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Updating Videos, Slack Chat, and Other Production Changes

CSA Slack Banner

After another WordCamp visit this past week, this time for WordCamp Orlando, I am back with all kinds of new ideas including ways to update my plugin development process. This time around I am seeking to improve communication; a theme that was re-iterated at several sessions this past weekend.

As part of that process I have decided to learn how to utilize Slack. Slack is an online chat and collaboration tool. It happens to be the new home for WordPress Core development conversations, having moved on from IRC. Since I want to get back to contributing to core I figure it is a good place to start my improved communications with my customers. It also happens to be the only project management/communication tool that got high praise from the various CTO-level contacts I heard from while seeking a decent Project Management tool.

As for improved communications, any developer interested in Store Locator Plus even from a custom integration/private development standpoint is welcome to get on Slack. Use the contact form here and ask for an invite. Any time I am on Store Locator Plus development I am going to get onto the charlestonsw.slack.com base plugin channel. Developers are welcome to ask questions there. I won’t respond to general support questions there as I feel the forums on this site are better suited to that. It helps reduce the number of times the same-exact question is asked. Chat and email are horrible for shared questions & answers.

Another check box on my “improve communications” list is getting updated videos online. I started by recording my testing session for SLP 4.2.17 today. It is not a great video as far as training, instruction, etc. but it does give a quick 5-minute overview of how the product works when adding locations and what it looks like on a default/fresh WordPress install. I plan to add more videos with instructions or general rambling as I work with the Store Locator Plus updates over the next few weeks. You can catch my YouTube Store Locator Plus playlist on the documentation pages on this site. The iframe embedded channel is right here:

Back to testing & coding…

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WordCamp Charleston Locations

WordCamp Directory Banner

I am still in the process of creating my first responsive WordPress theme, based entirely on the Twenty Fourteen theme that WordPress provides. It is still in the very early “hacking” stages but is far enough along to put it to use. It works in conjunction with an upcoming Store Locator Plus theme “Big Map” that uses the Google map as a page background and layers the location search form and results output on top.   Premier Members can get a copy of the upcoming theme and the updated plugins and add-on packs that support it via the downloads section of this site.

Charleston WordCamp Directory Site
Charleston WordCamp Directory uses the upcoming Big Map SLP Theme and a modified Twenty Fourteen WP Theme also to be named “Big Map”

The Store Locator Plus plugin and upcoming Big Map WordPress theme are being used in their early alpha state to drive a new locator site I am testing for WordCamp Charleston this weekend. Go ahead and give it a try and let me know what you think. I know it is far from perfect but I am hoping people start using it and giving feedback so I can learn how to make Store Locator Plus work better with ALL themes for mobile devices.

I already have a list of a dozen things I would like to improve. I’m hoping you can help me refine the experience.

 

Charleston-WordCamp-Directory

http://Charleston.WordCamp.Directory/

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Weekend Review : WordCamp Atlanta

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Got back from WordCamp Atlanta (#wcatl) a few hours ago and am about to assimilate as much of the information overload as I can.   Before I get into the depths of technical research, or get mired in the bazillion emails that accumulated over the past 96 hours, I thought I’d touch on some of the highlights for those of you who have never been to WordCamp.  Granted, my view is from that of an uber-tech-geek but there truly is something for EVERYONE at WordCamp.  In fact there are far more non-uber-geek elements to the event that one might expect.

If you do ANYTHING with WordPress and have not been to a WordCamp yet, I strongly advise getting to one.  You WILL learn something new and make at least a half-dozen social and professional connections while you are there.   If you want a smaller , “lighter” version of WordCamp than the two-day 400-person event of WordCamp Atlanta,  you may want to consider WordCamp Charleston coming this May.   It is a one-day event being held in one of the top-rated “foodie” cities in the world that constantly rates a top “must visit city” in America.

What Did I Learn?

After attending WordCamp Atlanta 2013 and learning some new tricks I was a bit worried about attending this year.   My first thought was “I wonder if there is anything new or if it will be a rehash of the same content”.   Well, I certainly did learn something new.   To say I was pleasantly surprised is an  understatement.   Before I made it to lunch break on the first day, I was already thinking “Holy Smokes… I have so much to learn!”.   It started in the first 30 minutes with the keynote speech by Syed Balkhi from WPBeginner.

