Recap of attending my first WordCamp

July 24, 2017| Mike Stott

It’s been a while coming, but this weekend I managed to make an appearance at my first WordCamp. I attended WordCamp in Edinburgh (#wcedin).

Now, I’m not from Edinburgh, I’m from Manchester, UK (the home of WordPress co-Founder Mike Little) and embarrassingly haven’t attended a local MWUG meet up or WordCamp yet. This boils down to three main reservations…

  • Since beingΒ self-taught I never really thought of myself asΒ good enoughΒ to attend
  • I was always wary that if I went and shared my business ideas, that someone would fork em, and steal them
  • I can also be a little bit socially anxious and aren’t the comfiest in those type of situations

So, WordCamp Edinburgh was my first step into the fire, and boy, how wrong was I with my reservations….

Recap on WordCamp Edinburgh

I’ve recently been more active in the WordPress Community through groups on Facebook and people have always been really nice and accommodating.

The Edinburgh Crew and attendees over the weekend have been no exception to this rule. In short, the WordPress community rocks.

I managed to get my first taste of a meet-up like this when I attended the Freemius + WPengine meetup for WordPress Product Sellers (at “after party even @ WordCamp Paris). Unfortunately I had to attend a wedding back in the UK on the Saturday so didn’t get chance to experience the full WordCamp Europe this year…

In this post I’ll cover the talks I went to, the stand out talks, take aways for my business (from each talk) and shout outs to some of the people I met (and whose name I remember) πŸ™‚

Who was I and what did I represent

If you stumble across this post and wonder who I am and what I was representing, I’m Mike and the product with the most of my focus is Zero BS CRM. The product with the memorable name πŸ™‚ a simple, free CRM for WordPress.

Learn more about Zero BS CRM here

In this post in want to cover my thoughts on the talks and the event as a whole. A whistle stop tour for those who couldn’t attend.

The Talks I attended

The WordCamps are structured with two “tracks” (concurrent talks) so you have to choose which one you want to go to, the talks I attended (standout talks with an *) were:

Attended Talks

Day One

  • Democratising Democracy
  • How to maximise productivity while working remotely *
  • How to Survive as a New WordPress Product Provider *
  • Agile Development for the Self Employed
  • Supercharge your WP site speed
  • Lightening Talks

Day Two

  • Using WP to create social change
  • REST API for Absolute Beginners *
  • Progressive Enhancement
  • Don’t lose your steam! How to deal with unhappy customers *
  • Get a 5,00 hour head start on your project
  • Don’t be scared! Practical WP Security Tips *
  • Blogging as Therapy: a personal journey

Talks I’d have liked to see…

Day One

  • Boiler plating WordPress
  • A deep understanding of WP hooks and filters

Day Two

  • Making popular plugins more accessible
  • Facebook Advertising

This isn’t to say the other talks I attended weren’t good, it just means the starred talks are ones where I had particular take-aways and reaffirmations about my businesses.

Take Aways for a WordPress Product Business

Each of the starred talks above gave me other peoples insights into topics which have either been a challenge for Epic Plugins, Epic Themes or ZBS CRM, or will pose to be a challenge going forwards. In each of the talks which I’ve marked with a * I’ll talk a bit about how they’re applied to a Product Seller (rather than a freelancer or agency type business).

How to Maximise Productivity while working remotely

I wrote a bit about this in my two months in Chiang Mai post. The talk went into the techniques and practices of an Automattic worker who works as a support team member and documentation owner. I like to think that I do the majority of these but the tactics were

  • Use Sprints and targets to stay focussed
  • Take a Strengths Finder to figure out where your strengths lie
  • Take breaks if things get too much (take advantage of the remote life)

I would have liked to see the talk touch a little bit on the challenges of working remotely when not everyone you are living remotely with do remote work. My own experience I’ve found here is

  • Explore ways in which the other person can help with what you do
  • Explore ways which they can pick up remote gigs themselves
  • Work in times of the other persons downtime (lie ins)
  • When travelling frequently, set days to focus 100% on work

How to Survive as a New WordPress Product Provider

Now this talk was great and even though CJ was incredibly nervous before giving his talk, he came across calm and collected and it showed in his presentation style. This talk was a take-away talk for me because I was in the same sort of position as CJ before I went “chasing product” (quitting my job in the process) and productised my services (turning them more towards ‘passive’ income) but more on that later..

