Design Lead. WordCamp London 2018. My summary.

Background

If you have attended a WordCamp before you are welcome to skip to the next section ( nothing new to see here ), but, if you haven’t been to a WordCamp, or, you are sat there thinking “WordCamp what?” I will explain.

A WordCamp is a Community Event / Conference for everything WordPress. WordPress is a fantastic CMS ( Content Management System ), now powering in the region of 30% of todays websites.

WordCamps happen all around the world and throughout the year. They come in all shapes and sizes.

The events present all types of talks and workshops that are appropriate to all types of WordPress user, be that an admin assistant, a copywriter, a business owner, through to WordPress designers & developers.

WordCamps are organised and managed by members of the WordPress community. One of those being me. As in business, there is a management tier and a range of teams that create the main Organising team. Each of those teams have a Team Lead. Then, for the event itself there is a team of volunteers that help the Organising Team run the event. There is so much to do, the Organising Team just couldn’t cope without our wonderful volunteers.

WordCamp London attracts over 600 attendees each year and this year was no exception with us tipping towards 700 attendees.

As well as the conference talks and workshops, WordCamps take pride in their social events. It’s all about the WordPress Community and including everyone involved in our Community. No matter how much experience a user has, everyone is included. So the social events at WordCamps are a large feature of each event. They take a lot of organising as well.

Above everything described so far, WordCamps take each individuals safety, happiness and comfort seriously. To address this, every WordCamp has a Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct provides a set of rules that need to be adhered to and also provides individuals protection in a number of ways. A lot of WordCamp attendees come on their own and for the very first time ( I was one of those attendees back in 2016 ), so it’s a good feeling to have when there, knowing that the organisers are looking out for you.

The requirements

The requirements for organising and delivering a WordCamp are colossal. The planning and work begins 7 months prior to the event and no wonder why.

As a rookie Organiser in 2017, I had a good insight to the mammoth task involved. When WordCamp London 2017 finished back in April 2017 we all took time out after giving pats on each others backs, thinking “Until next year…”. It’s incredible how quickly the next year’s WordCamp comes around. It didn’t seem long since we’d wrapped up the 2017 event in that April that we were all meeting again in August 2017 to form the Organising team to begin work in September 2017. 7 months ahead of the main event in April 2018.

There are a number of core teams involved and in each team there is a Team Lead, a Deputy Team Lead and team members / assistants. In places, some team members cross over and offer their skills and time to various teams, but as Team Leads, you are dedicated to your cause and have no time for anything else. Trust me on that one.

As a rookie in 2017, I started out in the Comms team, but eventually pulled into the Design Team to rescue a sinking ship ( from a Design perspective ). Without ranting, something I would love to see in WordCamp organising is more ‘accountability’. We all work without fees and expenses. It is totally and completely voluntary. Everyone is in the same boat. It’s unhelpful and disruptive when an individual jumps into a Team Lead role at the beginning and then dissapears for weeks on end! That’s what happened in 2017! Back then, I supported the Lead Organiser as we had to literally rescue the design for the event. Weeks had passed with zero progress. There is a lot of design and artwork required, as I found out the hard way. Back in 2017 we managed to meet the deadline, just, with us literally completing artwork the night before the event. So for me, there needs to be more accountability when becoming an Organiser, especially a Team Lead. Regardless of the team in question.

The design mess of 2017 was not going to happen again, so I stepped up to the plate and put myself forward for 2018 Design Team Lead. It was an honour to be accepted into that role. We had a new Lead Organiser as well, well new as in, new to the role, but Ana had been Deputy Lead Organiser in 2017. We couldn’t have wished for a more wonderful Lead Organiser. Most of the team for 2018 were involved back in 2017 so we hit the ground running, which felt great.

The main requirement as I see it, for being a Team Lead, is of course to have the skill and ability for the team you are leading. That sounds obvious right? I have 30 years commercial Design experience ( the last 10 specialising in the web ), so reckoned that was a good start. Additional requirements include; dedication ( we all give our time free of charge and with zero expenses in return, so there is huge cost involved ( tangible and intangible ); commitment ( which is hard when you run your own business and WordCamp Organising is in addition to your business demands and time with your family ); access to a time machine ( lots of time is required as referred to just now ); patience and lots of it ( especially when certain individuals join in the process ( rookies too, who’ve never attended a WordCamp, or organised one, let alone taken on Team Lead roles ) to be part of a team but think it’s their way or the highway ( Yes it happened in 2018 ) ); a love of WordPress ( that’s why we are all here isn’t it? ).

The process

With the teams in place we begin the process of planning and making a start on WordCamp London 2018.

