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Programming WordPress

Potential Tech Conference Talks

I am constantly thinking of new potential talks that I would want to either give or convince others to give. Some of these have been on my list for almost a decade, while others are relatively recent ideas.

Roles on a web team

There is a big difference between roles, jobs, and titles. I cosider a role to be the atomic unit and they bunch up into a job. So for example, a role is “Writer of CSS” and that might be a part of the “Front end developer” job. It also might be a part of the “Designer” job. I want to look at all the roles that need to be filled (I think there are somewhere around 100-200) in order to build, launch, and maintain a website and how successful teams are able to define jobs.

Improv for Web Developers

It’s been a long time since I did improv, but many of the things I learned from it are foundational things I use every day. This could be participatory; this could be a disaster. Just like an improv scene.

This is likely closer to a lightening talk than a full talk.

Axioms for the Web

Axioms are ideas we use to start our reasoning that are so fundamentally true, we use them to define what is true. They come from a Greek term that roughly translates to ‘that which commends itself as evident.’ They are phrases as simple as: A + B = B + A. One look at this phrase and we understand the truth within it.

I want to expand on a lightening talk I did a few years ago to look at what things are so fundamentally true for websites that they define what is true.

DUX – Developer User Experience

What is the experience of contributing to and using your code base like and how can we use lessons from user experience design to influence ways in which we improve it?

Interviewing developers

I’ve refined my interview questions over the last decade and think it could be interesting to share these questions, perhaps even doing a mock interview on stage. I might even talk about questions I used to use and why I don’t use them any more.

Foundations of HTTP

A look at the http standard, how it has evolved to http/2, how it is evolving to http/3 and the foundational concepts of http verbs and status codes that are incredibly relevant to all web developers.


Get in touch if you would like for me to give one of these at an event you are organizing. None of these are fully flushed out so they will take some time, but I think there would be interest in all of them.

Categories
WordPress

Random Thoughts on… Keynotes and WordCamps

Dave Bisset shared some of his thoughts in response to my random thoughts on travel and WordCamps post. One paragraph stood out to me:

Some organizers associate keynotes with “headline speakers”. I personally don’t like keynotes as a speaker organizer and in 12+ years with WordCamp Miami I only did two official planned ones. I’ve too often seen events have a single keynote that is often executed poorly – where it’s seen to put a spotlight on a local or national speaker that was meant to be used as a “see… see… our conference has someone important!”. You can tell this because their subject material didn’t apply to the majority of the audience – they were just there because they were a “big name”. I’m not saying keynotes are bad, but i’ve walked out of more awkward keynotes at WordCamps that I have feel good ones.

I’ve given three WordCamp keynotes and have also organized camps with and without keynotes. In that time, I’ve developed a handful of random thoughts on the topic.

  • Not every WordCamp needs a keynote. It’s far from a requirement.
  • When it is decided to have a keynote, I think it’s best to come in one of three flavors:
    • If you are a new camp and want to bring in someone who can really help build up your community.
    • If you have someone in your local community who should be given a chance to give “One Big Message”, a message that everyone should hear. The best one of these I have seen is Tracy Levesque at WordCamp Philly. Boone Gorges also gave a fantastic one at WordCamp NYC.
    • If you can bring someone from outside that wouldn’t normally be a part of the WordPress community who has an interesting thing to share. WordCamp Lancaster 2017 had a local computer science professor.
  • Keynotes should leave the audience asking questions of themselves, and this should be for just about everyone in the audience.
    • My WordCamp Baltimore Keynote from 2013 “Citizenship in the Open Source World” aimed to ask what does it mean to be a part of Open Source.
    • My WordCamp Philly 2015 Keynote “Why WordPress Works This Way” aimed to get the audience to question what philosophies they wanted to use in their decision making
    • My WordCamp St. Louis 2016 keynote was somewhat last minute, so I based it on my 2015 WordCamp Philly one. Though this time it was more based on “We can learn from something without emulating it exactly” and asked “What can we learn from WordPress?”
  • A poorly executed keynote makes a sizable portion of the audience question why they were there.
  • Keynotes are opportunities for “Big Messages”, not minutia. It’s not a time for “How”, it’s a time for “What”.
  • You should never take questions at the end of a Keynote. If you are giving one, it’s your stage and your message. The hallway is the right place for the conversation to continue.
  • Opening/Closing/Mid day keynotes all are ok.
  • I would rather no keynote than a bad keynote.
  • I would rather no keynote than an ok keynote.
  • A “regular talk” should not become a keynote simply because they are the biggest ”name” attending. Great keynotes and Great instructional talks are different
    • You still want to be careful with your scheduling. Don’t put another developer talk at the same time as Andrew Nacin preparing an “Advanced Topics in WordPress Development” talk.
  • It’s ok to save a good talk idea for when you are going to keynote. Or let organizers know in your application that you only want a specific topic considered if it would be a keynote.

Comments and ping backs are open: What are your thoughts on keynotes and WordCamps?

Categories
About Aaron

A Sabbatical from Speaking in 2018

Normally, when a year comes to a close I start to brainstorm about talks and presentations I want to give in the coming year.  I copy over a doc in Simple Note and start pruning off talks I've already given or ideas that no longer excite me and add in new ideas where I feel like I have something to add. This year is a bit different since I'm going to focus my energies elsewhere and will not be giving public presentations in 2018. I still intend to contribute to the conversations around technology, but in a different way (read on to find out more).

