WordCamp Chicago 2014: The Bean, the Blues and a ton of WordPress info


This past weekend, I got to do two things I’ve been putting off for awhile. Visit Chicago, and go to a WordCamp. I’m glad I finally did, because I got to see an awesome city and meet a ton of amazing people that help make up the close-knit WordPress community.

The city

On Friday, we started exploring the city and ended up seeing the Cloud Gate (also known as “the Bean”) in Millennium park that showed off the city skyline in a very unique way. The architecture of Chicago was simply stunning and I was in awe just walking around it.

There was a Blues festival, as well as the Chicago Electronic Dance Music Festival going on, so the city was packed with people, and the weather was beautiful. I had a lot of fun exploring the city, but was even more excited to start digging into WordPress.

The food


After asking the locals, both Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria and Portillo’s Hot Dogs were the unanimous places to go for authentic Chicago style deep dish pizza, and a hot dog. Neither place was quick, and they were both packed, but man the food was worth it!

The talks


I was looking forward to some great WordPress talks. I’ve seen quite a few online, but being live in the same room as the speaker made the info resonate with me even more.

At WordCamp, they split talks up into 2 or 3 tracks, so you can’t listen in on every single one. With the ones I saw, I gained some useful knowledge from every single talk.

  • There was the “It Starts With Good Posture – Website Security (WordPress)” talk from Tony Perez (@perezbox) of Sucuri. He had some great security tips for making sure your WordPress site was as secure as it could be for any type of attacks.
  • Dan Beil (@add_action_dan) taught us “How NOT to develop (With WordPress)“. There were some great tips on how to get organized and make your development life much easier.
  • Josh Broton (@joshbroton) had a great talk on “You Don’t Need jQuery” that showed how you could easily squeeze a precious 100ms of loading time out of a site that relies on jQuery by instead using vanilla JavaScript.
  • Joe Casabona (@jcasabona) had a really informative talk about “Responsive Design with WordPress” that went over why designing for mobile first and then scaling up is the way to go. I even picked up a signed copy of Joe’s book after listening to him talk on the subject.
  • There was a whole team of 3 including Pete Mall, Brian Krogsgard (@krogsgard), and Sara Cannon (@saracannon) that basically held a panel on “Do Big Things With A Small Team” where they told the story of how their small team at Range was able to take on huge projects and still stay on top of them.
  • Sara Cannon (@saracannon) followed up the panel with a cool talk about “Smart Design: Icon Fonts, SVG, and the Mobile Influence” that showed some really cool ways to make sites load fast and scale but still be pretty.
  • The last talk on Saturday was none other than lead developer of WordPress Andrew Nacin (@nacin) with “Advanced Topics in WordPress Development”. It was exciting to learn about the plans of WordPress to become an auto-updating platform. This would be great for the entire community by helping plugin and theme developers only having to support the latest version of their plugin, knowing that when someone downloads their plugin it will be auto updated along with the rest of the WordPress core.
  • Sunday morning with breakfast in hand Josh Leuze (@jleuze) started off the day with a talk on “Building Your First Widget“. It was great presentation on how to get some simple widget interactivity into WordPress in no time.
  • Lisa Ghisolf (@gizmodesign) gave a talk on “A house with no walls: Creating a site structure for the future” which covered using site maps, content strategy, and mobile to give the best user experience you can for your site.
  • One of my favorite talks was from Ben Lobaugh (@benlobaugh) on “From Zero to WordPress Hero” which basically just talked about not being afraid to dive into the WordPress community and start making an impact.
  • There was some great business advice in the talk from Rebecca Gill (@WebSavvyMrkting) on “Solutions Before Developement: Creating WordPress Products That Actually Sell“. She explained how her own WordPress business was able to grow and flourish using some tactics to keep everything on track.
  • The last talk of this WordCamp for me was from Julie Cameron (@jewlofthelotus) on “Surviving Support: 10 Tips for Saving Your Users and Yourself“. This talk was probably the most directly related to what I do day in and day out in the InMotion Customer Community department.

The experience

WordCamp Chicago was a great time and I learned a ton, I also met some great people and I’m sure I’ll bump into them again at future WordPress events. Going to my first WordCamp and seeing the WordPress community up close in person has really opened my eyes to all the possibilities that WordPress allows for. I really appreciate InMotion Hosting sending me out there to bring some of that great community back to our ranks.

If you have a chance to go to a WordCamp and you’re putting it off like I had been, do yourself a favor and dive in! If you happen to join the great learning and networking experience that is WordCamp, let me know! (@JacobsLadd3r)