Can WordPress make you sweat? Absolutely. Just ask anyone who attended WordCamp Europe a few weeks ago in Seville. The weekend saw temperatures swell to nearly one hundred degrees (or four degrees for our friends using Celsius).
Beyond temperatures, the material at this year’s WordCamp Europe was equally “hot.” Speakers like Matt Mullenweg, Karin Christen, and Becs Rivett turned up the heat with insights that are sure to set the WordPress world ablaze over the next few months.
For those who didn’t attend, here are five things you missed:
Ethics and Social Responsibility
Ethics and social responsibility aren’t exactly the first topics that comes to mind when thinking about a WordPress conference. Yet, this year, WordCamp Europe delved into these heavy topics.
One of the most insightful talks on ethics was delivered by Amelia Andersdotter, a Swedish politician and former member of the European Parliament. Speaking alongside developer Anders Jensen-Urstad, the two presenters gave a talk entitled “Building Privacy-Friendly Websites.”
Their talk stressed ethics, imploring WordCamp attendees, for example, to question whether you need to track everyone. Andersdotter and Jensen-Urstad also advised the audience to avoid collecting more information about users than is actually needed.
Such thoughts are relevant, as web users around the world grow increasingly concerned about their personal data being collected online. Amidst these concerns, Andersdotter and Jensen-Urstad’s talk was a reminder of the need for us as developers to stay ethical.
Moreover, the talk was also a strong reminder that our work often has implications stretching far beyond the walls of the coworking spaces where we work.
We must, for example, ensure that the sites we build comply with European laws and various EU regulations on user privacy.
We must also understand, as WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg noted in a separate talk, that “If we make a decision that affects five percent of the WordPress user base, that’s one percent of the web.”
And if the web has hundreds of millions of users, even one percent is huge. Heavy topics indeed!
— David Bisset (@dimensionmedia) June 26, 2015
Fortunately, WordCamp Europe was not all about ethics and social responsibility. Those things are important, no doubt. But they are far from the only trending topics in our community.
Another trend is how WordPress allows developers to become location independent. Torque has previously covered this topic with Episode 78 of Dradcast.
WordCamp Europe shed additional light on location independence with a talk by Karin Christen. Christen is the poster child of WordPress location independence. Using WordPress as her “jetpack” (pun intended!), Christen has created a lifestyle that allows her to take breaks from coding for mountain biking in the Alps and surfing the longest wave in Chicama, Peru.
It’s an enviable life, but one that’s possible for nearly any WordPress developer.
The key is, according to Christen, to be organized and to know yourself. For the organization, she recommends to put in writing, everything between you and those you work with remotely.
As for knowing yourself, Christen explained that this is a matter of knowing what you personally need in order to be comfortable and work well.
She was emphatic here that regardless of the traveler, time zones matter, as does having adequate wifi. Take these suggestions to heart and you may soon find yourself in the Alps or on the beaches of Peru.
Be warned, though that your locationless life won’t be all vacation. Christen was very clear that she doesn’t spend every day surfing or biking.
Those are certainly things she engages in, but she also runs a successful agency. And that requires working—whether she’s on the subway, in a coworking space, or in a cafe.
Another hot talk at WordCamp Europe was delivered by Becs Rivett.
Rivett has been ranked as a top fifty email marketing influencer in 2014 and 2015, so she’s definitely worth following. For this year’s WordCamp Europe, Becs delved into best practices for WordPress users to grow and maintain an email list.
Why talk about email at a WordPress event? Simple—email can help WordPress users accomplish nearly any marketing goal, from promoting new blog posts, to generating revenue for an eCommerce store.
To handle marketing tasks that fall inside WordPress, Rivett recommended the tools MailPoet and Jetpack. As for those tasks falling outside WordPress, she recommended using services like MailChimp and Campaign Monitor.
Along with tools, Becs also shared a number of specific tips for success in email-driven marketing. She cautioned, for example, against trying to capture unnecessary information with forms. If, for example, your goal is to get email signups—there’s no need to also try and get someone’s street address.
Becs was adamant on the need to put time and thought into the forms you create for capturing emails. She advised her audience that forms should be eye-catching and contain incentives that make people actually want to complete them.
On incentives, she gave the example of “Sign up for a ten percent discount” as one way a form might attract more signups.
Once you get people to actually market to, Rivett recommended writing your messages as though it’s only to one person. You may have thousands on a list, but forget that for a moment and write individually. Following this tactic will help to instill each message with a personalized feeling and subsequently increase response rates.
The Man Himself
What would a WordPress event be without the man who started it all? For WordCamp Europe, Matt Mullenweg came down to mingle. Those in attendance got a chance to ask Mullenweg questions on various WordPress issues and get his immediate, honest feedback.
Of those questions, some of the most important were about translation and multilingual functionality. For translation, discussion focused on the translation of plugins, themes, and the WordPress core.
Right now, these things are all in English and must be translated to local languages. Yet that reality may soon be changing.
Mullenweg certainly saw it as likely. He voiced this opinion during the Q&A, envisioning a day when there will be more contributions in non-English languages, which will then have to be translated into English.
As for multilingual functionality, the discussion here was on whether it should be a part of the WordPress core. Mullenweg advocated against putting multilingual functionality in the core, suggesting instead that it continue to exist in plugins such as Babble.
His logic was that adding functionality only needed by a small percentage of sites doesn’t belong in core. The PHP7 and HHVM teams have been trying to one-up each other for a while now, which is great for all WordPress users.
Fueled by competition, PHP7 will bring significant performance and speed improvements, and hosts will be incentivized to upgrade their servers as these improvements will result in cost savings for them.
This means that WordPress sites will get possibly twice as fast on most hosts in the near future, all without any changes to the WordPress core.
Speaking of PHP versions, it didn’t take long for someone to ask when PHP5.2 support will be dropped. Mullenweg wants to be very careful with this, since discontinuing support for the five percent of WordPress sites that are still on PHP5.2 would impact one percent of the entire internet. However, Mullenweg hinted that PHP5.2 support might indeed be dropped within the next year.
Another important topic during the Q&A was third-party theme marketplaces. Mullenweg acknowledged the risk of these kind of markets giving WordPress a bad name by selling poorly constructed themes. In response to the risk, he recommended putting open-source products on WordPress.org that are as good or better than items on the third-party sites. Using this approach, it would no longer be necessary for people to visit outside distributors, thereby eliminating any problems with security and inadequate customer support.
Swag and Partying
Yes, that’s an elephant in the picture above. It was just one of the awesome bits of conference swag found at this year’s WordCamp Europe. Among the other highlights were a Jetpack Gym Bag, Yoast Socks, and a perpetually-awesome WordCamp t-shirt.
Envious yet? Then you wouldn’t want to know about the after-party for this year’s WordCamp Europe.
The event was held following Saturday’s venue, at the Seville nightclub Puerto de Cuba and many attendees kept dancing and drinking until 5am. A great time and definitely one more reason to put WordCamp Europe on your list of conferences to attend.
Next year’s WordCamp is already scheduled and it will be in the fabulous, albeit less sweltering Vienna. See you there?