A great day at WordCamp Raleigh

I usually enjoy small tech conferences, but I was still surprised at what a good experience I had at WordCamp Raleigh today. It started out on a great note when I checked in and learned that they had t-shirts in women’s sizes as well as the ubiquitous “unisex.” This really made me feel like I belonged, even though I only knew about a half-dozen people there.

Most of the sessions were either a little beyond my abilities or a little elementary for me, but I still got something out of every one. A few times I followed the unconference Rule of Two Feet and moved to a different session. I especially appreciated the speakers that shared URLs for their presentations at the start so that I could follow along easily from my tablet.

Here are some of the great talks I saw today:

  • After hearing about Angular so many times, I was excited to see Angling Angular presented by Will Haley. Not only was this really practical and informative, Will also ate his own dogfood by doing the presentation with a web app that he made with Angular. This was one of those talks that really stretched my knowledge, and was great for me as a front-end developer.
  • I’ll admit that I went to the session on SEO Strategy because there wasn’t anything else really catching my eye in that timeslot. But I actually found a few helpful tips and learned the rationales behind a lot of tactics that I already follow instinctively, like posting frequently, meaningfully linking within a site, and only using pay-per-click for short, time-sensitive campaigns. Most importantly, we learned to Keep Google Happy. 😉
  • I’ve gotten to know Melissa Eggleston recently though the local Girl Develop It meetup. Her talk was filled with interesting facts and actionable lessons about how users really interact with websites. I highly recommend checking out What We Know About Website Users.
  • I almost missed Dee Teal’s incredibly useful talk on WordPress Site Maintenance due to the overly cute session title “Responsible [digital] Home Ownership.” She covered many areas of site security that are really important and so often overlooked.
  • Even better was “Using Data to Power the User Experience” (another poorly-titled session) which was full of smart strategy and practical ways to take advantage of the tracking that Google Analytics is already doing for free.
  • CMB2: The Metabox Strikes Back was all about a tool that I will probably never use, but gave me good context for working with WordPress hooks, and was peppered with enjoyable Star Wars references.
  • The talk on optimizing site perfomance was close to my heart and covered familiar ground, having struggled with a complex Drupal site on Acquia’s servers for years when I worked at HASTAC. However, the presentation was actually only about optimizing server performance, which is something I would rather leave up to the sysadmins, and didn’t have any WordPress-specific advice.
  • Finally, I attended a demonstration of Roots, which is like a theme framework on steroids. This was another tool that I can’t see using any time soon, but learning about how it works provided a lot of insight into advanced theming issues, in which I am certainly very interested.

I’m looking forward to returning to Raleigh tomorrow for another fun day of learning with and from my fellow geeks.

UPDATE: None of the presenters I saw on the second day had made their slides available online, but they claim they are coming soon to the Wordcamp site.