LoopConf 2017

For those of you who don’t know, LoopConf is a WordCamp-like conference aimed at WordPress developers. I was invited to speak at the inaugural LoopConf in 2015 in Las Vegas where I spoke about reusing small chunks of code to make your code easier to maintain. Though I didn’t speak this year, I found so much value in the previous conference, it was on my list of can’t miss events for the year.

Bumps In The Road

The conference was originally supposed to take place in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in October of last year, but a tropical storm forced its cancellation. This year’s event was then rescheduled to occur in the lead organizer’s hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah. Having organized WordCamps for many years here in Orange County, I know first hand how much work goes into putting on a successful event. Ryan Sullivan did an outstanding job recovering from the Florida cancellation and put on a really top-notch event in Utah.

A New City With Old Friends

Attending this event marked my first time really spending any amount of time in Salt Lake City. I flew in on Super Bowl Sunday to beautiful snow-capped peaks, fresh air, and a relatively empty downtown. I met a friend from Orange County, Steve Zehngut, in the airport and hitched a ride to our hotel. The room I booked in the Little America hotel was quite large with an amazing view of downtown and the surrounding mountains. We dropped our stuff off at the hotel and walked through the empty streets to a sports bar where some other speakers and attendees had planned to meet. We arrived in the middle of the second half, and I think it goes without saying that this was clearly the better half to see.

A Workshop with AngularJS

After the game was over, I went back to the hotel and prepared myself for the Workshop day. It seems to me that more and more events are including a workshop day in their programming. The one I went to this time was great, and gave me a bunch of great hands-on with some code that I’ve never worked with before. The workshop I attended was “Building better and more intuitive interfaces with the WordPress REST API and AngularJS” with Roy Sivan and Josh Pollock. While I’ve used the WordPress REST API extensively, we had just built our first AngularJS interface for a client so I am still green on a lot of the nuances. Roy and Josh shared a lot of real world code that we discussed and worked with throughout the day.

Hanging Out with Friends, Old and New

While at the first day’s events I met up with an old friend, Blair Williams, who lives in the area. In case you don’t know Blair, he’s the creator of some pretty awesome plugins – MemberPress, Pretty Link Pro, and Affiliate Royale. Blair is a developer and business owner that I trust and talk to when I need help. In fact, a lot of what we do with AdSanity has come out of discussions with Blair and his experience with his plugins. Blair and I had some dinner with some folks from Bluehost and Mojo where we got to know some of their WordPress community team. It’s always great to know how hosting companies are embracing the WordPress project and what they’re doing to support its users.

Highlights from The First Conference Day

Zack Tollman shares The second day of LoopConf started off with a social breakfast provided by the conference. I was looking forward to seeing the HTTPS talk by Zack Tollman from Wired.com. Zack learns about things really deeply and shares that depth of his knowledge about the things he learns. I’ve heard a few variants of this talk in the past, and each time I pick up new tidbits. The things I took away this time were related to content security policies. You can append these headers to every request to help inform the user’s browser what to do if they encounter insecure items on a page. I encourage you to read about it further on Google’s Developer Web Fundamentals.

I also enjoyed Brad Campeau-Laurion’s talk on code review. We incorporate code review into our development on every project, but Brad had some great pointers about how to eliminate little things like code formatting from the review process so you can focus on catching the important things. I’m eager to implement his thoughts to help to optimize our code review process.

As we’re doing so much with the WordPress REST API these days, I was eager to hear from Ryan McCue, the API team lead. His talk was unexpected and exciting. I always knew that WordPress had collected a lot of technical debt over the years with its mantra to always be backwards compatible, but hadn’t really thought about how to solve that problem. Ryan outlined a plan for flipping WordPress inside out all the while allowing it to maintain this backwards compatibility. I think the approach was impressive in its conception, and if implemented has promise to set WordPress up to be a leader in the content management system space for many years to come.

Highlights from The Second Conference Day

We started off the second day with breakfast burritos where I met a few folks from Denver. I spoke with Jason Bahl about his work at Media News Group. They manage WordPress sites for some very large news organizations like the Orange County Register. He’s one of the organizers for a WordCamp for Publishers in Denver in the fall. I was particularly interested to hear that there is a sort of subculture with developers in this space because of the unique needs in the news publishing space. I suspect we’ll be seeing more of these topical WordCamp events in the near future.

The Sessions

The speaker lineup for the second day, like the first, was littered with amazing talent. While all of the presentations were great, there were three talks that I enjoyed the most. The first was a talk about the stigma around mental health in the workplace. Ed Finkler lead the audience through a survey regarding our comfort levels as it relates to mental health. It was a bit of an eye-opener for me personally. I haven’t really ever had to work through a mental illness with anyone. However, it made me think how I could better communicate about mental health issue to my coworkers, friends, and families. As a community, we need to get rid of the stigma around mental health and support each other.

The second talk that greatly impacted me was given by Sharon Steed. Her talk came from the perspective of communication through empathy. Sharon describes herself as “A life-long stutterer, she decided to face her fear of talking by spending 2015 speaking at conferences globally on improving communication through empathy. “ Her message made me think about how I could improve my ability to communicate with users of the software we build by approaching it with an empathetic mindset.

And finally, after anxiously awaiting all day, Jason Cohen talked about building the perfect bootstrapped business. For those of you who don’t know, Pixel Jar was and is a completely bootstrapped business. We started the company with a single client back in 2004 and have grown to what we are today solely due to the dedication we have to ourselves and our clients. While we’re certainly not just starting out, there were so many things that Jason covered that apply to our business today. A few of these things we’ve already implemented with success. Jason is not only incredibly knowledgeable about running a business, but he’s a great speaker. His ability to feed off of the audience and adapt his talk to them is unparalleled.

A Resounding Success

Overall LoopCong 2017 was a resounding success in my mind. I always appreciate when I come away from a conference with some actionable things that I can implement. Ryan, thank you for putting this conference together again this year. It’s one of my favorite events, and if there’s going to be another one next year, I’ll be there.

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