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What I learned at WordCamp Phoenix

WordCamp Phoenix 2018, which took place last weekend, was my second WordCamp. It was absolutely worth the flight to Phoenix, as the event was well organized and fun. I had a great time hanging out with some of the Red Earth Design, Inc. team members, meeting people in the WordPress community, and attending talks. Here are a few of my takeaways from the event.

Three of the RED team members at WCPHX 2018

WordPress is at the cutting edge

Since WordPress is an open source project, it can rapidly interface with new technologies. I had been hearing about how great GraphQL was as an alternative to REST APIs, so I was excited to hear Jason Bahl’s talk about WPGraphQL. I was encouraged to see that there is already a WordPress plugin that provides a GraphQL API for WordPress. I really enjoyed Jason's talk because he spent a lot of the time demonstrating the basic usage of the plugin and how it can be extended.

GraphQL logo

Having just released Plugin Notes Plus in the WordPress plugin repo, I'm interested in having an API available that provides data about the plugins installed on a site, including any plugin notes. I learned that the WPGraphQL plugin already provides a way to query plugins, so I could simply extend that endpoint to include plugin notes. During my free time at the WordCamp, I worked out the basics for how to accomplish that, so hopefully I can work that into a future release of Plugin Notes Plus.

Don't set too many goals

I attended Nathan Ingram’s workshop called "Taming the Whirlwind," which was about strategies to help a business succeed. Although I don’t run a business, I found some of the advice about setting goals interesting and useful.

One slide in particular stood out to me, which was data collected by the Franklin-Covey Institute about the number of goals a team set vs. achieved. According to the study, the more goals you have, the fewer you're likely to achieve. I'm sure there are nuances to this finding, but I have found it to be true in my experience that, the more goals or items on my to-do list, the less I'm able to focus on any one item.

Number of Goals 2-3 4-10 11-20
Goals Achieved 2-3 1-2 0

Working with a team is like improv comedy

Amber Pechin gave a funny and entertaining talk about how teams can be more creative and successful by following the basic rules of improv comedy. For example, follow the "Yes, and …" rule when brainstorming with a team. And think of ways to set up your fellow team members to succeed. It wasn't anything I hadn't heard before, but it was motivating. Ideally, a team that works well together can produce something better than any individual member could have, and everybody can enjoy the team's successes, no matter what individual role they played.

My efforts at improving my workflow are paying off

I've spent a lot of time in the past couple of years refining my WordPress development workflow. Carl Alexander gave a well structured talk about the concepts behind automated WordPress deployments. I liked how most of this talk kept to the high-level concepts behind workflow, but he stopped at various intervals to give specific recommendations for tools and services. His talk helped solidify the way that I think about workflow best practices and also validated that I'm finally doing it the right way.

I'm too old

Possibly the most important takeaway from the event was having an elderly woman tell me that I’m too old. Here's what happened: I was sitting and waiting for the talk on WPGraphQL to begin when an elderly women wearing a sequined outfit entered the room and sat next to me. While WordCamps attract a refreshing diversity of demographics in their attendees, I remember being slightly surprised to see someone like her at a talk about WPGraphQL.

The woman turned to me and said, “I’m trying to sit next to the youngest person in the room. How old are you, young lady?” I'm pretty sure she expected me to tell her that I was 25 or so. However, I decided to tell her the truth. “I’m 36,” I said. Her reply was priceless: “Oh dear, you’re too old.” Shortly after, she got up and left. I'm still not quite sure what to make of that encounter.