We rely on the great communication app ‘Slack’. A weekly meeting takes place with the full Organising Team, then at various points throughout the week each team meets to discuss their tasks and requirements.

Here is a summary of the Design Team requirements ( in a rough order ):

  • Conceptualise the WordCamp London 2017 event theme
  • Conceptualise and design the WordCamp London 2017 event brand identity ( this is not an easy process )
  • Design and artwork for:
    • event website
    • event signage ( a collosal amount of signage )
    • event bunting ( holding sponsors logos )
    • social media avatars and banners
    • attendee name badges
    • attendee t-shirts
    • children’s workshop t-shirts
    • swag
    • WordCamp London 2018 Wapuu
    • Wapuu sticker / sticker sheet

That is a huge amount of work, with everything forking off from the main event theme and brand identity. With that in mind it’s imperative that the right approach is taken with the theme and also the brand identity. The inexperienced think it’s ‘just a logo’, but that is just a drop in the ocean. We aren’t creating a simple set of business stationery here ( static ), this is a huge event with a life and energy and with a wide range of design applications, so the theme and brand identity requires a dynamic treatment and the ability to adapt to the various applications required ( dynamic ).

The first task to lead was the theme and brand identity design. As a team of three, we didn’t have a huge stack of resource. Each of us worked on our own concepts and then presented the best of them to the full Organising Team. Presenting to the full team was a smooth and enjoyable process, with great feedback and an excitement for one theme in particular. That happened to be: Musical Culture of London.

Image of Elliott Porter's WordCamp London 2018 brand identity scamps
London has such an incredible music scene with all styles of music there for everyone. Great venues, a great scene all round. We felt the theme gave huge scope for dynamic application and with musicians being performers we could see the possibility for breathing life into the whole events design and marketing.

Once the theme was agreed we each worked up concepts and design for the brand identity. Scamps and thoughts were in progress…

Image of Elliott Porter's WordCamp London 2018 brand identity scamps

I worked up my concepts through to production and this was our WordCamp London 2018 brand identity…

Image of Elliott Porter's WordCamp London 2018 brand identity production artwork

Incorporating all styles of musician, I love the energy and animacy in this design. We are a Community, so it’s all about people and including everyone, regardless of style, taste or ability.

In every step of this design I had the big picture in my mind, so as I developed this design I could see its application, even down to transposing the transparency effect of the silhouettes into a single colour print on the event t-shirts. With a lot of money to raise to run the event ( we are talking tens of thousands of pounds ) we understandably have a tight budget for swag. Swag is loved at all WordPress events, but it’s all money and the cost of entry to the event is pretty much free, so the ticket price doesn’t give us much finance to spare. Hence, a single colour print on t-shirts was the most we could hope for. But that is how considered this design was. I had the vision of how that single colour application could be applied.

Talking of t-shirts

Image of Elliott Porter's WordCamp London 2018 t-shirt design

As the design gained life we applied it to the list of required applications and this gave the event even more life. I was so proud to see this design become stronger as each application took place.

Image of Elliott Porter's WordCamp London 2018 website

One of the main elements of any WordCamp is our WordPress mascot, the wonderful Wapuu. Last year I supported Jenny Wong in creating the 2017 Wapuu, but this year I had the priviledge of developing our Wapuu. Great fun.

Bringing the musical theme into Wapuu’s development, I tried various idea’s, of which I saw a lot of potential ( remembering the theme and identity had to be adaptable )

Image of Elliott Porter's WordCamp London 2018 Wapuu scamps Image of Elliott Porter's WordCamp London 2018 Wapuu scamps.

Image of Elliott Porter's WordCamp London 2018 Wapuu scamps

Excitement was building, so much so, Ana wanted to use more than one Wapuu. So I increased my workload and created more than one Wapuu. These were then developed into a sticker sheet ( so kindly provided by the fantastic Sticker Giant in USA ).

So proud of our ‘One Wapuu Band’…Image of Elliott Porter's WordCamp London 2018 One-Wapuu band

Another incredibly proud moment took place when I was informed that our WordCamp London Wapuu had been selected to appear on the WordCamp Europe 2018 Wapuu sticker sheet. WordCamp Europe took place last year in Belgrade, Serbia, 14-16th June 2018.

Time flies

It’s incredible that no matter how much planning and calendar watching you do, the event seems to creep up too quickly. No sooner had we taken a break through Christmas we were looking at just 2 weeks to go. It was the beginning of April 2018. How did that happen?

