WordCamp San Francisco 2011 wrap up

WordCamp San Francisco is now the official, annual “WordPress conference” hosted by Automattic and the WordPress Foundation. This year the event was structured as a three-day, dual-track conference which is nearly a 200% increase in sessions with a very modest ticket price bump. The overall value is unbeatable if you’re a member of WordPress community. I had the opportunity to volunteer and help emcee the developer sessions on Saturday.

Andrew Ozz, Daryl Koopersmith, Mark Jaquith, Jane Wells, Andy Nacin, Jon Cave

I found the conference was heavily attended by hard-core designers and developers with the expected mix of bloggers and beginners. The mix is great, and its even more balanced than what we see in a smaller locale like Denver. That’s the joy of having an “official” conference with that kind of draw from all over the world. With the attendance of dozens of WordPress core contributors, consultants, freelancers, and “Automatticians”, you know you’re surrounded by some of the best and brightest in the space. This lead to insightful developer sessions and even more interesting “hallway sessions” throughout the weekend.

Here’s are some of my more noteworthy take-aways:

  • WordPress has matured to the point it has advanced tools and best practices becoming more public and widely known. I especially enjoyed learning a bit about unit testing, debugging, server scaling, security, and deployment.

  • Andy Skelton suggested Alex switch to Drupal to solve some of his problems, instead. ;)

  • Live-streaming a conference allows for a wider “back channel” discussion. I saw a lot of non-attendees tuning in from the live stream and posting a lot of good quips and insight to Twitter. Being “in person” at a conference is not always necessary.

  • The “mobile experiences” in WordPress as we know them are changing. There is a time and place where a custom theme is needed to re-present content in a different way (imagery-heavy sites). But, for most cases, considering responsive design when designing a website or blog experience can lead to less overall effort and maintenance. By focusing on a responsive WordPress administration dashboard we can rely much more on sophisticated mobile browsers than disparate native applications for each device. For bloggers and most websites, this also means you can focus on maintaining one codebase, one set of features, and a consistent user experience across devices.

  • Community and friendship is a feature of WordPress. When Alex and I (Crowd Favorite) share a ride back to the hotel with Nick and Mike (Voce Connect) there’s clearly a friendship and professional camaraderie which I’ve never seen in other spaces. When the core team sits on stage and jokes around as old friends, its clear that WordPress is more than a “project” or a “job” for most people. Plus, it’s certainly fun to catch up with (or meet) new friends that you’ve only experienced online.

  • Matt‘s “State of the Word” address can become a stand-alone event. It feels like it only scratches the surface of the plethora of things happening in the fast-paced WordPress community and could easily be twice as long. While some projects may get mentioned, others may feel left out. WordPress is just “too big” (a good problem to have!) to cover everything but he’s done a great job summarizing the project as it evolves. The preparation and design that goes into this presentation is worth watching again and again.

  • Except for notable exceptions Mark Jaquith and John James Jacoby, people from the internet seem shorter in person. ;)

I would recommend everyone going back and watching the sessions as they become available on WordPress.tv. See you at WordCamp San Francisco 2012!