The talk reminded me to do things like:

  • Check my competencies and what I want to learn (and what impact learning it will have on my business)
  • Look at the horizon, not at the floor in front of you – what’s the bigger picture in what you’re doing
  • Have an exit strategy in mind – what happens when you can’t keep doing this forever

REST API for Absolute Beginners

REST API

This was a talk from Manchester’s own Tom Nowell, and it felt like it was a super quick talk but it actually wasn’t much shorter than the others. This shows how engaging it was for me.

I’ve delved into the API when it was a stand alone plugin and a little bit when it got released into the core as part of WP 4.7. However I hadn’t appreciated what you might want to use it for (given the documentation around authentication using WP cookies to authenticate you).

In my mind, it was effectively a JSON representation of your front end and when we wrote the ZBS CRM API, we actually created our own custom endpoints (beta) API, rather than extending the REST API, due to the API key + secret type generation.

However Tom’s talk covered how it’s faster and advisable to use the REST API instead of the wp-admin/admin-ajax.php when coding front end JS post related operations. This makes sense and there’s certainly scope for doing this in a few of my themes to avoid conflicts and make them more stable.

And it’s certainly the way I’ll be going for any new development projects.

Bonus Take Away from the REST API TALK

Have you ever found yourself doing code like this (very simplified version)…

   $wpid = wp_insert_post('title', 'content'); 
   update_post_meta($wpid, 'my_custom_meta', 'value');
   update_post_meta($wpid, 'my_custom_meta_2', 'value_2');

Well if so, you can actually pass the meta key => value pairs to the wp_insert_post function and it’ll generate them as it inserts the post.. Β and I know there’s DEFINITELY places where I do code like the above!

Don’t lose your steam! How to deal with unhappy customers

Handling support

Now, above I mentioned I’ve “productised” my services (so building out WordPress Plugins and Themes for sale, instead of purely for clients) and this is moving towards more passive income (ie. not switching my time for money).

But… when you productise there’s the added “burden” of supporting the customers who purchase the products, either a plugin, a theme or one of our ZBS CRM extensions. Β I say “burden” in “”s because supporting customers is part and parcel of any product business. However every now and again there’s an unhappy customer who is angry with you.

This talk was a talk from another Automattic remote worker and covered how to handle these types of customer and some of the tactics to use if you find yourself in that situation (which we do here at Epic Plugins and Themes from time to time)

  • Be Empathic but not apologetic (if the problem isn’t caused by you)
  • Don’t reply straight away – the body reacts badly to poor feedback. Let it sink in and then compose your reply
  • A change of voice can help. If you have a team, then switching the ticket to another team member might help
  • Never ask for a review from an unhappy customer after you’ve fixed their issue
  • Stick to written channels vs Phone Support (Automattic don’t offer Phone support) as written gives you time to react and reply in a professional way

I can certainly relate to the above and certainly the second point about giving yourself time to get over the bad feedback or angry customer attitude. It’s a trade off between wanting to reply to tickets quickly and replying in the heat of the moment and getting into a heated exchange.

People Shout Outs

I met an handful of people at the event and as I said when I kicked things off in this post, they’re all really cool people and for a newbie like me (to WordCamps / Meetups) the organisers certainly made me feel welcome. WordCamp Manchester has to live up to the #wcedin standard in October πŸ™‚ which I’m sure it will.

Here’s a shout out to some of the people I met and hope to build good relationships with

  • Chris Mooney and Richard Long from @herothemes. I’ve met Chris at WordCamp Paris but not Richard, both cool guys and doing the same type of business as me.
  • Kevin Muldoon (@kevinmuldoon) – one of those “IM guys” but a really nice guy and brimming with charisma and self assurance πŸ™‚
  • Olly Murs Warren (@bunoire) – an Agency worker attending his first WordCamp (see you in Manchester!)
  • CJ Andrew (@cjwebstudio) – providing a service to help business set up their WordPress Shop
  • Iain Taylor (@iainptaylor)- the lead WordCamp Edinburgh organiser πŸ™‚
  • Heather (@idea15webdesign) – for being very entertaining throughout

I’ve managed to hunt down a few snaps of the event and after party in the gallery below.. not quite sure about the faces me (@mikemayhem3030) and Tom Β (@tarendai) are pulling in one of them!