Image of Elliott Porter's WordCamp London 2018 Wapuu sticker sheetWith some of the usual bumps in the road ( nothing ever goes to plan eh? ) we had all the required items in production. Print suppliers briefed and in progress. It’s not just about Design, being Design Team Lead. There is massive production requirement involved. Anything digital is a breeze, as any production issues can be resolved without cost, but signage, t-shirts, bunting and sticker sheets go to print with your design and artwork, and on my head be it! Yikes! Remember, I am not getting paid for any of my time and I am running my business at the same time. My Weblake Customers must and always will come first, but as I referred to above, being a Team Lead is a huge commitment, so I can’t take my eye off the WordCamp London ball just because I have a busy business running. I wish that same commitment had been there in 2017 from the then Design Team Lead. My values are right. You commit, so follow it through, no matter what! There are hundereds of people relying on this work and my efforts, and our whole WordCamp London team.

The final 2 weeks are pretty much full time WordCamp London activity. My daily hours were long, as those last two weeks saw me effectively working two days into every one ( WordCamp and Weblake ). I am so blessed to have such a wonderful and supportive Fiance that understands my passion for WordPress and the web and my business. Bless her x

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, there I was sat on the train from Bristol, heading for London Paddington and WordCamp London 2018. There was nothing else that could be done now. Design was looking fab, all production on schedule ( but with some nerve wracking delivery timescales ), although a lot of the initial panic was eased as Ana had been sending me images of deliveries of production as they arrived. That was so greatly appreciated.Image of Elliott Porter's WordCamp London 2018 train journey

A late night was ahead as the committed amongst us met at Ana’s AirB&B to run through deliveries and production, sort final requirements and generally create the plan of attack for the next morning and the weekend ahead.

Part of the Design Team spent the evening sorting the huge amount of signage into logical areas of the buildings.Image of Elliott Porter's WordCamp London 2018 signage sorting

We finished this task at around 11pm and did finish off the night with a pizza and a glass or two of soft drinks ( if you believe that you’ll believe anything ).

The WordCamp. The results

The 2018 WordCamp for London was here. I spent the early morning of Contributor Day assisting Gary Jones ( Contributor Day Lead ), then onto the Design Team requirements from mid morning. That involved too many things to bore you with here, but that saw the day out and back to our AirB&B for a shower before the ‘Speaker’s Dinner’. Well, to be honest it was more of a ‘Speaker’s Nightclub’ “Sorry, what was that you said? I can’t hear a word you are saying because the awful club music ( and I love music ) is blaring at almost ear bleeding decibels”…

My plan, always at events like this ( and I have supported quite a few ) is to take care of my well being and health and to be ‘fit for the job’. With that in mind I left the venue, much earlier than most ‘ahem’ and hit the hay by 10.30pm. What a good boy x

We had an early start on the first day of WordCamp, being there at the venue at 6am. With registration opening at 07:30 we had just 1.5 hours to apply signage to 3 buildings and adjoining corridors. Even with a team of volunteers we still struggled to complete the task, but we did. Just!

The event opened with Ana presenting a wonderful welcome to all. As I stood there at the back of the Great Hall I felt extremely proud ( even though I say so myself ), and rightly so. To see all of the WordCamp London Design applied around the venue and on attendees t-shirts, across TV screens and projected onto huge projector screens, on name badges and seeing Tweets covered in my design work was a proud, proud moment. This event is part of the global WordPress and global WordCamp market, so I worked hard to make this stand up as worthy and of the quality expected.

Image of Elliott Porter's WordCamp London 2018 information screen Image of Elliott Porter's WordCamp London 2018 projector screen with graphics

The rest of the event was the huge success we hoped. Every moment spent on this WordCamp had been worth it, but it took its toll. I knew I had given my all as I was mentally and emotionally exhausted. I hit the hay again by 11pm on Saturday, which was 5 hours before one of my Design Team decided to do the same. Ha ha. Can you imagine how his head felt that next morning, actually I should write ‘that same morning’? I just had to look at him to know the answer to that. There is a benefit of being tired and needing your sleep, it meant I didn’t have a raging hangover for the last day of the event.

As we came to a close, we all felt the strain of so much effort over the last 7 months. Following a successful break down of the event venue and all WordCamp equipment we did head to the local pub. My fatigue was again working for me as I sipped a beer, but knowing this one would be the only one before I head back to Paddington and my train.

