WordCamp Glasgow 2020

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WordCamp Glasgow 2020

With tickets being a veritable steal at £20 it was impossible to turn my nose up at the opportunity to attend the first WordPress event of 2020 in my nearest city. Having to hold on until after payday, I eventually bought what the site told me was the second-to-last ticket available and, when I checked the next day, the event was a sell-out.

I’ve been to a slew of conferences in the past, from several iterations of The Future of Web Design in its heyday to the short-lived jQuery UK and even shorter-lived UX London events, so I knew roughly what to expect of the day.

Even so, I was surprised that there were two tracks of talks on the go and I stuck with the “development” track for the bulk of the day, only switching out for the “Design/Business” track for the talk on remote working, as I’ve been doing a bit of that in the past year.

The first talk in the development track was by Simon Kraft, with the title “WordPress for the Future.” I hoped that this would be an insight into what lay ahead for the world’s most popular content management system, but instead it was a talk about optimisation and how shaving bytes from our sites made them more environmentally friendly.

It was fortunate that I’m a total optimisation evangelist or I would have felt a bit short-changed by the – probably unintentional – misdirection of the title. I enjoyed the talk and, ultimately, I think the less technical nature of the content made for a gentle start to the day. It also gave me another angle of attack when I’m banging on about image optimisation during the day job!

Next up was Building a Block by Tom Nowell. In the spring of 2019, I had cobbled together an attempt at a custom WordPress block that would insert a fancy link to specific content. However, I had no idea if I’d gone about it the right way so I wanted to get a clearer picture of how it was supposed to be done. Unfortunately, Tom had to tread the fine line between spoon-feeding the code fragments to non-technical people and there being enough on the metaphorical spoon to satisfy developers.

I enjoyed the talk and had hoped for a live coding example but I did glean a good few pointers that I stuck in the mind map I was taking during the day. I’ll probably not go back and re-do my previous effort but, armed with the pointers from the talk, I will probably approach it differently next time.

In the difficult pre-lunch spot was Nigel Pentland talking about Security Testing. One of the first WordPress Glasgow meetups that I attended featured a talk by Tim Nash on the same subject. At the risk of going over old ground, I was swithering on switching to the other track but decided security was more my concern than video captioning.

Nigel had a few technical issues during the course of his talk but powered through some very useful content despite the minor setbacks. As I’m imminently putting a site live it was good to be reminded of the low hanging fruit when it comes to bolstering the defences of WordPress.

In the lunch line, I got talking to a gentleman called Stephen King. It was one of those “how did we end up here?” kind of chats that I enjoyed immensely. Stephen is a writer for the theatre and the director of a site called Reunitems.com that tries to help people find missing items from times gone by. I thought the idea of that was fantastic and ended up chatting with Stephen through most of the lunch break.

When those dining were asked to clear table space if they’d finished eating, I left Stephen to it and went out for a short walk in the Merchant City area. Having worked in the neighbourhood for seven and a half years I quite fancied the idea of a wander around my old patch. In the end, I took a lap of the blocks adjacent to the Trongate before visiting Blackfriars, where I had a quick pint then returned to the conference.

I bumped into Tom Nowell in the elevator and complimented him on his talk. I hoped to chat with him in more depth about creating custom blocks but I got the impression he had other things to do so I just thanked him for making the effort to speak and left him to it.

Taking a seat back in the room for the developer track, I recognised the next speaker as the chap I’d tried & failed to make conversation with at the lunch table before Stephen had rejoined me. His name was Chris Brosnan and the subject of his talk was on effectively scaling WordPress.

I have to say that this was a challenging talk to absorb, with content that flitted between the vague and the almost-technical. I don’t think there was much take-home from it, to be honest.

The first female speaker on the development track was Kayleigh Thorpe, from host 34SP, who walked a jam-packed room through the basics of detecting and solving common performance issues. There was lots of meat on the bone for this talk and I took plenty of notes on my mindmap.

However, I couldn’t help but think Kayleigh’s delivery needed a bit more polish as the “erm” count was off the charts by the end of it. During the coffee break that followed, I had a good chat with her colleague, Tim Nash, and we had a laugh about the number of pictures he was taking possibly putting Kayleigh off her stride.

After the break, I switched to the Business/Design track for the talk on remote working by David Artiss. This came across as more of a “read” than a “talk” compared to the others and despite some interesting nuggets regarding corporate culture at Automattic VIP, I did have the nagging feeling that I should have stuck with the development track and attended the Advanced Mobile Pages talk instead.

I was flagging by the end of the session and, with a bad storm hitting the west of Scotland, I opted to leave so I’d stand a better chance of catching a train all the way home. (Spoiler alert – I didn’t, it got terminated a few stops from home and I had to brave the weather and catch a bus!)

In summary, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the content and the organisation at Glasgow’s first WordCamp event. It was well worth £20 for the ticket for the experience and I look forward to attending future WordPress Glasgow events when they come around.