WordCamp ATL Friday Sessions

I’m in Atlanta this weekend for WordCamp ATL at the Savannah College of Art and Design. My hotel is a half a mile or so from the building, an easy enough walk (if not a particularly scenic one). You walk in and then go through sort of a maze of hallways to get to the elevator that takes you to the fourth floor, where the setup is very nice — one big room (not an auditorium exactly) and several satellite classrooms. There’s loads of fruit and muffins and juice set up for us, and the registration process is very smooth, the only hitch being that I forget for a minute that I’ve actually had the nerve to sign up as a speaker and so have gotten in the wrong short line. There are big faceted jugs of water with lemon slices floating in them and big jugs of water with what I think are lime slices floating in them, but they turn out to be cucumbers, which is nice but a bit of a surprise. I alternate throughout the day between lemon water and cucumber water.

We learn during the opening remarks that a couple of speakers aren’t able to make it (food poisoning), and unfortunately, one is the speaker I had been hoping to see for my first two sessions. It definitely hasn’t been a wash, though. Read on for my notes from the sessions I’ve attended today.

Thomas Griffin, Awesome Theme Functionality? It Probably Needs a Plugin

He told us about a nightmare scenario involving urgent 1am phone calls from a distressed client. The cause? He had built a theme that did more than skin the site. Core blog functionality (things like custom post types, meta boxes, shortcodes, custom taxonomies, etc.) were built into the theme itself rather than an accompanying plugin, and when the client changed themes one day, their content disappeared.

The speaker proposed using a “core functionality” plugin that you require from within any theme you develop. Once installed, the plugin bits remain on the site whether the theme itself is later uninstalled or not.

He went on to talk a bit about his core functionality plugin, which does things like managing suggested and required plugins on theme installation using WP_Filesystem. It seemed like a pretty neat plugin for those who handle lots of site deployments and find themselves requiring the same things over and over again.

Although this wasn’t a terribly technically deep topic, I suspect some of the details were over the heads of a lot of the attendees. I enjoyed it and was glad to learn about this plugin and to have the best practice of theme/plugin separation reinforced, but I didn’t learn much new (which is ok — I’m not sure I expected to).

Mike Schinkel, Mastering Custom Post Types

  • Slides
  • Custom post types made WP a really good all-purpose CMS
  • Recommended tools:
    • PhpStorm
    • Navicat for MySQL
    • VirtualHostX
    • Transmit/FIlezilla
    • HTTPScoop (or Fiddler on Windows)
  • After creating a custom post type, you have to refresh permalinks. You can do this programmatically too, I think he said, but then he talked about a site that was refreshing them on every page load, so you have to be careful.
  • add_meta_boxes action (just something I hadn’t known about, since I’ve never made a custom post type with any further intent than testing the most basic functionality).
  • re taxonomies: the “hierarchical” key when registering determines whether a taxonomy is a tag or a category (categories are hierarchical)
  • You can add a custom post type filter to the posts page (allowing you to filter by e.g. a given comic) using the restrict_manage_posts and pre_get_posts hooks.
  • I thought this was a nice intro to custom post types. If you have trouble absorbing info in the Codex, this was probably a great session, and I picked up a few tidbits I hadn’t known before.

Dre Armada, WordPress End-User Security — The Remix

I had heard about Dre and was eager to hear his talk, and although I was already familiar with the material he covered, I thought his presentation was really good. He was animated and understanding of his initially quiet post-lunch crowd. I think his presentation was probably eye-opening for lots of the attendees, and he reminded me that even though I know the stuff he was covering, there’s lots of room for improvement in my adoption of security best practices. I took a bunch of notes, but they were basically a transcription of his slides, which you can see here. It’d be good for veteran and new users alike to review them.

CSI WordPress — Getting into the Guts

This speaker was a no-show, making that three sessions I had hoped to attend that didn’t turn out as planned. Would-be attendees (turned presenters) Doug Cole and Mark Jaquith were conscripted to speak on general WordPress development topics, using an old presentation Doug had handy and then doing a general Q&A. It turned out fine but wasn’t the sort of thing that demanded much in the way of note-taking. It was certainly not time wasted, but neither was it the more tech-heavy session I had hoped for. Kudos to the two for stepping up to fill an unfortunate gap.

Sara Cannon, Design Swoon — Visual Trends and WordPress

Sara is quiet. I attended her session because I have no eye for design and wanted to see what I could learn. She started by showing us some really neat HTML5 sites (e.g. beetle.de) and then moved on to talking briefly about mobile, and responsive themes. She’s a big fan of Twenty Eleven and recommends it as a great starting point for doing responsive design. Some other things she covered, mostly by showing us some nifty web sites and talking through them:

  • Movement
  • Simplicity
  • What not do do in 2012
    • Don’t use Comic Sans (even ironically)
    • bingo cards (too many thumbnails all together)
    • sliders (if you use them, make sure the content they house is curated, and well-curated)
    • don’t use a fauxgo
  • What todo in 2012
    • break your borders and breathe (don’t box your web site in), e.g. paulmitchellkelly.com
    • there is no page fold (don’t be scared of scrolling)
    • design is everything
      • web design is 95% typography
        • ringboxingclub.com
        • don’t let your site dictate your content; let your content dictate what your site will look like
        • metadata will be key to making sure your styling is relevant to your content; e.g. put pull-quotes in metadata
  • Some neat tools

I dug seeing some of these sites, and the tools listed near the end are really cool, but this wasn’t a session that really taught me anything. The attention to WordPress was scant, but short of digging in and workshopping the creation of a theme, I don’t know how she could have shoehorned WordPress into a “visual trends” topic anyway. I should probably have gone to Russell Fair’s session on mu-plugins but wanted to try something outside my usual skill set. That’s not to say that Sara’s session wasn’t good (the designers in the room in particular seemed really engaged and asked some good questions); it just wasn’t quite the design tutorial I had imagined (though put on the spot, I couldn’t describe what I’d expect anyway). Sara’s doing another talk in the same room and time slot on typography tomorrow.

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