★ WordCamp London 2013

This fall we saw the first edition of WordCamp Europe in Leiden (The Netherlands). The line-up of speakers looked pretty great but I couldn’t make it that weekend. About a week or 2 later I saw a tweet about a WordCamp in London. With a couple of vacation days left, it was a done deal.

Since there’s no such thing as too much London, I left on Thursday evening and will be going home on Tuesday evening. On Friday I spent the better part of day at Look Mum No Hands! to finish a ton of layouts for prints that had to be finished by Friday evening.

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The conference kicked off on Saturday Morning at Bishops Gate on Liverpool Street. You can find a list of the talks here, I’ll list the ones that I though were most interesting:

- Andrew Nacin (@nacin) - WordPress Lead Developer Andrew talked about “the magic behind WordPress” and how much time in effort is put into insuring backwards compatibly, not breaking old installs and making it run just about anywhere.

- Mark Jaquith (@markjaquith) - WordPress Lead Developer Mark’s talk was about the development cycle of WordPress release 3.6, for which he was the lead. The release didn’t make the deadline, was missing key features and Mark talked what went wrong there and about the new feature-as-a-plugin way of developing that they have adapted for WordPress Core.

- Mike Little (@mikelittlezed1) - WordPress co-founder Mike is actually the co-founder of WordPress but somehow I (and lots of other people I think) had never heard about him before this weekend. Mike talked about “the early days”, about the cms he and matt were using before WordPress and how that turned into WordPress. Very inspiring for an open source newbie like myself.

- Hristo Pandjarov (@pandjarov) - WordPress Specialist at SiteGround With the upstairs (smaller) room filled to the brim and with several rows of people standing in the back, Hristo’s talk sure was one that lots of people really wantend to hear: “Need for speed: gear up your WordPress”. Web performance is something that is close to everything we do when building something online, wether it’s frontend, backend, plugin or theme development. The talked ran through some basic principals (benchmark ALL THE THINGS) and highlighted a couple of tools you could use to find out what’s slowing your site down. (link to the presentation)

Aside from the 2 rooms with speakers, there was also a workshop in the morning and in the afternoon. I took part in the afternoon one, which was about the WordPress Theme Customiser. The customiser was added in 3.4 and is something I haven’t really used much. The workshop was led by a couple of guys from the Theme team at Automattic and they showed us how to add our own settings to the customiser. That’s a pretty powerful feature, no more building your own admin-theme-settings pages, just add it the customiser. (That might not work for all settings you want to give the user access to but still, well worth looking into)

After the conference I swung by my hotel to drop off my bag and then headed back to Liverpool Street for the after party: free drinks (hello multiple pints of cider), tons of interesting people (hello Latex startup guys from Germany who’s names I can’t remember), good laughs (and a tiny bit of tequila).

On Sunday I attended to WordPress Contributor day, which was held at the Mozilla offices near Leicester square. We started with a quick walkthrough on how to commit code back to WordPress Core (giving by @nacin), after which we split up in teams (core, documentation, translations, accessibility, themes, support) and got working on our own thing. I joined the themes team (led by Lance Willett (@simpledream) of Automattic) and worked on testing the new Twenty Fourteen theme that will ship as the default theme with WordPress version 3.8 (which is planned for release on December 12th, 2013).

I was really excited and also kinda terrified about this. Don’t get me wrong, I know my way around WordPress, I’ve build my own theme, plugin, etc. But my code isn’t nearly on par with something that would be added to Core. But on the other hand, getting the option to work on WordPress (not just your WordPress, but the WordPress that runs around 20% of the web) is pretty damn cool right?

So we put Twenty Fourteen through the hoops, testing it in any browser you can imagine (from Kindle to IE7) and logged bugs on trac for the problems we found. Somewhere in the afternoon came across an image placement bug and instead of looking for more bugs, I started looking into how to fix that one. By the end of the evening, Konstantin found a very elegant solution and we got it patched and committed. That’s pretty cool :)

And that concluded WordCamp London for me, I was pretty exhausted from 2 full conference days. I’m still in town on Monday and Tuesday so the plan to relax a bit (this is supposed to be a holiday after all) and maybe code a few things that I came up with during the conference. It was my first WordPress conference and any future ones are going to have a hard time topping this: organisation was superb, so was the venue, the food, the talks. Big up to the team (Siobhan and the rest of the crew), sponsors and speakers for making this great conference happen!