Aboard the Bristol-bound train I gave myself a hypothetical pat on the back. The whole event couldn’t have run more smoothly. The success for me was being really proud of my design work. Any designer reading this will know that at times, even though we put in our best efforts, we sometimes look back onto our output and maybe see things we could have changed / improved, but this didn’t happen for WordCamp London 2018. I really did stand there on the Saturday morning, feeling really proud and really happy with the design output for the whole event. Even down to the dots ( to replicate transparency ) on the t-shirts 😉Image of Elliott Porter's WordCamp London 2018 t-shirt

Conclusion

If you are into WordPress in any way, I implore you to at least attend a WordCamp, but better still become part of an Organising Team. Especially if you are working alone, or new to WordPress. It’s a fantastic way to make contacts and friends. I have made a lot of great friends through this experience.

One added bonus this year was something indirectly related to our WordCamp. Meeting the incredible Zac Gordon! I have invested in Zac and his courses and his latest Summer Cohort for JavaScript. You get what you pay for and every penny of this investment has been worth it. I love JavaScript and I was studying this deeply ( even before we were advised to do so by Matt Mullenweg ). Well, Zac asked me early on about his visiting our WordCamp to present a workshop. I couldn’t wait to get this arranged for him. Sadly the ‘workshop’ didn’t happen for various reasons, but Zac gave us a fantastic talk about React and Gutenberg. The best part was that I finally got to meet this great guy/genius/educator in person. And it was also a time for me to meet Belinda a fellow cohort student…

Image of Elliott Porter's with Zac Gordon and Belinda Mustoe at WordCamp London 2018

So, who knows what WordCamp London 2019 will bring our WordPress Community? For me, I know that I need to take a break from the huge commitment that is required for creating such a great event. So for 2019 my plan is to go back to enjoying these events as an attendee. With 2 years organising of WordCamps under my belt I have most definitely ‘given back to our Community’.

What will be next I wonder? I believe, it’s a great time for a new route for this great event. A good time for a fresh perspective. I am looking forward to seeing what next year’s WordCamp London 2019 brings us. I will see you there in 2019 ( as an attendee ).

Image of Elliott Porter's WordCamp London 2018 information screen with brand identity

GDPR: Preparing for the new regulation, a 12 step guide…

Weblake shares the 12 Steps Guide to GDPREvery business owner around the world has to address the GDPR ( General Data Protection Regulation ) which becomes active on 25th May 2018. If your business is based in the EU or provides services to EU citizens ( even if your business is based outside of the EU ), then you have steps to take with your business to ensure every piece of customer data you hold and your processes in dealing with that data are compliant with GDPR.

Weblake is supporting its customers primarily with their websites and its respective Privacy Policy. We are creating their specific Privacy Policy via the iubenda’ service which is backed by a legal team that keep the policy wording up to date automatically. In addition to creating and implementing these Privacy Policies for our customers, we are also ensuring that our customers have the correct Cookie Consent directive in place. Indirectly, the support is there for our customers to help them understand the non-website related steps that are required to ensure they are GDPR compliant. This is a minefield and specific to each business. Each businesses Privacy Policy is also specific to them and their data activities. No template is suitable now. No one-size fits all. Those days of “let’s copy that Privacy Policy and paste it into our website” are over. Generic is out! Specific and transparent is where it’s at.

The ICO website contains a wide range of extensive guides and documentation that distills this new Regulation into achievable and understandable actions that are required by every business that has to adhere to this new Regulation. To that end, I share a great 12 step guide to GDPR and links to relevant and useful resources.

Download the 12 steps to take now GDPR guide

GDPR resources

Guide to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

GDPR documentation

GDPR key definitions

Data protection self-assessment

Consent ( Lawful basis for processing )

ICO blog: Myths! Sorting the fact from fiction

It will be interesting to see how the landscape will look post 25th May 2018 and GDPR. I can only imagine the immense work and investment that has been required by corporations to adhere to this programme. Will they all do it correctly? Let’s see.

Moreover, let’s see how quickly we see claims being placed against businesses out there for non-GDPR compliance. I can imagine there are consumers out there as I write, sat in their ivory towers, poised, ready to lunge at the chance to claim what is reported to be potentially millions of pounds in compensation.

I am supporting my customers and helping them protect themselves from the acts of consumers trying to make a quick buck.

We can only hold our breath at this stage.

 

My public speaking journey. The challenge, the preparation, the plan

The Challenge

Public speaking is something that most of us dread and we’ve all heard that the fear of public speaking is placed higher than the fear of death. Somehow I wonder how public speaking can be worse than death, but I was certainly not one of the great people on our planet that have mastered the art. It is an art. So, I had a fear but I wanted to beat that. I had taken part in numerous elevator pitches over the years at networking events, but they are normally limited to a minute or two, so the challenge there is simply to condense your business description into a sentence or two.

