero to WordPress talk led by Michele Butcher. It was a packed room as many were anxious to learn about the basics of Wordpress. Many that I talked to said they were really looking forward to that talk as they wanted to get in on the ground floor of what running Wordpress was all about.
Garrett Heath's talk titled Things I’ve Learned from 5+ Years of Blogging was another event that was standing room only. Garrett shared what he has learned about maintaining SA Flavor, his local blog on San Antonio food and culture. He states that, "While WordPress has made it easier than ever for people to get their thoughts out there, aspiring bloggers often start with a lot of gusto and quickly abandon their blogs." He stressed the importance of writing on a regular basis and the telling stories. When you do that the audience will continue to come back for more. Another key take away was that your blog is your resume. That means when people look at you (or your resume) they will also look up what you have written or contributed.
Finally, for the talks I wasn't able to attend, I was able to catch a few tweets. I saw where the Wordpress troubleshooting talk had some good advice. Basically, if you are having trouble with your site, it might be best to deactivate all the plug-ins and toggle them one at a time. This helps isolate the issue. You can then see if it is something you need and if so, find a replacement plugin. I know from experience that this is a common issue when Wordpress gets updated and the plugins do not. Another consideration might be re-installing Wordpress altogether. However, before you do make sure you have a backup of your site (all Wordpress content) and your database. These are the two vital pieces to restoring a Wordpress configuration.
What I Would Like to See
Discussions around Scaling
Scaling a Wordpress site presents its own unique challenges when it comes to caching and administration. Although it was mentioned briefly in Drew Cox's talk about conducting your own Wordpress fire drill, scaling a site for appropriate traffic loads is an important consideration. As traffic increases, your infrastructure needs to grow or adapt as well. Then as the traffic subsides, resources should be scaled back. I don't imagine a discussion on this topic would require its own time slot. However, it would be wise to have it included in a talk around important things to know such as load testing, administration and the like.
Redundancy and Availability
There was no real mention of building a Wordpress configuration that is redundant and highly available. Most attendees, I gathered after speaking to them, were using a platform as a service or PaaS. All were concerned about uptime and availability. Those that were using PaaS, the infrastructure pieces are managed by their providers. However, for other people running Wordpress on servers, physical or cloud, it's important to have a site that can be or is replicated to other infrastructure. That way, should something fail, minimal downtime is encountered as a switch over takes place.
Finally, many people who attended WordCamp were there to better their knowledge around building sites where they had things to sell. It is true that most were there seeking information to run Wordpress as a blog. However, a good number of people, 30% by my guesstimate, I spoke with were developers who were writing themes for clients to sell their goods and services. In a quick search I found that there are at least twenty different plugins for Wordpress shopping and commerce. An initial look at which plugins are commonly used or how to use Wordpress for eCommerce in general, I feel, would be of enormous value for attendees of future Wordcamp events.
Wordcamp 2015 did help many find the answers to what they were seeking. Whether it is security or a better way to educate their staff for updates to come, any knowledge was greatly appreciated. It's clear that Wordpress is moving ahead at a rapid pace. The Wordpress community I saw was a vibrant, helpful bunch. They are dedicated professionals on a mission to tell a great story. If code is poetry as is says on the Wordpress website, then these individuals are true artists.
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So, what do you think? Did I miss anything? Is any part unclear?