Syed Opening WCATL 2014

Leverage Free

What did I learn from the opening presentation?  Leverage more free. 

I think I’ve done a decent job of doing that with the Store Locator Plus plugin and “leveraging free”.   However after listening to one of the most entertaining keynote presentations I’ve heard in a very long time, I realized I could be doing even MORE with the “give something away, get something in return” concept.    I’ve not yet come up with the precise action plan, but I certainly have some ideas on how this may work with the premium add-on packs for Store Locator Plus.

I Know  So Little…

After several other presentations and scribbling lots of notes I realized there are a LOT of people at these events that bring expertise and fresh insights to EVERY ASPECT of running a WordPress-centric business.    Business owners and executives, WordPress users, graphic design talent, plugin and theme coders, and even the exceptional talent of the WordPress core contributors are at hand.   Every one of them will get you thinking about what you can do better.  The only thing you need to do? Listen.   When day one wrapped up I thought I would be able to go into “brain hibernation mode”, but even the after-party turned out to be loaded with information about the WordPress community and dynamics of the WordPress ecosystem.

Day one, met some cool people and made some great connections.  Learned some cool tricks and came away with ideas on how to improve my products and services.   What could I possibly take away from day two?

Turns out… A WHOLE LOT.

Suzette Ponies

Day 2, Session 1 : Saas

Suzzette from MediaTemple put on a great presentation, My-Pretty-Pony-unicorns and cool animations included,  about Saas.    If you don’t know what Saas is and you do a lot of CSS stuff, you need to look into it.   Saas is a preprocessor for CSS that essentially gives you programmable CSS sheets.    Saas is not a live-interactive “program” like JavaScript, but it is a GREAT way to simplify and partially automate repetitive CSS work on the development side of things.     Since Store Locator Plus has over 2-dozen “plugin themes” that are heavy CSS with a LOT of repeated rule-sets, you can bet I will be spending some time over the next month converting all of my CSS work in to Saas files on the development systems and adding it to my “production development kit” arsenal.    If I had known the details like I do know I could have saved at least 200 hours of CSS “coding” in the past year.      Where was Suzette in 2013?  Maybe I was in another session then.

Productive Production

Speaking of Production Development Kit, my own terms for my collection of scripts and methodologies for putting my plugins into the hands of users, Session 2 on the second day was just as useful.  The talk on the Grunt and Bower tools and how  you can use them to keep a development environment updated was a great introduction.     While we did not have enough time to get into the details, for the more geeky people in the crowd like myself, I learned enough to realize this can be a HUGE time saver in a typical software production cycle.    Between this session and the Saas session before it, I realized “I am SOOOOOO outdated”.     The copy-paste CSS editing and my super-cool (in my mind) advanced Bash shell scripts that I coded to keep my development environment updated now seemed so …. “quaint”.

Two sessions, two more actions items on the list.

Geeks Rule

By the time the day was done I had made a half-dozen new connections.    I got overly excited when another database-geek and I started a “hallway chat” about using PostgreSQL as a data engine instead of MySQL under WordPress and how that might be accomplished.    I learned about Nginx (pronounced “Engine-X” if you are as clueless as I was about that before the weekend) and the differences between APC, Memcache, and Varnish and why they may be less effective on speeding up a site like mine.    Fairly amazing as I consider myself a decent, if not 100-percent-up-to-date, system admin.   After having written several “deep down dark places” data-engine-to-operating-system level interfaces I realized I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did in system tuning.   I also learned that Batcache is actually named after Batman.   Yes, I was as surprised as Evan to learn that is the REAL reason they named it that (thanks Mika).

