WordCamp San Francisco Wrap-up

I just returned home from WordCamp San Francisco and wanted to write my wrap-up right away so I didn't forget any of the details I wanted to throw in. I'm exhausted from a day of travel that included our flight being delayed (twice), landing in Vegas and sitting on the tarmac for 20 minutes and then another 20 minute delay as they failed to let us know which carousel our luggage was going to come out on. Ahh, the joys of travel.

Anyway, on to the good stuff.

My wife and I made our way to San Francisco a few days early to do some sightseeing prior to spending all day at WordCamp on Saturday. This is 3rd time this year I've traveled to attend a WordCamp but the first time I saw something other than the inside of a conference hall. I gotta tell ya, it's the way to do it! We had a blast being tourists on Thursday and Friday!

Oh, right, this is a post about WordCamp. OK, I'm back on track now.

After the morning welcome by Matt Mullenweg, we headed downstairs to check out Andy Peatling‘s talk about BuddyPress. Andy is the lead developer on the BP project and his passion for the project shows through. He gave a bit of an overview on how you can integrate BuddyPress in to a site to let people contribute and interact, but stressed the fact that BP doesn't automatically turn your website in to a social network type site. He provided some links to resources that will help designers and developers customize their BP installs. I'm definitely looking forward to researching this further.

Here are the resources if you are interested:
List of BuddyPress loops
BuddyPress hooks
The Skeleton Component
Vote for new BuddyPress features
– BuddyPress dev community

We stayed in our seats downstairs after Andy wrapped up and got ready for the next presenter. Dave Moyer who was going to give an intro to Podcasting. At the ripe old age of 16, Dave is a “been there, done that” guy in the podcast community. He's been podcasting since 2004. He passed on some info about the tools he uses (Skype and Audacity), places to find free/inexpensive tunes for your podcasts (penmachine, freeplaymusic, soundsnap) and an easy way to make your podcast ready for iTunes (hint: publish via feedburner). Again, this is something that I'll be researching more over the coming weeks as it's a topic that I've been interested in for ages and just haven't dove in to yet. Soon, though!

Next was the State of the Word. This is when Matt Mullenweg gives a past, present and future view of WordPress. One of the big announcements was that WordPress and WordPress MU (multi-user) are going to merge. Undoubtedly this means that a site admin would have the ability to turn on/off the ability to add multiple blogs to a single install of WordPress right from the dashboard. No real time-table given on when that would be happening, though. He also spoke about the P2 theme. A very cool theme that turns your blog in to a twitter-like site. This would be a great tool for a team working on a project. New posts and comments are shown in real time and the page doesn't need to be refreshed to show new content. I'm interested in getting my company to use this for development groups.

In a stroke of genius, rather than having a Q&A session immediately following the State of the Word, instead we broke for an awesome BBQ lunch and then headed back for an hour-long Q&A. I say it's brilliant because I wouldn't have wanted to miss any part of either, but not sure sitting for nearly 2 hours straight would have been all that much fun.

Next we checked out Tara Hunt's “Makin' Whuffie” presentation. Tara gave some great information on using social media to build your business. She talked about how it's ridiculous for companies to say “We need a twitter campaign” when what they really need to do is find out why their customers use/like twitter and how they should become part of the community.

We headed downstairs again to check out Ann Oyama giving an intro on WordPress Themes and Plugins. For those of you who read my blog on a regular basis, you know that plugin development is something I've been in to lately. As I've said before, it's impossible to teach an entire subject like building custom themes or plugins in a 40 minute presentation, but Ann gave a nice overview and people should have plenty to follow up with once they get back home.

Steve Souders was up next. For me, this was the highlight of the day. Steve is a performance guru who works at Google (after many years of working at Yahoo) and he gave a VERY informative talk on how to speed up your website. Some of the stuff sounds incredibly advanced and may intimidate you at first, but, with some info from Steve and a couple hours of time, you could drastically improve the performance of your website and it could make all the difference in the world to your visitors.

I wouldn't even begin to do justice to Steve's presentation. Instead, I'll tell you to download his powerpoint presentation and as soon as the video is available on wordpress.tv, watch it.

We wrapped up our day by listening to Scott Porad from Pet Holdings (the geniuses behind FailBlog, LolCats, etc…) as he spoke about user-generated content. It was interesting to hear how they do everything they can to make it super simple for people to create and submit content. Then, rather than having people from their company being the judge of what does or doesn't make it to the website, they leave it up to the community. If enough people say it's funny, it makes the site. If not, well, sorry.

Even though this wasn't the last session of the day, it was for us. We headed back to the hotel, grabbed some dinner and made our way to the after party. You just can not pass up the opportunity to have this kind of access to the staff from Automattic and the passionate WordPress community. Guys like Joseph Scott and Jake Spurlock make the entire trip worth it. Where else are you going to be able to bend their ear for 30 minutes and get the inside scoop on what projects they are working on. Plus, it's a great way to drop a feature request directly in the laps of people that can make 'em show up without having to code them myself. 😉

There are two very unfortunate things about my experience at WordCamp San Francisco;
– As much as I love the idea of having multiple tracks, I'm really bummed that I wasn't able to see all the presentations. Yes, I know I can watch the presentations online at WordPress.TV in a few days/weeks, but it's not the same as being there.
– A second day got added to the event that was more geared towards WordPress developers. This was hosted at the Automattic offices and I'm sure would have been exceedingly cool to attend. Unfortunately it wasn't announced until well after we had booked our flights and I didn't hear about it until it was too late to make other arrangements. This was definitely a sad trombone moment for me.

Kudos to all the presenters and everybody who had a part in putting together WordCamp SF. I had a great time and I'm already looking forward to attending again next year!