Well, here it is: the big one! WordCamp Europe is the largest of its kind and with Belgrade’s barnstorming success last year, Berlin had a lot to live up to this time around.
Thankfully, Berlin is one of the most scintillating cities in the world. Museums, beer spots, cultural landmarks, legendary nightclubs aplenty, the German capital is a hub of energy. Once a setting of great division, Berlin now prides itself on creative freedom and an all-encompassing mentality. A perfect setting for WordCamp Europe 2019!
The conference was held on June 20-22 at the Estrel Hotel and Congress and was made up of a Contributor Day on the 20th, followed by two conference days and, of course, a roaring after party.
Our team got back from Berlin with a new lease on life. WordCamp 2019 may be over, but the fires it ignited are burning strong! Below is a roundup of our experience of WCEU 2019.
David and Tasha had their own unique takes on the weekend and the fantastic array of speakers. This WCEU was Tasha’s first and below are her thoughts on her maiden voyage!
Tasha’s conference experience kicked off with Jenny Beaumont – Doing it wrong. In her talk Jenny Beaumont shared her experience as a freelancer and the immeasurable benefits yoga has brought to her personal and professional life. In keeping with the holistic theme of her talk, she followed by ruminating on the lessons learned from her past mistakes. It was underpinned with a truly profound line: “I will keep doing it wrong because that is where the best stuff happens.” Tasha opined that Jenny’s talk was incredibly motivating and it inspired her to embrace her mistakes, rather than bury them as the only true failure is giving up.
In his presentation Advanced Database Management for Plugin, John Jacoby got to the core of what a database really is, as well as the pros and cons of WordPress. It was a commendably honest presentation, considering his audience! He also shared a bounty of solutions that plugin developers can call upon to interface with complex custom data structures inside of WordPress.
In relation to coding as a whole, Julliete Reinder Foinder taught us how to identify where to gloss over the cracks, when to look into refactoring, and how to make your code faster and better by using modern PHP.
Tasha says she particularly liked Mel Choyce as a speaker, and found her talk Designing your first Guttenberg block particularly illuminating.
A firm favorite, however, was Maja Benke’s talk – Accessible content. In this talk, Maja hit home the importance of the universality of the web and why it has to be accessible to everyone. Access by everyone, regardless of disability, is an essential aspect. According to Tasha, this talk really resonated with everyone in the audience. “I hope accessible content will soon be a rule, not an exception, when creating any website,” Tasha concluded.
Tasha also singled out Sami Keijonen’s – Maintainable CSS architecture in the Guttenberg era as the most educational technical talk she attended. Sami imparted a lot of knowledge on CSS that added to Tasha’s repertoire.
In this mile per minute world, time management is everything. There always seems to be a little too much to do. Thanks to Judith Schroer’s 7 Tips to Get Things Done, Tasha has learned some valuable tricks to help organize her time better and maximize her efficiency. Finished is better than perfect.
David Needham’s Git Bisect tool reveal was another highlight of Tasha’s. David gave her the knowhow to go through several commits and find her bag in just a few minutes using Git Bisect.
Next up, Mark Uraine – Designing in the open remotely. Tasha loved this 30 minute talk about remote work, and giving back to the WordPress community. Mark illustrated that through design contribution to Core and WordPress.org., we can give back to the WordPress community.
A close second favourite of Tasha’s was Daniel Kanchev’s talk titled More aim, less blame: How to use postmortems to turn failure into something valuable for your team. With postmortem’s documentation of your mistakes, one can focus on improvement, boost work morale, make products slicker, and strengthen your relationship with your clients. It’s something that we all ought to use, Tasha adds.
With a whopping 70 speakers to choose from, our guys on the floor had a hard time deciding what to go to. For a lot of the talks, David and Tasha linked up to see what insights they could glean together.