Standing up and delivering a talk about a specific subject for 30+ minutes was something I always wanted to tackle and not just tackle but master. I have witnessed many fantastic talks and been in awe at times. I’ve also witnessed many terrible talks and sadly watched people fall apart ( which I wouldn’t wish on anyone ). Any person that has the courage to attempt to talk to an audience is a winner before they begin in my book.

There were decisions to be made, on what subject would I talk about, who to, when and how would I approach this?

What subject would I talk about then?

Now, there is public speaking to an audience and public speaking to an audience of peers. I’ve always disliked that word ‘peer’ but it’s relevant. Also dislike the word ‘eclectic’ as well but hey ho… no idea why just do!

I’m always up for a challenge, and I have faced a few in my life. I was challenged in my past by an ex, many times. They are ‘ex’, not for the reasons of the challenges ( ironically ), but I am sure the fact I faced them all and achieved them all wripped their narcissistic control apart and built up huge resentment. I was strong and faced my fears and didn’t fail. That must be torture for a control freak eh? Especially when one of the challenges was passing the PADI Open Water Scuba Diving qualification and completing a 30metre scuba dive. Yes, a huge challenge when I grew up with a fear of water, not helped by my Dad who used to leave me hanging onto the side of a swimming pool freezing to death ( there’s the death word again ). As a baby apparently I made it clear with my screaming that I hated the water, especially the sea and sand…but that didn’t matter, I wasn’t nurtured through it, just expected to deal with it and if I didn’t I was left to fend for myself. So I faced the PADI Scuba Diving challenge and won! Not easy, far from easy, in fact it was petrifying, but I beat it… maybe I will write another post about this very subject as their was a huge triumph in the achievement and the results of facing my fear saw me scuba dive in the Maldives… what a reward that was…

Then the next challenge was a sky dive… from 14,000ft… Yep, you guessed it, sorted that as well! Boom. Down I dropped… Here’s the photo to prove it.

Challenges are good… 3 Marathons under my belt as well… Paris, London and New York! Sorted. Boom. Numerous half marathons, 100 mile cycling sportives, 80 mile Exmoor Beast cycling challenges, 60 mile Dartmoor Classic and on the list goes… I am proud of the achievements and the medals that have come with it.

This challenge was equally as important, even though self inflicted! Well so were the Marathons to be honest, something I had always wanted to achieve…at least one marathon anyway. Public speaking, proper public speaking, not a networking elevator pitch! That doesn’t count in this challenge.

The first decision had to made and that was on the subject of the talk…

What could I talk about that I had enough knowledge and confidence in? I thought long and hard and whilst I know a lot about web development and WordPress, I felt I needed to ease into this, so a softer approach was going to be business related, I thought. Yes, that felt right.

Further thought brought me onto my business model and thinking that this subject would be perfect. It was a story after all, a story that had a good start, middle and end and one I knew a lot about and the reason for that was it was a result of another challenge… saving my business from going under. Simple as! I saved my business by creating a subscription business model for creating WordPress websites for customers. This all came about as a result of business changes and ‘emergencies’ as it were. That decision was made then… I will talk about my subscription business model and how it saved my business. This tied in beautifully with WordPress, after all WordPress was at the core ( pun intended ) of the subscription model. That then moved me onto…

Who would I talk to?

You know I like challenges yes? Yes, I made that clear for sure…With that in mind if the connection is WordPress and I need a challenge who would I talk to? Only a flippin’ WordPress Meetup, in London of all places! Why, would I do that? I live in Bristol and I haven’t ever give a ‘proper talk’ to anyone, let alone a room full of WordPress gurus! In London!

Bring in the awesome Gary Jones of Gamajo. Gary is a WordPress ninja, PHP ninja, in fact ninja of pretty much everything, with that there is a wonderful personality and zero ego. I first came across Gary when I bought his book on the Genesis framework. Then I became a WordCamp London Organiser and this guru is suddenly there in the same room. Then Gary becomes a friend, we all become friends in the WordPress community ( that’s why contributing, organising and volunteering in the Community is so rewarding ).

What happens? Gary calls me to ask “Mate, would you be up for speaking at the WordPress London Meetup?”… “Uh, uh, uh, uh” ( cough, splutter, choke, catch my breath ) “Yeah OK Gary, count me in” ( My knees were knocking right there and then I can tell you ).

The preparation

Where would I begin. I knew this was going to be a challenge and I had to attack as I have everything else… with courage ( even with the fear ) and do my best to prepare. Preparation is absolutely the most important aspect of any challenge. You don’t have to be good at something, but if you haven’t prepared you will not only fail, but your fear is increased as a result. Fear lessens the more familiar you are with something.

