My Takeaways from WordCamp Europe 2016 (so far)

The fourth WordCamp Europe was organized this year in Vienna, Austria. It’s the biggest WordCamp in the world to date, with over 2200 attendees. Along with most of my colleagues, I’ve been to all of them. One of the biggest things that has kept me using and building with WordPress for over 11 years is the amazing community, which is welcoming and friendly to both beginners and experts, users and developers. 

There were many excellent talks, but these are some of the things/themes that stuck with me so far (the event is not over yet!):

Accessibility

Both John Blackbourne (lead developer) and Rian Rietveld (accessibility consultant) highlighted in their talks the fact that all new code included in WordPress core must conform to WCAG 2.0 level AA. This is a big thing. The EU recently passed a directive that all public sector sites should have at least level AA accessibility. In her “State of the Accessibility” talk however, Rian pointed out that there are still many improvements in core to be made, such as the Media library.

Code is Poetry – a musician’s tale (Helen Hou-Sandi)

Perhaps the most memorable talk of the event was Helen Hou-Sandi’s talk “A musician’s tale”. Helen is one of the five lead developers of WordPress, but she is also a classical pianist. At the beginning of her talk, she treated us to an amazing recital on a grand piano, something you do not usually see at a tech conference. Her talk after that focused on the similarities between reading and performing music and writing code to build websites or applications, and also touched on the still prevalent issue of narrow stereotypes of both what a musician and a developer are supposed to be or look like.

Dealing with your insecurities

Another talk that touched me deeply was Sonja Leix’s talk on managing “impostor syndrome”, i.e. that little nagging voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough for this job, this project, this team etc. When Sonja asked who has felt like this sometimes, almost everyone in the room raised their hands. I certainly feel like I struggle with this every day at work, that I don’t know JavaScript well enough, or accessibility, or PHP, or whatever the topic of the day happens to be. Sonja’s three tips to help combat impostor syndrome were (paraphrased):

  1. Find a friendly community where you can help and get help from other people and share knowledge. For Sonja this was the WordPress community.
  2. Speaking at events helps build self-confidence.
  3. Start contributing to Open Source projects, e.g. WordPress. Be selfish when selecting an area to contribute to: what would you like to learn?

The trouble with communicating online

Siobhan McKeown gave an excellent talk on the pitfalls of communicating with pure text. Two points: 

  1. Face to face communication is important!
  2. Liking on Facebook is not a political act, because your opinions will just bounce around in an echo chamber of like-minded people.

Next year

WordCamp Europe 2017 will be in Paris, France!

Sad to see you go

Almost all the votes are in at it’s clear the UK has voted to leave the EU. I feel sad, mainly because the reasons given for Brexit were almost all about fear and lies. I sincerely hope though that the UK and EU together can figure out a deal that makes sense for both parties, and that ordinary people won’t suffer too much because of the times ahead.

Remain

Today I’m traveling to the fourth WordCamp Europe, organised this year in Vienna. It will probably be the largest WordCamp, i.e. community-organized WordPress conference ever. My thoughts however are very much in Britain, where my relatives and millions of their countrymen and -women will be voting today on whether the UK should leave the EU or remain a member. I find it almost unbelievable that Europe (and the UK) might be in an even bigger mess than before just because of two men’s lust for power. But it’s too late to wonder about Cameron’s and Johnson’s motives – Britain, I hope you stay with us. Don’t let the populists win.

Smart Keyboard and iPad Pro

So I went and bought a 9.7″ iPad Pro along with the Apple Smart Keyboard for my personal use (althought I’m pretty sure quite a few work emails will be written on this too). First impressions after a little use: the keyboard is the best iPad keyboard I’ve used. There are ones that are more rigid and thus probably better for typing too, but those also tend to be pretty heavy and bulky. I had a Logitech Fabric Skin Folio for my work iPad Air, and just stopped using it after a while because of how much it limited the tablet-ness of the iPad, even though it was OK as a keyboard. The added bulk was just too much. The Smart Keyboard has all the versatility of the basic Smart Cover, it’s light and can be easily removed.

Same Job, New Family

No, not that kind of new family. Our company H1 – my employer – was acquired today by Zeeland Family, one of the most versatile marketing agencies in Finland. Me and my four colleagues Aki, Jenny, Marco and Tomi will be joining their digital team and strengthening the company’s WordPress expertise. I’m pretty excited about this! The past 4.5 years at H1 have been the best time of my professional life, and I’m looking forward to topping that.