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What I learned at WordCamp Milwaukee – Day Two

ERIC KUZNACIC, PRESIDENT OF WHY THE FUSS? TECHNICAL SOLUTIONS, FILED THIS REPORT AFTER RETURNING FROM WORDCAMP MILWAUKEE:

wordcamp-milwaukee-logo-color-250(Did you miss Part 1?)

During the last weekend in July I attended my first WordCamp, which is something I have wanted to do since learning about and working with WordPress on a daily basis.

This post probably will get pretty lengthy, so here is the tl;dr version for those with short-attention spans: It was awesome. There were dozens of amazingly talented people, all of whom share the common goal of helping out and bettering the WP community. If you are interested in learning more about WordPress, a WordCamp is the place to be.

Below is my recap of WordCamp Milwaukee Day 2. Sorry that it took so long for me to compile this summary; I am still going through all the great things I learned and doing my best to use them in my daily work.

Day Two – Session One

Title: Getting Started With WordPress Development
Presenter: Nikhil Vimal
Slides not available

To be honest, this was not the session I had planned to attend to kick off the second day of WordCamp Milwaukee 2104. But, after arriving a few minutes early and overhearing a conversation in the lobby, I decided that this probably would be much more valuable than whatever other topic I had planned to attend.

The presenter, Nik, is 15 and has worked with WordPress for all of a year. Yet after hearng him speak for less than an hour, I truly believe that his knowledge and ability probably surpasses about 99% of everyone else out there, regardless of age.

Nik talked about ways to get started with WordPress development; that is, going beyond the blogging capabilities and premium themes to write your own code and contribute your ideas and innovations to the WordPress community. He also didn’t “talk down” to the audience, even though he easily could have. Instead, Nik challenged us to be inspired by others’ open-source code because, in the end, that’s how we all start out and that’s how the community is built.

Day Two – Session Two

Title: How I Tell a Customers They’re Wrong & Make Them Love Us
Presenter: Mark Benzakein
Link to slides

Hands down, this was my favorite session of the weekend. I knew I would enjoy it when I first saw the title, but the presentation itself blew me out of the water. Mr. Benzakein walked us through an experience he had, at an inopportune time, with an irate customer. I think we’ve all been there, no matter our line of work, but what made this talk so valuable is the way Mark broke down the situation and how we went about his responses.

View the slides to understand how far this irate customer had blown things out of proportion. Mark’s advice was perfect: Don’t let emotion and/or personal pride get into the mix in these situations … even if the customer “is calling your baby ‘ugly.'” All complaints boil down to these factors, according to Mark: lack of trust; something didn’t go as expected; pressure; lack of education or info; panic. He then walked through his customer-service equation for such occasions: (Apology + Resolution + Education) + Apology = Satisfied Customer.

It definitely gave me food for thought, and I’ve already begun to use Mark’s approach when dealing with my clients. Now I just need to get better at it …

Day Two – Session Three

Title: Structuring Content in WordPress (Using the Advanced Custom Fields plug-in)
Presenter: Jamie Schmid
Link to slides

While I am very happy that I attended this presentation. I am disappointed in myself that I haven’t at least downloaded the ACF plug-in to play around with and see what it can do. This session really got my mind working and helped me clarify my thoughts a bit regarding content structuring and how I can better explain it to clients who have absolutely no clue what I am talking about.

My favorite takeaway from Jamie’s talk is the acronym COPE: Create Once, Publish Everywhere. It is a great example of using WordPress to work smarter, not harder, and simplifies the concept to the point where using COPE with clients helps them understand just exactly how custom fields can be used to make their site more user-friendly and functional.

This session also challenged me to do more outside-the-box thinking when creating a content map. The more custom fields that can be utilized, the information is easier to locate,  which makes the user happy, which helps the site’s reputation and (hopefully) creates a very happy client. I have much more learning to do in this area!

Day Two – Session Four

Title: Loving Linux
Presenter: Pat Hartl
Link to slides

This session was one that really stretched my brain capacity, and probably the presentation that I have thought most about since WordCamp. Linux is one of those things that I have known about for a long time, but have never truly taken the time to delve into. I am in no way a computer programmer or hacker or anything of that sort, so I’m still a bit intimidated by the command line. But, this presentation allowed me to hear more about some of the other ways to utilize Linux.

The presenter, Pat Hartl, reminded me a lot of a college roommate I had — very intelligent, quick witted with a dry sense of humor, and something of a genius when it comes to computer science. I certainly didn’t follow 100% of what he said, but he said things in a way that I could at least not feel like a complete moron. As the presentation went on I found myself thinking about ways I could use Linux at home, and how I could then venture into the world of Raspberry Pi, which has long intrigued me.

Postscript

At this point, it was mid-Sunday afternoon and my brain had had just about all it can take. I skipped the final two sessions and headed home, full of ideas and inspiration.

Then Monday morning came, my desktop PC’s hard drive failed and everything has been a bit chaotic for the past month. Things finally are under control enough to get this blog out and to begin poring through all the presentations I saw and begin to make use of all this new-found knowledge.

I’m definitely looking forward to attending my next WordCamp, whether it be this year or in the future, in Milwaukee or another location. That’s probably the best thing about WordCamps — and the WordPress community in general: No matter where you go, there are intelligent and interesting people waiting to share with you their ideas and, in return, learn what you have to offer.

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