Saying that, how do you prepare for a 14,000ft skydive or scuba diving to 30metres? Well they still prepare you to a degree. In the skydive we had classroom tuition on at least how your body is supposed to be positioned as you drop and how to lift your feet for landing so that you don’t break your legs. Scuba diving is prepared for initially in the shallow end of a swimming pool and then into the deep end, then out to a quarry and then into the opening of the Cornish Sea, before you qualify and are let loose in the ocean. It makes sense eh? No wonder the limited amount of preparation for a skydive adds to the fear and tension. I have never attempted a bunji jump ( my gorgeous Fiance has ) but that has to be even worse, no preparation at all right? Just jump!

At least with public speaking you have the chance to prepare, prepare, prepare… there is no excuse not to prepare. So that’s what I began with. The preparation.

I now knew what I was talking about and who to. The first part of my preparation was to plan out the talk, with a beginning, middle and end. I knew I had 35 minutes to talk ( how was I going to fill that up? ), that put fear in me alone. But here was the first lesson in preparation and planning… I wrote out what I felt would be a good start, covering the major points and then ran through it to get a rough time count… which came in at 40 minutes and still had a tonne to get through. Wow. Major editing and thought required.

Had I not prepared with planning the content I would have fallen flat on my face as the message wouldn’t have been delivered, but not only that, the anxiety of realising I had too much content as I was speaking would have rammed my face into the ground even harder!

Major editing done I was already feeling more confident, so the preparation continued, into creating the presentation itself. I’d read some books on the subject and with my design expertise made sure the slides created were interesting and legible… job done.

With a smart looking deck of slides it was now time for the weird part, well it felt weird to me… as they say in Dragon’s Den… “Talk to the wall”. Which is what I did. Keynote has a great ‘rehearsal’ mode which I tried, but it was really odd! The whole thing weird. But I knew it had to be done. It get’s you used to the sound of your own voice, work on the pitch of your voice and removing the monotoneness ( is that a word? ) ;-)… the last thing I wanted to do was give a boring delivery that puts people to sleep.

I am used to rehearsal being a drummer but also used to drumming with bands without rehearsal, but that confidence only comes with years of practice, or in other words, preparation. Rehearsing was an odd experience and I restarted many times, tripped myself up many times, but allowed me to make mistakes in the privacy of my house, not in front of a room full of WordPress friends. Each rehearsal became easier and I started to feel more confident and felt the benefit of the preparation. I got to a point where I was as ready as I will ever be… then I tapered! What is that you ask? Well if you are a runner you will know exactly what that is, especially a long distance runner. You can overtrain and over practice, I have known people to do both! So I got to a point where I felt confident enough and gave myself a rest from the stress and decided I would perform one rehearsal on the morning of the talk.

Like running, you can complete a short run the morning of the race to warm up, just enough!

The big day

So we were there, the day of reckoning. I travelled to London to meet my partner in crime and great friend Paul Smart ( whom is part of the WordCamp London Design Team ). Paul is a regular at the WordPress London meetup, so was great to see a familiar face. We grabbed a beer and a burger across the road from the venue, but I kept it to one! Calm the nerves yes, but not affect my performance ( oooh err Mrs )… needed my wits about me of course.

This was the meetup…

It didn’t help that I was speaking last, but I sat and tried to relax and just get myself into the zone.

The time came, break finished and I am there, standing, ready to perform. Just like with my drumming I get into the zone and give my best when behind the kit. With my running, I listen to music when I train ( to relieve the boredom ) but for the race I leave the music behind. That puts me into ‘performance mode’. So here I was and running through the start of the presentation in my head and remembering to swallow, pause and not begin speaking faster… plus work on my monotoness ( there’s that non-word again )…

So how did it go? I am pleased to say it was as good as it could have been. There was some ‘cotton mouth’ a few minutes in, but with a swig of my beer ‘what a great meetup having beers on tap’ and a ‘Cheers’ I seemed to settle into it and it flowed as well as it could. I performed as well as I could for the first major talk given. I ended my talk pretty much bang on time and then received an unexpected amount of questions, so that really pleased me, as technically I had come across OK and the audience took in my message and were interested enough to want to know more. I was really pleased with the result.

All my preparation had worked for me. That was a proud moment. We all visited the local pub after the event for a few drinks ( their meetup ritual ) and I did stand there and give myself a hypothetical pat on the back. Another fear had been faced, challenged and beaten. Well, I knew I could have done better and there are bigger public speaking challenges ahead. But, to have delivered over 35 minutes to a room full of WordPress friends was the first challenge met, in my book.

The next challenge is to deliver the same talk to the WordPress meetup in Bristol and that is happening tonight.

