WordCamp Chicago Wrapup

Waiting for my outbound Continental flight at O’Hare airport (now there’s a surprise) after WordCamp Chicago this weekend.

One word summary: Wow. I’ve been to the two WordCamps in New York as a part organizer and registration desk sitter, but not as a presenter or active attendee. Now that I’ve been on the stage, I’m hooked.

WordCamp today is what USENIX conferences were 20 years ago.

You have an incredible collection of users, practitioners, developers, and subject matter experts combined with a wildly diverse and interested community. Everybody has an interesting problem or approach or story, and yet nobody has a hierarchy in mind. People are just there to learn from each other and the speakers. It’s the flat-out best $30-40 you can spend to learn about content management. Among the many things that impress me about WordPress as a platform as well as a magnet for users is that you can solve the same problem any number of ways, at different levels of abstraction. On Saturday morning, a speaker showed how to change the default post display mode using query_posts(), and today I explained how to do the same thing by hand-editing the SQL generated by the WordPress query parser. If you are a theme developer and more concerned with design and user requirements, the more abstract, duplicate-query method works; if you’re a database savvy developer then you can dive into the query semantics. Both work, both are about the same net performance, and both approaches include a wider array of talent in community.

Favorite take-aways of the weekend:

  • Amanda Blum, talking about advertising on blogs: Don’t do it. If you are running your blog as an advertising platform (read: replacement for a printed version), ads are your business model. If your website is about you, and bringing you business, don’t bother with ads. All they do (if people bother to click on them) is take users away from you. Ditto for related website blogrolls. You’re the expert, be the expert.

  • Aaron Jorbin, talking about maintaining code: The difference between good code and bad is measured in WTFs per hour. When you’re looking at bad code, even your own, you’re constantly saying “WTF did I do that?”

  • Chris Ross, speaking as a WordPress neophyte developer: WordPress was attractive because it was low cost. But it’s now attractive because it’s highly functional, and there’s high value in the package. It has a very low barrier to entry for new developers, and the themes and plugin extensions made it very powerful.

    All in all, a great weekend, great to meet some faces behind the Twitter accounts and emails, and I left with a half dozen ideas of my own to go explore.

  • 3 thoughts on “WordCamp Chicago Wrapup

    1. Tom Altman

      Great mini-recap Hal and please – don’t forget to add your talk in there:

      Hal Stern – a great talk on breaking down what happens when a URL request is given to a server w/WordPress installed. Gave some great take-aways to go home and optimize some sites for better performance, as well as how to debug the next major issue.

      Thanks to all.

    2. Aaron Jorbin

      Hal, It was great meeting you and I completely agree with your assessment of WordCamp. Everyone, Everywhere should make it out for a WordCamp if they have any interest in WordPress.

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