WordCamp Phoenix 2011


This was one of the most fun, useful, conventions ever. About 700 folks from all over attended the main sessions on Saturday.

Some highlights and my random notes follow.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="171" caption="Had a blast!"]It looks an awful lot like me.[/caption]

Friday: Child Themes and Frameworks

Austin Passy led several dozen of us through the use and creation of child themes, parent themes, and frameworks. Here is his presentation (you might have to wait awhile for all the bits to load, before you can advance through it).

First off, the Hybrid theme shows quite a few configurable items as it uses Hooks almost exclusively. By applying different classes to elements based on page content, whether sidebars are active or inactive, and so on, you can write conditional CSS without any code. We explored how actions and filters let you customize a site, doing all kinds of magic with just a tiny bit of PHP. Hybrid Core is a library for building parent themes (like Hybrid itself is).

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/elastic-theme-editor/ --- This is a promising plugin, with a rather fancy ajax/javascript front end that lets you move theme elements around on a set of vertical columns. SaltRiver developers have been working on a similar idea but this looks exceedingly promising.

Saturday: Main Sessions

In Wordpress 3.1, custom post types (CPT, took me awhile to decipher the acronym on the program) can have Archive pages, and can participate in The Loop and RSS feeds with a snippet.

In "A/B testing the WordPress Way" by “Mitcho” Erlewine we heard about ShrimpTest and discovered that simple text changes, like "See Plans and Pricing" over "Free Trial" can result in triple the response. His cocktail-sauce-ready plugin automates the process of trying different bits of text (or code!) which visitors will see randomly, while experiencing the same view within a session.

Mark Jaquith spoke on "Theme & Plugin Security," revealing common pitfalls and relatively simple cures for most of them. SQL Injection and many other "hacks" can be overcome by judicious use of $wpdb->update(), esc_attr(), and related functions. Authorization levels should be regarded with current_user_can() and the nonce system -- even if you have Javascript in the user's browser, that is no substitute for checking back at the server. For Javascript, be sure to use wp_enqueue_script() to reduce load and duplication errors.

Corey Eulas's "SEO Master Class" -- Reinforced my view that SEO is 85% snake oil and 15% pure gold. Highlighting "Competitive Analysis" -- it's less a question of what "tricks" you are using, than how well you are doing versus your competitors. Finding that, however, can be a bit of a challenge. There are several services, the one that caught my eye was "SEOmoz" even though it's a pay site. Google Analytics never really seemed to work the way I wanted.

"WP for Non Profits" by Amanda Blum raised a few interesting points. No matter whether you're non-profit or for-profit, a website has to answer your audience's questions:

  1. Why do I need X in general?

  2. Why do I need your X ?

  3. What do I do after I get X ?

  4. OK, I'm ready, what do I do now?

Plugin suggestions: Gravity Forms; Donation Bucket; and WP-Quotations.

Eyebrow-raising was her suggestion: no advertising! I interpret this to mean, confine your list of sponsors and donors exclusively to a "Sponsors and Donors" page, and eliminate

Sunday: Barbecue and Committing to Core

This was our chance to get down and dirty with Core Developers, finding and closing tickets in Trac, adding plugins and themes to the repository. Hamburgers, sodas, and Four Peaks on tap!

Bottom Line

Blew the socks off 2009's Word Camp. Let's do it again next year!

Although: To the few folks, please, drop the profanity from your presentations, they are neither professional nor polite. Unless you are describing a vacuum cleaner large enough to swallow a donkey, please do not use those kinds of words.