Then, it will be into planning another subject for a different talk, different audience maybe, different place for sure. I have one major goal though and that is to speak at a WordCamp somewhere…Watch this space.

So for all of my friends out there who fancy giving public speaking a go, please do! It’s a challenge yes, nerve wracking yes, takes time to prepare for, yes, raises your confidence, yes and inspires others to do the same? I do hope so.

 

 

Photo by Ezra Jeffrey on Unsplash

My JavaScript journey. Study, Zac Gordon and the JavaScript For WordPress Summer Cohort

My love for code. But I am not an academic!

It’s been a struggle at times, not for the want of trying though. As a self taught coder of XHTML and CSS way back in the good ol’ days of WYSIWYG Dreamweaver the bug and excitement for learning more has grown exponentially ever since.

Even though I come from a graphic design background ( way before tech ( I am not just pre-tech I am pre-historic clearly ) my day to day activity involved marker pens / paper and print. The move to coding was and is unbeatable. Part of that attraction I am sure is the difficulty and challenge it brings to learn this wonderful world of web development, with so many choices of language, frameworks, front-end, back-end, devops, UX and on and on.

So not being an ‘academic’ and a naturally gifted individual in the grey matter I was determined to gain traction and make a name for myself, in my own little world of mastering JavaScript.

The journey so far

I have spent a fair amount of money and time so far on JavaScript e-books, reading and understanding ( or so I thought ). With intense enthusiasm and determination I have ‘battled on’, each time making some progress in places, only to try a different approach and find either a different way, or thinking that I have been walking the wrong path. It’s been a couple of years of study. It’s all been enjoyable but I felt like I was treading water a lot of the time.

I saw something and couldn’t wait for it to launch

There is a genius and an incredibly infectious ‘smiler’ that goes by the name of Zac Gordon. I had no prior knowledge of Zac until I came across a snippet of a Treehouse course but then an announcement of an upcoming online course for ‘Learning JavaScript Deeply‘. This phrase was of course coined by the mighty Matt Mullenweg, the centre of WordPress. My business Weblake had pivoted to specialise in WordPress a while before.

WordPress began to move in all the right directions towards becoming more than a simple blogging platform. All of a sudden we saw development roadmaps that were decoupling the component of WordPress and allowing for incredible functionality into the future. It was becoming even more attractive and even more exciting.

I loved JavaScript and I loved WordPress and the two were coming together! Boom!

I just couldn’t wait for Zac’s new JavaScript For WordPress course. The earlybird offer was snatched out of the nest and the weeks of waiting for launch of Zac’s course were agonising.

Then it came…

It was countdown and the day had arrived. The launch of the Javascript For WordPress course. It was everything I was expecting and within hours I had learned more that I had picked up in years of self study. Most definitely part of that progress was aided by the infectious ‘Zac accent’. You can actually hear him smiling as you listen to his narrative of his course videos. Even down to the sound effect of the content pages in the video shifting on, the whole package is designed beautifully. It’s impossible not to make progress with these ingredients.

If there was ever going to be a frustration, it was the fact I was moving through the course quicker than Zac could publish his new content. Being such a sought after educator and developer it was clear that Zac’s ambitious road map for the course had to deviate a little, but all for good reason. Success breeds success eh?

I wish my cashflow had been healthier at the time …

…as I would have taken part in Human Made’s ‘A Week Of REST’ last year. Knowing Zac was there as a tutor made the event for me but nah, just couldn’t afford it sadly.

But the best was yet to come!

The enthusiasm gained in this amazing world of JavaScript have led me to investigate the major and popular frameworks out there. Angular, React and now Vue. Also the world of Node.js has been gripped. Yet I come back to the ‘non academic’ in me… it will always be a challenge but I am sure also that I put additional pressure on myself to ‘get it right’. I keep ‘battling on’ to this day…

I mustn’t ever forget I am a designer first and foremost and classed myself as a frustrated developer in the past whilst Imposter Syndrome had fun with me. Those days are gone ( there’s another blog post in there somewhere ) so I am now a fully fledged ‘Developer with design skills’. I like that. It feels and sounds good. I am qualified!

So with this ongoing love of everything WordPress and JavaScript and the goodness of Zac Gordon’s teachings, we were recently blessed with a new Udemy WordPress Developer course ( there’s another blog post in there also ), but something eclipsed that as it was launched just before the Udemy course and that was a JavaScript For WordPress Summer Cohort. It looked almost too good to be true. Direct access to Zac via a Slack channel and monthly video calls with Zac and the group. All of this over the course of a year. A weekly checkin on Slack is also there to keep you on track.

