WordCamp Portland 2009 Recap

This past weekend (Sept 19-20) and Portland, Oregon were the setting for the likes of

  • Matt Mullenweg and Jane Wells of Automattic
  • Scott Porad from the icancheezburger network
  • Tyler Sticka, designer at Waggener Edstrom
  • Will Norris, one of the core developers of Shibboleth and author of the OpenID plugin for WordPress
  • viper007bond, one of the most prolific WordPress plugin developers
  • Aaron Hockley, founder of the Portland WordPress Users Group
  • Justin Kistner, senior manager of social media at WebTrends (and designer of some of the sites I currently manage)
  • Rick Turoczy, from Silicon Florist, a blog about web startups in the Portland area
  • and countless others

These folks and others, along with awesome food from Whiffies Pies, Windmer Beer, Zupans, Resers, Coconut Bliss ice cream, Cup Cake Jones— and the awesome folks at WebTrends for providing the venue for the event— made for an AMAZING WordCamp.

Also a big thanks to my buddy Tristan for letting me crash at his apartment Saturday night and helping me find my way around town. Tristan’s former roommate from Eugene, Aaron was also there. They both live and do freelance web development in Portland, so it was also a great networking opportunity for them.

This is a fairly long post, so continue after the break if you will 🙂

The first presentation Saturday was Jason Grigsby about speeding up WordPress, and a few browser plugins (Firebug, YSlow, and Google Page Speed) as well as server-side solutions: SQL Monitor and WP Super Cache. General tweaks for speed whether on WordPress or not include going though Yahoo’s 14 Performance Rules, and if you have lots of small graphics on your site, use spriteme.com to turn graphics into sprites *and* tweak your CSS accordingly to utilize such sprites.

Speed Up WordPress Wordcamp Pdx 2009

Next up was a Web Analytics talk by Lorelle, probably the worst presenter at the event. Her entire MO was selling her book and promoting a new web analytics tool she’s involved with, Woopra. I did sign up for a beta account, but the beta is closed or soon closing, and is going to be a pay-for service, so I’m not going to link it.

I will rant a bit though…

Maybe the ad industry has jaded me, I’ve become extremely resistant to people/companies trying to sell me their own products. I don’t want to hear a sales pitch from someone who stands to profit from my business. Most of the time, when I sign up for new services or get new products, it’s because of a first-hand recommendation from a personal friend, or I’ll do all the research myself, weigh the options and still go over the findings until a choice becomes obvious. Personally I think I’ll stick with Google Analytics. 🙂

Next was Tyler Sticka’s AMAZING presentation on using WordPress to develop your own portfolios, using ~3 snippets of PHP code. This really turned some heads, and got a lot of attention from the #wcpdx Twitter stream. I’m not sure I could do the presentation justice, so here is his sideshow (hoping web streaming from the event will be up soon)

WordPress-Powered Portfolios

Then John Hawkins demonstrated creating a plugin to fetch author graphic and information from gravitar.com. He so kindly provided lots of documentation for his presentation on How to Write a WordPress Plugin on his site. Sometime after this, there was a breakout discussion on Advanced Plugin Development. Notes to take from this:

  • Avoid custom tables
  • Output buffers are bad, but Matt Mullenweg loves them
  • Check out http://codex.wordpress.org/Data_Validation
  • IRC Channels: #wordpress-dev or #wordpress on freenode
  • WPHackers mailing list, WP mailing lists may need some restructuring

Very infotaining speech by Scott Porad of the Cheezburger network explaining the “Lazy, Messy & Backwards” mindset behind their business model. Found out they have about 47 blogs of mainly funny pictures, 10,000 images are submitted daily, and roughly 200 make it on to the sites. Every image uploaded is backed-up/archived in 4 places immediately, and moderated by real people.

Lazy, Messy, Backwards – Scott Porad

The conference ended with a panel of experts on an SEO SMACKDOWN. The debate was “Good Content” vs “Findability.” The consensus here seemed to be overwhelmingly that content is more important than SEO. But my take on the issue is to excercise “best practice” as far as SEO first, then forget about it so you can focus on content.

Other Plugins of Note:

Random Links:

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