Good Times and Gutenberg at WordCamp US 2017

Back in 2016 when it was announced that WordCamp US would be in Nashville for 2017 and 2018 we were quite excited. Being based in Nashville, TN – it provides a unique opportunity to participate in one the largest and most popular development communities in the comfort of our home base.

Now that the event has come and gone, we have finally gotten a chance to catch our breath.

WordCamp US 2017 in Nashville, TN
The view from the Music City Center balcony at WordCamp US 2017.

The Talks Were Excellent

We were able to attend a variety of talks including WordPress with GraphQL, Amazon Web Services, Remote Working, Diversity, CSS Grid, WordPress Media and of course, Gutenberg! All of the talks were great, with ample seating for all, multiple projectors for each room and a group of qualified and diverse speakers.

One talk that resonated with us was “How Working Remote Saved My Life” by Aaron Douglas. Aaron provided some really good advice for working remotely including different techniques and apps that help him stay on task. Meditation and journaling were 2 of the things Aaron does at the start of every day. Consistent exercise during the day was another item that helped Aaron stay on task. Even though remote work is not always possible, we believe companies should be flexible about remote work. In our industry it is sometimes good to have a break from distractions and focus on personal health.

Gutenberg and the WordPress of Tomorrow

WordPress GutenbergMorten Rand-Hendriksen gave an energetic talk about the new Gutenberg editor that is the future of WordPress. This talk had a lot of information to absorb. The basic premise is that the existing WYSWYIG editor in WordPress is not really WYSWYIG at all. The Gutenberg editor turns each page and post into a series of ‘blocks’ which can be controlled as individual pieces. This concept makes a lot of sense to developers who use WordPress but there was definitely some concern about these features for new WordPress users or those who are not tech savvy.

 

How Gutenberg works via the Gutenberg handbook.

Morten explained how Gutenberg will be more flexible for building layouts and content. One thing he kept coming back to was how it could be used in VR, which became an ongoing joke. The Gutenberg team actually had no VR plans, but Morten knows “VR” is a buzz-word that gets people’s attention. It worked! Morten’s presentation got quite a few laughs and was definitely the most engaging talk we attended during WordCamp.

OMG, The Swag!

The Happieness Lounge was a cornucopia of geek gifts from all over the world. WordCamp did an excellent job organizing the setup to allow each vendor to have ample space to dispense information and swag. Along with the vendor areas was a live user testing area for Gutenberg where all sessions were recorded for UX research. Another area of the room had a series of tables with an ever evolving panel of WordPress experts who were there to assist with questions and advice.

 

State of the Word

A lone, gigantic cowboy boot sat in center stage. Would he climb out of the boot? Would there be some other surprise?

Nope.

Matt Mullenweg, the co-founder of WordPress entered from the side of the stage and greeted the crowd to a large round of applause. Matt’s trademark speech at the end of every WordCamp US is the “State of the Word” where he discusses where WordPress is and where it is heading.

During the talk Mullenweg discussed the ways WordPress was evolving, primarily focusing on Gutenberg and how this would effect the platform going forward. Near the end of the talk, Matt invited Matias Ventura to come on stage and do some live coding to demonstrate Gutenberg. Live coding can be a dangerous exercise, but Matias had pre-written all of his code and demonstrated various features by un-commenting his code. There were lots of ‘Ohhs‘ and ‘Ahhs‘ from the crowd of developers (ourselves included).

State of the Word at WordCamp US 2017 in Nashville, TN
Matt Mullenweg at State of the Word (WordCamp US 2017 in Nashville, TN)

After Matt’s talk concluded he welcomed questions from the audience. Many of the people who asked questions had been skeptics of Gutenberg but now seemed to be in favor and even excited by the possibilities of Gutenberg. Matt addressed concerns about whether this new editor would break existing themes, or how to resolve plugin conflicts. The short answer is – they are working on it, and by April of 2018 Gutenberg should be ready in WordPress 5.0.

Final Thoughts

The Volunteers and Organizers were on-point, efficient and helpful.
It was amazing to be at a large tech event where there were virtually no lines to check-in for the event. The entire process of checking in took maybe 2 minutes tops. The event had ample signage, amazing food options (with live jazz music) and a plethora of swag. We are really proud of Nashville and the WordPress community for putting on such an epic event. Thanks to everyone who contributed – we are beyond pumped for next year!

WordCamp US 2017 line for the State of the Word and Volunteers.
WordCamp US 2017 line for the State of the Word and Volunteers.
simon

About the Author

Simon is the founder and creative director of DesignUps. His specialty is understanding perspectives of clients and end-users and the thought process to craft a solid experience based on this insight.