Recap: WordCamp Grand Rapids, Day 1


WordCamp Grand Rapids day one is complete — barring the after party of course, but details of those are never published anyhow. For the tl;dr folks out there: this was a great first WordCamp event put on by a group that obviously understands event organization and WordCamps with a group of speakers that would rival some older camps. Nearly everything that could have gone right went right.

For those willing to read a bit more, continue on. The speaker’s notes and slides are linked up below as well, including further thoughts on the events and the presentations I sat in on.

Speaker presentations

I’ll be updating the list with further slides and notes as they are posted and available.

The developer track speaker notes and slides were:

The theme track speaker notes and slides were:

The community track speaker notes and slides were:

  • Justin Razmus: Using WordPress to Start and Grow Your Business
  • Kimanzi Constable: How to Keep Them Coming Back for More
  • Paul Kortman: Stop Selling SEO — Slides on Slideshare
  • John James Jacoby: BuddyPress or bbPress? Which to Use and Why.
  • Benjamin Lotter: Getting Started with Video Blogging
  • Tharon Rodriguez: Getting Familiar with PODS
  • Timothy Burns: Social Media Broadcasting — Using Online Tools and Metrics to Build Your Tribe

The user track speaker notes and slides were:

Presentations I attended

I attended a session or two every hour, minus the hour that I gave my talk about WordPress themes. First up was Jonathan Calvin’s in the theme track, who everyone was really bummed for because his car was broken into this morning and his laptop was stolen. So, unfortunately, his talk — on CSS3 and using it in WordPress themes — was mostly on-the-fly and in response to questions. It was a great talk, particularly considering the limitations he was put under — and dealing, no doubt, with the frustration of losing a computer that way.

Above: Brian Richards giving the opening words at WordCamp Grand Rapids 2012. Right after he announced his candidacy for president, by the looks of it.

I spoke next, and then after chatting it up in the hallways came back just in time to see Jake Caputo using me as a stand-in for an annoying customer’s support questions during his talk about supporting a commercial theme user base. That was pretty funny, although a bit creepy in how well the joke was timed.

I enjoyed Jake’s talk, particularly because I don’t think I’ve seen support talked about from a commercial theme developer’s perspective before. He explained the reasoning well, and how to effectively do it, though really my takeaway was learning that the bulk of his customers are turning around and using his themes on client sites rather than using the themes themselves. I’ve heard this sort of thing quite a bit from those who sell commercial themes, and I’m beginning to wonder how much bigger a lot of theme shop’s businesses would be if they could find a way to sell directly to the end user. Food for thought, I suppose.

Above: Jake Caputo presenting, mere moments after making me his example obnoxious customer in a screenshot.

After lunch I sat in on Web Apps for the Masses, a presentation by David Tufts where he talked about building web applications on top of WordPress and used his KickPress project as an example. It was interesting to hear about their experiences building on top of WordPress that way, and will be very excited to see them launch their (paid, I believe) product before too long.

Above: David Tufts talking about KickPress and how to take advantage of “The WordPress App Stack”.

Above: Pippin Williamson talking about making smarter plugins.

During the 2pm hour I was torn between Pippin’s Extensible Plugins and Chip’s Developing Child Theme-Friendly Themes. In the end I sat through the first half of Pippin’s and the last half of Chip’s. The funny thing is, and perhaps this was by design, they were each talking about the same thing — extending another person’s codebase, or rather making your own codebase something others can extend — but were talking about it in regards to plugins and themes, respectively.

I’ve been beginning to build my own plugins to work together, so hearing a few tips from Pippin about how to go about it, and the various ways to consider going about it, was super useful for me and I’ll use his tips in the immediate future. Like, tomorrow.

My favorite part of Chip’s presentation was when he talked about how to write out theme options for a theme in such a way that a child theme (or plugin, really) can filter them and add, subtract, or modify what they are entirely. Just think of it: there could exist a plugin strictly for the purposes of making crazy theme options panels go away. Oh, the possibilities.

I enjoyed Brad Parbs and his presentation in the theme room toward the end of the day, particularly when the room became part of the discussion and various war stories and client tales were shared from those in the room about their responsive site designs. It’s impossible to argue against the importance of responsive designs and media queries nowadays, but the exact implementation and problem solving that is needed is what makes this topic so fascinating to me. I’ll be seeking him out soon to discuss this one some more.

Finally, I wrapped up my day of sessions with Reid Peiffer in the theme track (yes, I hung out there for most of the day) where he talked about web design patterns, and how they apply to the WordPress theme industry. What I liked about his discussion was that, though it’s clear that design patterns are everywhere — sometimes to a comical degree — that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Instead, he said, see that as an opportunity to work within the conventions and spend your time instead to create interesting things within the expected layouts.

For instance, one example he showed was for a zoo and had a small cartoon dinosaur at the bottom of the page that had taken a big bite out of the footer background area. Clever things like that, he said, is what we miss out on when we get too fixated on making something super original across the board. Of all the slides I saw today, Reid’s are the ones I’m looking forward to grabbing and sitting down with to look through again.

(Kind of) final thoughts on Grand Rapids

Obviously there is still another day of WordCamp tomorrow, specifically a Study Hall day. I’ll be spending a bit of time, at least, chatting with folks about finding blogging inspiration. That should be fun, and not something I get to do that often. I’m also hoping to spend some time hacking away at core stuff and plugin development if time allows.

Overall, I’m very satisfied with the event today. I think it can be daunting to run your first WordCamp, and the Grand Rapids organizers has pulled it off well and with style. There are small hiccups here or there that any camp will have — the wifi required some tweaking to stop it from kicking you offline every twenty minutes, for instance — but where it mattered I thought it was great.

Keep an eye out for the presentation videos as they make their way to (except for mine, which I guess my mic was muted on, sad face) and make sure to get your ticket for next year’s WordCamp in Grand Rapids. These folks know how to throw a WordCamp.

8 thoughts on “Recap: WordCamp Grand Rapids, Day 1

  1. I’ve heard this sort of thing quite a bit from those who sell commercial themes, and I’m beginning to wonder how much bigger a lot of theme shop’s businesses would be if they could find a way to sell directly to the end user.

    I think it’s about half and half for Studiopress. At least from the questions I’ve been answering. The end user is getting less savvy about how to modify anything related to theme, so either stye want to learn how to do this, or they hire someone to do it for them.

    Thus supporting people who build themes for others. ;D

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  3. Great overview, Ryan. WordCamp Grand Rapids was a very well organized event, and a blast to be a part of.

    I took a lot from your talk, and you delivered very well, so thanks for being a part of WordCamp Grand Rapids, and hope to see you out there again soon.

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