Now I will make this perfectly clear, I am in absolutely no way affiliated with Zac, I am not receiving any type of commission of incentive for this review / post about Zac and his teachings / courses. I am purely wanting to ‘big up’ this great man who has an incredibly natural way of teaching. Zac has a natural and accessible way of making you feel valued and capable in what you are learning and achieving. I believe in credit where it is due, Zac deserves the credit and I also believe there are many many ‘designers’ out there that may feel overwhelmed or not worthy of moving into the world of web development and could benefit from reading this summary.

The Summer Cohort has been brilliant and we have only just begun. To sit at my laptop with my fellow Cohort students dotted around the world and us all have Zac appearing there in the same screen, talking to ‘us’ and addressing us all personally was actually beyond real in the first couple of video sessions, it’s still surreal third session in. This course was an investment. Yes it cost more than a Udemy or Eudonix course but that’s for good reason. To have direct access to Zac is worth the price of my investment ten fold. I have made incredible progress and not just progress but incredible understanding in JavaScript and vanilla JavaScript at that. I am finally ‘Learning JavaScript Deeply‘. Matt Mullenweg will be pleased.

So where now?

My next stop is the next check in with Zac and our Cohort next Monday, as much time as I can manage ( around my business, life and my commitment to being Design Lead for WordCamp London 2018 ) working through the rest of the course. I really look forward to the next video session and discussing progress as a group. Hearing my fellow JS students also making progress spurs me on further. We are all in this together.

I am so excited about the future, the future of me and my JavaScript Development career and the future of Zac’s JavaScript For WordPress course. Also so excited about the future of WordPress.

We have just seen the about turn of React and their licensing ( how short sighted that was on their part, but pleasing to see the about turn ).

As I gain more confidence in my JS ability I will share more technical views and findings in my website. The ultimate goal here is to develop a Weblake JS app of some kind and that will happen I know, because I have the skills, knowledge and enthusiasm there in buckets.

I believe Zac has another enrollment coming soon for a Master Course Cohort. Absolutely do yourself a favour and invest in this fantastic programme. Please do reach out on this website or via Twitter if you want to ask me more privately. No strings. No commission, just thanks and admiration to Zac and his ‘infectious way’. All JS credit where it’s due. Thank you Zac for making this journey so damn exciting and enjoyable. So much learning and hunger for more!

Now I am off to perform some more deep learning of the beauty and intrigue that is JavaScript and how I can fit that into WordPress. It’s like Gin and Tonic. Lovely!

From Windows to Linux. Why didn’t I try this sooner?

The shock of trying to run WordPress on Windows

I had only ever worked with Windows when I moved Weblake into specialising in WordPress. This was a move that had transpired from my hitting rock bottom. The business was failing due to historical customers either going out of business or being acquired. The worst case scenario though was Weblake’s largest customer ( an agency who had become around 80% of the business revenue ( yes, yes, yes a bad place to be I knew that )) were also on the way out. They employed a ‘Digital Producer’ and I knew my days were numbered. It was the kick up the rear I needed really but it’s frightening I can tell you. But it also hurts ( a lot ) when that company that you pretty much were a permanent part of, moved mountains for and other customers projects aside for, don’t so much as give you a second of explanation or warning. Nothing, no compassion or any type of loyalty, thanks or forewarning. It taught me a huge lesson and one never to be repeated.

The first WordPress project

The first development project for me using WordPress was for a brand new customer and a customer that knew exactly what they wanted. And being in tech themselves knew a good performing website, more than the average user.

Something wasn’t working on Windows though. This was like watching paint dry, even though FastCGI was being implemented. "I wonder about Linux. Everyone in open source seems to use Linux but I know nothing about it. It might be time to learn".

So that’s what I did. Set out to self learn this new technology ( to me anyway ) and spent the next week dedicated to learning Ubuntu, command line and bash scripting. It didn’t take me long to realise I was working with something that left Windows in the dark for WordPress performance. It was one of those "…damn, I wish I had looked into this years ago". It’s never too late though eh?

Linux rocks

I really can’t see myself working with Windows technology again. The beauty of Linux and the command line, the control, the solidity, the community and the sheer performance of the Linux OS is just wonderful.

If you are reading this and have never tried the open source Linux OS take my word for it, you will never look back. It’s a little steep in terms of learning but once you begin to understand the mechanics it’s a joy to use and administer.

So where now?

Whilst my initial move into Linux was based around Ubuntu and Apache, my next move will be into the world of Nginx. My research suggests that Nginx leaves Apache standing. For web performance Nginx seems to be light years ahead of Apache, so that is where I am heading…

Watch this space…

Thank you to Thomas Kvistholt for this posts featured image
Thomas Kvistholt