My WordCamp UK 2011 Review

So last weekend (16-17 July 2011) I upped and offed to my 2nd WordCamp. The previous one was in Manchester (UK) in 2010 and I had an absolute blast… so much so that there was no way I was going to miss out on some of the key things that a WordCamp has to offer;

  • Meeting new folk who love WordPress (and beer)
  • Re-acquainting myself with the lovely peeps I met last year
  • The opportunity to learn some things about WordPress
  • A stonkingly well designed T-Shirt!
Chatting at WordCamp UK 2011
Happy Campers

This years WordPress followed a familiar “3 track” structure which was semi-logically split in terms of the talks and discussions that were held in each. Being a developer of WordPress themes and plugins I had planned to mostly stay on the “developer” track but started my Saturday off listening to a panel chat about “WordPress in the Enterprise”. This was an interesting opportunity to hear about issues that I had never been exposed to before and was glad to have listened… even if it turned into a “how can WordPress play nicely with a Microsoft core IT setup” stalemate.

Next up I listened to Rachel McCollin chat about “WordPress and Mobile”. She covered the numerous ways in which devs and users can get a more optimal experience on mobile devices. I was particularly thrilled to have my Responsive TwentyTen plugin mentioned. This session also gave rise to some very helpful discussions from the audience on their experience and approaches to dealing with mobiles. In my personal opinion I think that actually all approaches are currently flawed… it seems that users and the device market are all running off at lightning speed and it’s leaving web designers and developers a little flat footed in truly understanding the ins and outs of it all.

StinkyInk WordCamp UK Swag
StinkyInk WordCamp UK Swag

I then jumped back to the “general” track to hear Nick Garner talk about advanced SEO. This was a real eye-opener it terms of me realising that my knowledge is very shallow compared to someone of Nick’s calibre. His talk covered some extraordinarily useful WordPress plugins which I will certainly be looking into.

Another session I took in on the first day was Noel Tock’s thoughts on “running your own theme marketplace”. He was a very engaging speaker and presented some very thought provoking lessons from his time at ThemeForce. Oh, for info on the slides etc from WordCampUK 2011 head on over to the wiki.

It was during this session that I actually missed my second fifteen seconds of fame from WordCamp 2011 as over in the main room Kimb Jones‘ popular “WOW plugins” session included my Widgets on Pages plugin. I was honoured to have this mentioned along with plugins some as Gravity Forms and the like… though I ‘spose I should own up and say that I’d been pestering Kimb all year to get it included!

The Saturday social was another great chance to chat to folk I hadn’t yet caught up with and I was lucky enough to be sat at the same table as Scott Cariss who turns about to be keen on security and told me of File Monitor Plus which is one of his plugins… I suggest that one and all install this right now!

The social also gave me the chance to retain my title of “last man standing” which I earned the previous year… though to be honest the competition was light and with the help of the lovely WP Sites folk I had the title (or at least a 1/3 of it) in my pocket for another year.

The Sunday kicked off despite my tiredness inflicted by the night before at some place called Fuzzy Ducks and I dived straight into a session on setting up and running local WordPress meetups. I soon discovered that one was already running in London and I hope to be going along to their meetings in the future. If you’re looking for local WordPress meetups in the UK then head on over to the WordCampUK wiki.

The day then took a more technical spin with Rob O’Rourke showing off how you can pretty much bring all content needed in a site into the welcoming arms of WordPress’ CMS capabilities. It was in this talk that I learnt of Custom Nav Walkers… something incredibly powerful that I think would benefit most theme developers doing bespoke work.

Dave Coveney was up next in the main room talking about some of WordPress designers and developers biggest mistakes… along with some sensible talk and humour this got us all thinking about how we could be doing things better.

The last core session was that where the “site doctors” give a lending hand to the (very brave) few who have queries on topics spanning everything to do with WordPress and websites in general. This is one of the most valuable sessions I believe as the floor is pretty much opened up to everyone to give their tupence on how to improve SEO, better help clients, increase security and pretty much anything else you could imagine.

And there you have it… my views (or at least the cutdown version) of WordCamp UK 2011. Big thanks should go to the WordCamp UK core team, the speakers and sponsors and all who helped put such an engaging and enjoyable weekend together.