Last year I attended WordCamp St. Louis 2014 and had so much fun I decided to give it another go this year.
Prior to attending the conference I subscribed to email updates on stlouis.wordcamp.org/2015. It was nice to get updates and learn about each speaker. This really helped in deciding who I wanted to check out.
This year the conference was 2 days with Saturday being the main conference and Sunday was the Community Day with a Kids Camp. More on that later. The tracks were broken up by developer and user with a developer/user round table and keynote speaker in the after lunch. There was a twist this year and the sessions moved much faster at 30 minutes. This seemed to make the conference flow nicely and attendees were more alert and engaged.
After a super quick and easy registration I entered the main auditorium where 300+ WordPress devotees gathered.
Aaron Graham gave a nice brief orientation and laid out the logistics and how things were going to go down over the next couple of days.
First off it was CAIN & OBENLAND IN THE MORNING! Both Michael Cain and Konstantin Obenland work for Automattic, the company behind WordPress and they put on a really funny morning show. Cain and Obenland were introduced and came down the steps giving everyone high fives. They gave a great talk and showcased how WordPress was being used all over the world to help the greater good. It was a nice touch to break up the show by adding guest to be interviewed. Mika (実佳) Ariela Epstein, better known as Ipstenu, the Half-Elf Support Rogue (halfelf.org) was nice enough to volunteer and fielded questions from the eager Automatticans. I was looking forward to checking out Mika’s keynote later in the day. Cain and Konstantin used multimedia to show funny videos including one where they asked different WordPress people if they wanted to be on the show and they all responded that they did NOT want to be on the show. It was hilarious especially when Matt Mullenweg (WordPress co-founder) said NO and the camera shutoff. One of the more hilarious parts came when Michael Cain would say “And we’re back!” after returning from a segment. I felt like he was channeling Jimmy Fallon. Maybe next time Cain and Obenland will dress up like this!
After a coffee refuel it was time to check out Ryan Markel who was talking about JetPack. Ryan was very entertaining and provided a great overview of all the features. He mentioned with Jetpack 3.4, we’ve added new security features to protect your Jetpack-connected WordPress sites from bot net attacks. We’ve also taken some first steps to create a simplified interface for how you interact with Jetpack. Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanmarkel.
At the end of the Jetpack session I saw Konstantin Obenland in attendance and knowing that he is a barbecue nut I asked him if he had tried Sugarfire Smoke House yet. He lit up and said “No, do you have a car?” A laughed and said I would be happy to go for BBQ run over break.
I am interested in finance so next it was off to checkout Heather Acton who was giving a talk on Financial Business Planning For Freelancers. Heather Acton is the founder of Helio Interactive, a WordPress-centric digital agency in Chicago, IL. Heather spent most of the time discussing a financial calculator tool that her husband built. At the end of Heather’s presentation she provided a Dropbox link to the Financial Business Planning tool.
Next it was Lucas Lima from Brazil who did an overview of Managing WordPress Projects. Lucas has a lot of positive energy and he clearly was having a great time in St. Louis. He was really funny and did an excellent presentation and talked a lot about communication and setting client’s expectations. Check out his slide deck here.
More coffee courtesy of Kaldi’s Coffee and then it was time for Atomic Design with WordPress with Joe McGill. Joe is a designer at Washington University in St. Louis and gave a fantastic presentation on Atomic design which was originally a concept Brad Frost adopted from NASA. Joe jokingly says…
“If it’s good enough for NASA, its probably good enough for you.”
In case you missed it here are Joe’s WordCamp St. Louis 2015 Slides.
Lunch time! Michael Cain, Konstantin Obenland and I piled in my MINI Cooper (even though Konstantin barely fit) and made that run previously mentioned to Sugarfire Smoke House and it was fantastic. Next year I think we need to step out and go to Adam’s Smokehouse.
After lunch I sat in on an informal Q & A with Konstantin Obenland and he fielded questions about WordPress. Mainly he was talking about Themes. He mentioned how you can use a starter theme such as Underscores when first getting started with writing a theme and how this can implement best practices and save a lot of development time.
Last year I met Will Hanke after exchanging some email and tweets but I failed to make it to his session. This year I was managed to stay for the late session of WordPress Search Engine Optimization and it was worth staying late for. Will gave a super informative straightforward overview and demystified a lot of the confusion around SEO. He mentioned how in April of 2015 Google was going to start penalizing for those websites that are not Mobile friendly. There were a ton of questions from the audience and a lot of iteration. Check out Will at Red Canoe Media.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review there was a Kids Camp this year so asked my son Aidan if he wanted to check it out and he agreed.
Chris Koerner and Eric Juden did an amazing job leading a class of about a dozen people. There were several girls and boys aged 8-12 and we spent the morning learning how to build a WordPress site and had a lot of fun doing it. My son Aidan had a great time.
It was really fun at the Kids Camp. We learned how to make a basic website. I knew most of it already since I’ve messed around with WordPress with my dad before. But it was fun learning the stuff I didn’t already know. – Aidan Jenney age 9.
Afterwards we were rewarded with delicious pizza from Pi Pizzeria… so good.
Hats off to all of the local and national WordPress folks that made WordCamp St. Louis March 14-15, 2015 a great success. Hope to do it all over again next year.
Related content: WordCamp St. Louis 2014 Review
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