WordPress Experts, Nerds, and Newbs at WordCamp St. Louis

This spring, our web design / web development team took a road trip to a gathering of WordPress experts, advocates, fans, and professionals called WordCamp St. Louis. There were all skill levels there, from javascript developers to people that help their local charities with social media posts. On any given week, we at Lieberman Technologies run the gamut from a kid with a new toy that he hasn’t figured out yet to diabolical web design genius, so WordCamp was a good thing for us.

Picture of a WordPress Expert at WordCamp St. Louis

Managing Content Structure in WordPress

The WordCamp St. Louis folks offered options of multiple topics each hour. We divided and conquered a little bit. The first session I went to was with Teresa Lane on Content Modeling. Her talk was helpful for thinking about how to set up and structure a WordPress site, but the real bonus of her talk was the slide deck. It was full of good links and content and served as a great resource in the weeks following as we considered website structure for our clients. The best one-liner from her talk: “The internet couldn’t be built without kittens, so I’ve made sure to include kittens on every one of my slides.” @teresaalane knew how to keep our attention on her presentation. I don’t think I’ve seen so many kitten pictures since lunch today.

There is Money in WordPress

One of the most-packed sessions of the day was “How to Make Money on WordPress Projects” with James Hipkin. James brought years of experience to the table to discuss WordPress in the larger framework of an advertising and marketing business. The best one-liner from James: “A website is a complex piece of software, it’s not advertising.”  His charge was to create quality work for your clients and focus on the results of that work. “Your clients and their clients will remember good work, but they’ll forget about going over budget and schedule.” He had a similar philosophy about websites that we do – that your website is a 24-hour-a-day salesperson.

WordPress is huge.

I got some new insights into the culture of WordPress from Mike Schroder, the Release Lead for WordPress 4.5. He was the project manager that made sure hundreds of volunteers worked through thousands of lines of code so that millions of WordPress users could have a better website experience. That’s right:  millions.

It was during this talk that I began to realize something that was confirmed later in Chris Lema’s keynote. WordPress is all ours. We, the developers that use WordPress, have a hand in its development, maturity, and future.

To put things into perspective, on Wikipedia.com, there are 270,000 people that contribute to 5 million articles (in English) with 240 million visits a month.

WordPress as a software platform is used a lot more than that. Over 409 million people view more than 22.3 billion WordPress served pages each month, and WordPress users produce 59.3 million posts per month.

The People that Work on WordPress

When someone from the crowd asked ‘Shredder’ a question about image galleries and javascript, his reply was unlike anything you would hear from a Microsoft product lead (there are 400 million Outlook users, that’s one month of WordPress viewers). He said, “We don’t have a lot of javascript developers on our team, so we haven’t added that feature, but if you’re a good javascript developer, write it and we’ll put that in there. I’m sure a lot of people would appreciate that.” It was like somebody at a neighborhood association meeting made a suggestion and the president said, “That’s a good idea, can you be in charge of that?” And just like that, the javascript developer in the back had a chance to affect software used by half a billion people.

WordPress is open-source, which means anyone can access and work on the software. Their edits and submissions are reviewed by a panel of volunteers that check for bugs, ensure security, and provide general quality control. That is also public. What comes out of all of this are passionate hobbyists that are contributing to free software that has been used to guide missiles, run CNN.com, Time.com, USAToday.com, and other sites.

The Future of Website Design Software is in Our Hands

After lunch, Chris Lema gave a keynote speech focusing on the future of WordPress. He is a Product Strategist and WordPress Business Advisor that can help you for $6.67 per minute. Yes. So his keynote was worth about $150, well worth the WordCamp cost of $30! He brought the importance of WordPress development into closer view. It was not only a talk about “if you don’t like something, you can fix it” but also a “we need you to innovate the next features of WordPress.”


(Note the uniform in the front row of that twitter picture.)

Of course, my favorite one-liner from Chris was “You’re forty years old and you’ve opted to walk around with a backpack and spend a beautiful Saturday indoors talking about software! You’re weird! But you’re my kind of people and I love you!”

Yes, we are weird. We did walk around with backpacks, and we did feel loved by the WordPress community.

Even though we work in WordPress every day and have been for years (since 2004 on version 1.2!), I’m only now coming to see how easy it is to help out the greater WordPress community. If you are a WordPress developer or designer or a user, I encourage you to consider helping out too.