Final Remarks

Now, attending a WordCamp away from my home city comes with an expense, it’s something that I have to analyse and consider whether the benefits outweigh the cost.

For a product business operating in WordPress there’s definitely benefits which are hard to measure, but attending these events I’ve found that they’re definitely worthwhile in increasing brand awareness and expanding your network.

You’ll never know who you may meet that can end up helping you (or vice versa) in ways you never even thought of before attending the event. It’s tempting to think of the event from a purely “will this get me any more sales of Zero BS CRM extensions” (which I was there representing) but if you do that you may be put off going and miss out on opportunities and new friends.

Is it only for developers or designers?Β 

Hell no. There’s a ton of value at the talks for WordPress Users and businesses who rely on WordPress for their websites. You can find out what’s coming down the track (like Gutenberg), discover new and interesting ways that people are using WordPress and discover products which might help you with your business goals (like our CRM #shameless-self-promo)

So, if you’re going to Manchester WordCamp on Oct 28th, come and say hi πŸ™‚

 

Categories: Stories

8 thoughts on “Recap of attending my first WordCamp”

  1. Stef

    Hey Mike! I’m so happy to hear that you found my talk useful, hope you’re able to leverage my experience in CS and my takeaways in your daily work πŸ™‚

    I’m also super excited to hear that your first WordCamp has been a success! It’s so amazing to see how new WordCampers are feeling settled in when joining a (relatively)new community πŸ™‚
    I look forward to seeing you soon in another WordCamp or meetup! Any questions at all, don’t hesitate to reach out to me πŸ™‚

    Have a great Monday!

    1. Mike Post author

      Thanks Stef,

      With me being the lead developer for the products and also doing the support myself it would be useful to pick your brains about a few things:

      1. Technical type replies if you’re not technical, do you tend to get angrier customers if the development team aren’t quick to pick up.

      2. Where are the best places to find support help (I could definitely do with help) and definitely when it comes to a wider coverage of the 24/7 nature of tickets. Do you have any recommended channels to find people who’s strengths are in support (empathy, etc)

      Mike

      1. Stef

        I’ll go point by point as follows πŸ™‚

        >1. Technical type replies if you’re not technical, do you tend to get angrier customers if the development team aren’t quick to pick up.

        Not really. I mean, it depends also on the type of person you’re dealing with, and you don’t know that beforehand πŸ™‚
        What I normally try to do is to keep my jargon as basic as possible, and then using more technical words if I find out the user I’m dealing with has got more technical knowledge of the product/situation.

        As about the quick replies, that depends as well on how urgent is the issue. Technical problems can or cannot be time sensitive – ie. a technical bug might not affect the site’s functionality, hence can be treated as ‘less urgent’ issue.

        So to me, time sensitive issues as opposed to technical issues tend to get more frustrated users.

        2. Where are the best places to find support help (I could definitely do with help) and definitely when it comes to a wider coverage of the 24/7 nature of tickets. Do you have any recommended channels to find people who’s strengths are in support (empathy, etc)

        That’s a good question. I don’t know any Customer Support related communities you can join, however my colleague Davor Altman may know some hubs to suggest.

        I’d recommend you to join the Make WordPress Slack channel where you’ll be welcome to ask anything you’d like to ask! We also have a UK WordPress channel if you haven’t seen it yet πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

        I’ll ping Davor and I’ll let you know if he’s got anything to pass over to you πŸ™‚

        1. Mike Post author

          Thanks Stef,

          I know others (Chris from HeroThemes) are also trying to recruit support team assistants.

          Knowing where best to advertise for people who have the right skill set would definitely help save us some time πŸ™‚

          Mike

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