Ten Things I Learned at WCSF

OR: Zombie Armies, Everyday Heroism, and Being a Proper Viking

1. The use of WordPress as an app framework is on the rise.
Apps are where it’s at and WP has become the initial foundation for many of them. That doesn’t change the fact that the internet is still 23.2% WordPress sites. In case you’re a data person like I am, you’ll be glad to know that I looked up some specifics about this little data point. This number is from W3Techs Usage Survey and refers to:

  • The top 10 million sites on the internet, not just those that are CMS driven.
  • Top level domains only.
  • Only sites that do not redirect.

That means one in four sites that you run into on an average day are done in WordPress, which is pretty darn awesome by my count.

2. WordCamps were originally formatted as barcamps.
By the time I got into the organizing part of WordCamps they weren’t really barcamps anymore, so I admit that I found this information really surprising. A barcamp is an event where all the attendees show up on the morning of the event and suggest sessions to be scheduled. The proposed sessions are voted on, the winners are scheduled, and then a speaker is selected from the assembled throng (yikes).

I went to my first WordCamp in 2010 right here in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I had never heard of WordPress before, but Rebecca was going and asked if I wanted a ticket. Never one to refuse a party (and anything with people is a party), I happily accepted. I was among the organizers of WordCamp Kansas City the following year, and I’ve never looked back. While the exact format may no longer be quite as relaxed as it once was, the overall emphasis is still the same: quality content over a cool setup.

3. Decisions Rather Than Options
10up developer Helen Hou-Sandi gave a great talk about how being a musician has helped her perspective as a developer. One of the things she has carried over from her studies is the importance of making decisions during the creative process. Knowing what our customer wants or needs helps us to design and develop tools with high usability. When decisions aren’t made, we tend to just provide all the possible options to our clients, which can lead to a confusing end user experience.

4. The leadership of WPEngine is 50% women.
I was lucky enough to have a bit of a chat with Heather Brunner, CEO of WPEngine. Recent additions to their executive leadership team have increased the number of women they have leading the company. As an advocate of women in technology, I’m glad to see this trend.

5. The Mission of WordPress is to Democratize Publishing
All successful organizations have a clear mission statement and I was delighted to learn that WordPress is no different. Democratize Publishing, the mission of WordPress, means that everyone can produce content. You don’t have to wait for someone to publish you. You don’t have to hire a PR company. You don’t have to be one of the Fortune 500. You have things to say, and you can say them.

With content still reigning as king of the internet, having the power to publish is key to your company’s success.

6. The first step to developing the right theme for your organization is to identify your components.
We often hear people say things like, “I need a website that will work well with blogging” or “I need a design that is visual”. Defining your needs in such broad terms is a lot like saying, “I need a car that has wheels” or “I need a car that has an ignition”.

Figuring out the parts of your site that will make it unique (rotating hero image gallery, product cards, social media integration, etc.) will help you understand what your website will need. Whether you choose a theme and make a website yourself, pick a theme and have it customized, or have a site built with a custom theme just for you, thinking in terms of components increases your chances of success.

7. Zombie Army!
Just in time for Hallowe’en I learned the term “Zombie Army”. The concept isn’t new. It’s the same thing as a bot army if you know what that is.

A site is built to search out vulnerable site installations, perform a brute force attack to crack the passwords, and then using those newly infected sites to perform large-scale brute force attacks on major company websites. We’re talking about an army of hacked blogs being sent to attack Walmart or Goldman-Sachs, or Amazon.

On a related note: Check out this post about security on websites.

8. The importance of contributing to the OpenSource Project.
Part of many WordCamps is a day called Contributor Day. Many attendees come to these events to add their code or review the code of others that are part of the OpenSource WordPress ecosystem. Something that not everyone may know, though, is that code isn’t the only thing you can add. You can work on Translations (or GlotPress) if you are multi-lingual. You can identify Accessibility issues if you’ve got that sort of passion or training. And speaking of training, you can add to the Training materials, the newest Team on the list.

9. WordPress has helped people find their voice and their tribe.
A highlight of WordCamp San Francisco was the candid interview with Jenny Lawson of The Bloggess. She spoke a lot about her personal struggles, her ability to write about them honestly, and how she has dealt with trolls in her space. She has a large and devoted following whom she has helped greatly. Often the best way to help those in need is just to be a beacon of hope, normalcy, and support by inspiring others with your story.

10. Proper Vikings have blond hair and red beards.
Thanks, Morten. Now I know.






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