Connections Rule More

WordCamp Atlanta 2014 was a resounding success from my viewpoint.    I learned a LOT of new things and met a lot of cool new people.    Thank you to EVERYONE that participated this year.     I could not be happier having been  a Gold Sponsor for this event… not to promote my brand or my products, but to give back to the community that continues to give back to me.    Thank you WordCamp and thank you to the very cool people I met this week for sharing your time and thoughts with me:

 @GetSource for the tips on Core patches, @SyedBalkhi for the entertaining keynote speech, @CoryMiller303 for sharing the team building stories at your talk and at the after-party, @Ipstenu for reminding me I no longer receive a paper that the dog can fetch, @HotchkissWeb for sharing brute force attack notes and discussing my multisite concept, @ibakunet for the ride share and good conversation over beers during the event, @EvanVolgas for “geeking out” over PostgreSQL, @JudiKnight for all the WordCamp contributions and sharing “war stories” at Nonis, @karlkanall for the WordCamp Charleston efforts, and @CarelBekker for the Atlanta flavor of WordCamp.

Great people, great info.   What more could you want from a conference?

See what happened on the WordCamp Atlanta 2014 site, #wcatl hashtag on Twitter, and FB Page.

 

 WordCamp Charleston 2014

Now let’s see what we can do in my hometown with WordCamp Charleston 2014.   I’m sure Karl will do a great job and yes, I will be sponsoring that event as well.

 

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WordCamp Atlanta

Just got back from WordCamp Atlanta.  If you use WordPress on a regular basis, which most people reading this blog do, then you should definitely take the time to check out one of these events.   If there is a WordCamp going on anywhere within driving distance I would even say it is a MUST.   I’ve been working with WordPress for almost 3 years now and have been an active plugin developer for about a year, and I had a year of basic on-and-off plugin hacking experience (mostly done incorrectly) before that.    I’m not a newb, but as I figured and subsequently PROVED over the past 48 hours… I don’t know even HALF of the WordPress universe.

Don’t get me wrong.  It is not like I”m completely lost and mostly clueless when it comes to WordPress related knowledge.  The conference wasn’t all experts and hackers and that sort of thing.  In fact, quite the opposite.   There were a bunch of people just getting into or learning WordPress for the first time.    There was a track for designers and a track for content producers.  Not all of those areas are tech-geek experts-only.    Most go over the real power of WordPress, bringing useful content to the world in a simple fashion.    However, just over-hearing some of the other tracks and discussions that were going on between sessions, there is a LOT more to producing USEFUL and readable content on the Interwebs.

Thus, as part of the big picture, I found myself in an odd place.    In some conversations or sessions I felt like an expert.   It was great knowing “yup, I do that… yes… do that to.   Sure did know about that super-cool methodology.”    And yes, that was even in some of the development track sessions NOT just the “introduction to WordPress” sessions.     I actually had some useful input on a couple of sessions even.   Go figure.    However, in other sessions, usually within 60 minutes of feeling “oh so smart”, I’d be 5 minutes in thinking to myself “HOLY CRAP… I never knew that!” or “wow, that IS and awesome trick THANK YOU!”.     In fact I have a half-dozen tools I am going to install and play with and another half-dozen things I am going to change, update, or integrate into my own plugins.

At the end of the two-day trip I got out of WordCamp exactly what I was hoping to.   I made new business connections, hopefully some new friends, and actually learned a thing or two.   I know that doesn’t sound like much, but I’ve been to a lot of conferences.  I’ve been on a lot of business trips.  I’ve even been a keynote or session presenter on more than one occasion.     However this is the FIRST conference where I made MULTIPLE connections that will prove useful in the future.     It is also the ONLY conference where I was both able to make those types of connections AND learn something at the same time.

Maybe it was because I wasn’t sweating the details of my own presentation so I could enjoy myself a bit more than usual, but I don’t think so.    I think it had a lot more to do with how well run and professional the conference was. It also has a lot to do with the WordPress community.   The very foundation of WordPress sets the tone for open collaboration for the good of the community as a whole.    It promotes success and encourages the individual entrepreneurial spirit AND manages to steer clear of the typical dogma of big business which is “lock everything down and hide the key”, ensuring that open collaboration is stifled.

Thank you to the people behind WordCamp Atlanta 2013 for making an enjoyable and educational venue and thank you to Matt & the hundreds of people involved bringing WordPress to the world.    It has changed my life for the better and I am truly thankful to those that paved the way to make it all possible!

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Twitter: #wcatl