They both attended Michele Mizejewski- Guttenberg and Page Builder Plugins: Two great Tastes that Taste Great Together. In this talk, Michele explored the best methods for using the new core editor (Gutenberg) and a page builder plugin. For David, this was an eye opener. He learned that leveraging the best of both can be a win. Especially if you know that every builder has unique goals and users when building custom blocks. By the end of this session, David had put to rest some anti-Gutenberg fears. Tasha was of the same opinion and found the whole talk very educational.
Matt on WordPress, by Matt Mullenweg (co-founder of the open-source blogging platform, WordPress and the founder & CEO of Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, WooCommerce, and Jetpack) was very useful for both Tasha and David. They gained invaluable insight into how much Gutenberg has evolved, and what is on the horizon for the new core editor.
David relished Ana Cirujano’s talk: Variable Font – The Future of Web Design. Since he hadn’t a chance to work with variable fonts before this trip, he benefitted greatly from the presentation. Both he and Tasha learned all about using fonts for both user experience and web optimization.
Crucial as these conferences are, the contributor days really get down to the essence of what makes the WordPress community such a wonderful entity. It is a true celebration of the people that make up the fabric of WordPress. We’re all about striving to elevate WordPress and forever pushing boundaries. Contributor days are the perfect platform for this and David discovered this first hand. He’d never been a contributor before, but he was a natural! Joining the Themes Review team, his focus was on open source projects. The team shed light on Theme Sniffer plugin and WPThemeReview coding standards. David helped the community get one free theme approved and become part of WordPress.org.
David surely enjoyed WordPress for Non-Profits: Website Best Practices, Collecting Donations, Increasing Exposure online presented by Charles Johnston. Before this conference, David was not aware of how a website could effectively invoke emotions and gather donations for incredibly important causes. Animal welfare, orphaned children, human trafficking – if we build the right site, we can have a direct hand in aiding these causes and work towards long-term solutions. It’s all about connecting with the end user. If your site can inspire empathy, then it’s going to make the world a better place. Think about the language you use, the style you implement and mood you create. It all boils down to the plugins you use. Once you have the bigger picture in mind, you realize how important your work really is.
David favored How Better Performing Websites Can Help Save the Planet presented by Jack Lenox. He found is most interesting because it changed the way he looks at optimization on websites for saving energy. The frightening truth is that the web’s carbon footprint is larger than that of global air travel. The immense energy consumed by the Internet from non-renewable resources makes it the largest coal-fired machine on earth. Luckily, Jack provided practical steps on how to reduce the environmental impact of our work, promote a better future, and where can we check if our site is “green”.
To democratize publishing, internationalization is one of the many barriers that WordPress needs to overcome. That’s why, for 2020 and beyond, the goal is to find a legitimate way to build multilingual websites. In Pascal Birchler’s Multilingual WordPress Sites talk, David was impressed by how he covered the status quo of multilingual WordPress websites. David was able to share ideas from both a technical and a user’s perspective on how WordPress could evolve in this area over the next few years.
Ines van Essen struck an emotional chord with her story: Bringing People to WordCamps. She told a motivational tale of a single mom starting out in the WordPress world without a penny to her name. She took the audience through her life journey, starting with her initial struggle to save the money to attend the Community Summit, all the way to her current status as founder of DonateWC. Her foundation aims to diversify the speaker pool for WordCamps.
A very special mention must be reserved for Marcel Bootsman. This incredible human being walked 7187km to WordCamp Europe in Berlin from his hometown Berkel en Rodenrijs in just over a month. He managed to raise over €8000 for the DonateWC Foundation.
An incredible story and so well told! Now Marcel has his very own Wappu to commemorate his journey.
What a trip and this was the short version! Our team had such an eye opening experience and they returned with a wider skillset and, more importantly, a happier constitution. Some things can’t be measured or quantified and the benefits of being part of the community just can’t be overstated. We are forever thankful for the WordPress conferences and we’re already gunning for the next big meet.
#WCEU will be in Porto, Portugal on 4-6 June 2020.
See ya there 🖐️