What's driving this decision

I came to this idea after spending some time re-evaluating how I spend my time. The talks that I prepare generally involve about an hour for each minute I present. In 2017 I gave presentations at WordCamp Lancaster, Pressnomics, WordCamp DC, and WordCamp Philidelphia. Overall, I spent nearly one hundred hours preparing for and delivering these talks. When I think about my hopes for how the web moves forward, I wonder if those 100 hours couldn't be spent doing something with a bigger impact.

Additionally, I don't bring a lot of diversity to the table. I'm a mid 30's cis-gendered white-passing male.  There are plenty of us in technology. If I move out of the way, that can hopefully make space for someone to bring a different viewpoint to the conversations.

What I'm doing instead

I still love public speaking and want to help some newer speakers give great talks. I thus intend to volunteer and donate my time helping some speakers. If you have enjoyed any of the presentations that I have given and think I might be able to help you, please send me a DM on twitter (my DMs are open). I'm going to give preference to people that bring some diversity that I don't bring to the table. I'm hoping that as 2018 comes to a close, I can say that I spent 100 hours helping new voices in the conversations around technology.

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About Aaron Uncategorized WordPress

Fall Conferences – PHP Madison and WordCamp NYC

Today I get to announce two conferences that I’m speaking at this fall. The first is here in NYC and is the 2015 WordCamp NYC.  I’ll be giving a talk entitled:
Lessons from Science Fiction and Fantasy we can use in Creating Websites.  Here is a short synopsis.

Science Fiction and Fantasy can teach web creators many valuable lessons. From seeing how Daleks with too narrow of a goal always fail to understanding the Klingons value of honor, to hundreds of other we can become better web creators by borrowing lessons from Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Next, I’ll be traveling to Madison, Wisconsin for the first time in almost 10 years to present “How Not To Build A WordPress Plugin” at Madison PHP.  A short synopsis of this talk is

WordPress has a powerful plugin architecture that enables you to build almost anything on top of WordPress. This power though can lead to anti-patterns that slow down sites, confuse users, and make it hard to scale. Let’s look at the wrong way of building plugins so you can avoid these traps.

Tickets for both events are on sale.  If you are either one, make sure to say hi!

Categories
Uncategorized WordPress

The Benefits of a Good Conference Introduction

Many technical conferences have no speaker introductions or very poor introductions.  “Next up is, um *look at phone* Aaron who will be talking about, um *look at screen* The Next Big Thing”.  While this does serve the benefit of helping people make sure they are in the room they intend to be in, it doesn’t do anything to help the crowd get ready for the talk or help the speaker get ready to deliver a talk.  A good introduction on the other hand gives the speaker ethos.

Ethos is one of three components of persuasion that Aristotle identified in his treatise Rhetoric. Ethos serves as the ethical appeal.  It’s the standing a speaker has.  A good introduction explains not who a speaker is, but why they have the privilege of standing up there and presenting. When you introduce a speaker, you give them credibility. This allows them to immediately focus on logos and to a lesser degree pathos. These are Aristotle’s categories for logical and emotional appeals.

At WordCamp NYC 2014, I introduced Boone Gorges, the keynote speaker.  Let’s breakdown my introduction:

At WordCamp NYC 2010, John James Jacoby introduced our next speaker as a core committer to BuddyPress. Today, I get to introduce him as the lead developer of BuddyPress and our keynote speaker.

I am establishing him as someone with a history at the event and as someone with a prominent place in the community.

During the intervening four years, he has become a full time freelance developer, released dozens of free plugins to the WordPress community and has spent thousands of unpaid hours doing development work contributing to open source software projects.

Boone’s talk was going to focus on contributions to WordPress and the role that freelance developers have in the creation of WordPress. By mentioning his work as a full time freelancer and his contributions to the WordPress project, he can be seen right away as someone who knows about the topic. He has lived it.

He has accomplished all of this while also finishing 46th in 2014 National Crossword Tournament.

I knew that one thing Boone would mention was that he had been in the room this address was before, so I helped him establish this by mentioning his excellent placement in the National Crossword Tournament.

He secretly wishes that he has a masters degree in philosophy. He also grew up in Wisconsin, which is known more for its cheese and beer than the semi-pro football team that plays in Green Bay.

Boone isn’t just a developer, he is a person and someone who has studied philosophy. He also likes a bad football team .

Please join me in welcoming our keynote speaker, Boone Gorges.

I create the expectation with the audience that we are beginning.  That I am leaving so they should cheer.

If you are planning a conference, you should spend some time thinking about the introductions.  If you don’t know the speaker well enough, perhaps you can ask them to write a first draft.  If you don’t know why the speaker is going to be getting up there, perhaps you should ask yourself why they are speaking at your event.

Categories
Uncategorized WordPress

Portland WordPress User Group Presentation Upcoming

I’m going to be speaking at the March Portland WordPress User Group Meeting on March 18th at 6:00pm at Webtrends and demonstrating some of the features that are coming up in 3.0. I’m aiming for this to be beneficial for both users and developers.

Right now, I plan on covering:

  • What the Multisite features mean to both users and developers
  • How to enable Multisite once you’ve upgraded
  • How to add and customize custom menus on your site
  • How to add a custom post type

If there is anything else that you would like for me to cover, please comment on the post there. I hope to see you there!