WordCamp Orlando 2017 welcomed developers, programmers, coders, and website creators for an action-packed weekend! This was the most informative, inexpensive, bang-for-your-buck conference I’ve ever attended.
As with most large-scale social interactions, I was very nervous about this event. Maybe even more nervous than the previous blogging conferences I’d been to earlier this year. Why? Because I’m not a developer. I can edit source code and read HTML as I do in my full-time job in email marketing. But I can’t build anything from scratch.
I’ve been learning more about HTML and CSS through Codecademy, and I love working in Dreamweaver. The Source Code and Visual side-by-side view is my jam (you can write code and see what it looks like). But that’s about as good as it gets.
I was a little intimidated, expecting everyone at the superhero-themed WordCamp to be very experienced developers. Luckily, that wasn’t the case.
Everyone was SO welcoming. Each person was a developer, coder, or creator at his or her own level. I may have been one of the only bloggers/non-developers that I knew of, but everyone was SO friendly. They warmly extended their ideas, advice, and encouraging words in both the blogging world and the coding world.
It didn’t even matter that I wasn’t a full-on developer. We all shared the same passion of creating.
WordCamp Orlando 2017 Snapshot
Where was it?
- University of Central Florida Rosen College of Hospitality Management campus
How much was it?
- $40 (I paid $30 after pitching the team in an email – thanks Lisa Melegari, Lead WordCamp Organizer!)
What did you get?
- 14 educational sessions
- Free parking
- Two buffet lunches
- One networking brunch with mimosas
- WordCamp Orlando 2017 T-shirt
- Expert developer advice
- Meeting other local developers
- Free, in-person web hosting support
- A ton of WordPress / developer swag
- Webcam cover
WOW! It was a lot of information, but I surprisingly didn’t feel overwhelmed. My full-time job requires me to be on top of a lot of technical details – from API integrations to email servers, subscription services to email reporting. It never gets boring, but I enjoy turning off that part of my brain when I go home to get creative with my blog.
There was a living “job board” posted during the two WordCamp conference days! “Heroes Wanted” – Looking to be hired, and “Heroes Needed” – Looking to Hire.
Without much hesitation, I wrote my name and email on the “Heroes Wanted” board for “writing, editing and photography.” I thought, what better way to get some exposure than to advertise my services right here?
WordCamp Day 1 Agenda
Here’s a look at the sessions I attended on day 1.
- Opening keynote – Sam Smith – fireman paramedic to web developer (inspirational)
- Tech and the Time Warp: bridging the age gap (favorite session)
- Designing for page conversions (okay session about call-to-action)
- Optimize images (VERY helpful)
- Encryption (great session – explained what encryption is and provided resources)
- User Tracking (helpful, but couldn’t takeaway much to use for my blog)
- Amazon Web Service (walked out of session – general overview of what it is and how to set it up)
Day 1 of WordCamp Orlando 2017 was very organized. The classrooms and meeting areas were named in superhero fashion – the Batcave, Asgard, S.T.A.R. Labs, and the Danger Room. The keynote and opening remarks were in the Batcave.
My favorite session was hearing Miles speak on the first day. He’s an 11-year-old coding whiz kid who also knows American Sign Language. He spoke well, he knew his information, and he spoke about bridging the age gap in technology. Miles believes it doesn’t matter what age we are, we can always learn how to do something, how to use something in technology, and we can always help each other. Well said!
I met a few people during lunch on the first day. We chatted about where we are with WordPress, what we’re looking for at the conference, and shared marketing tips. I met some really great people there.
“Where are you with WordPress?” “What do you do?” “What resources do you use?” These were some common questions we all asked each other, everyone being at their own level and on their own journey.
Other session favorites
The other two sessions I really enjoyed were “Don’t let images weigh down your site” and “Encrypt all the things.” Web developer Irina led the image optimization session, and I could tell she was really passionate about it. She expressed the importance of a quick-loading site. If a website is too slow, who’s going to stick around and wait for it to load?
Irina walked us through how to optimize images before we upload it to our site. Here are the steps to speed up image loading and reduce their file sizes: edit as normal in Photoshop or GIMP, resize image, use an image optimization site (TinyPNG), upload image to site, use another image optimizer plugin (WP Smush – free or Pro version). This will drastically reduce the image size and improve site load time without reducing the image quality.
Web developer Chris led the encryption session. This was a great introduction session that anyone could attend and walk away with valuable information. Encryption is encoding a message or information so that only authorized parties can access it. It doesn’t prevent someone from hacking into a site or intercepting the information. But it is a protective web security measure.
Chris provided us with some great resources, such as using an alternative email provider. An example of this is ProtonMail, which supports end-to-end encryption unlike mainstream providers Gmail and Outlook. This encodes your email and the receiver’s email, which means likely no one but you and the email recipient can read the message.
This works in apps too. WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption. iMessage, available on all Apple products, also supports end-to-end encryption, but only if both recipients use iMessage. If one person uses iMessage and the other uses an Android text message app, this does not guarantee the security of those messages.
Chris also spoke about the benefits of a virtual private network: using your own, private network instead of public wifi where the connection can easily be intercepted and information can be accessed.
WordCamp Day 2
The second day of the conference was a little confusing. The WordCamp team changed the classroom locations…at least, the names changed. The Batcave was no longer the Batcave. I think next time the team should send out an email notification, or post an alert on their social media so we’d have an idea walking in the next day.
I think I also picked all the wrong sessions on the second day of WordCamp Orlando 2017. The first session of the day was great. The presenter was full of a ton of energy, he was very excited about the topic, and I learned a lot about the do’s and don’ts of a client consultation.
I tried to get as much as I could from all sessions, but there were some sessions and presenters that I didn’t connect with. There were typos in a few of the presentations. That was distracting (and one of the attendees called them out on it – I won’t go that far in the middle of the session!)
Luckily, all of these sessions were recorded. I noted which sessions I will re-watch, and which sessions I missed so I can go back and watch them online. If you didn’t attend the conference, you can catch these sessions on WordPress TV in a few months.
Day 2 Sessions
- Mastering the Client Consultation (helpful, enthusiastic)
- How to keep the client happy (seemed like a part 2 of the first session)
- Lunch (chicken Parmesan inside of a bread roll)
- eCommerce functionality (I walked out on this one –
- WordPress Q&A (questions about the industry, trends, and development)
- Re-imagine a more relaxed you (psychological look at the effects of we put in our bodies and how we handle stress)
There were many sponsors both inside and outside of the conference, all digital marketing, developer / website-related companies. Many people I spoke with couldn’t believe how inexpensive WordCamp Orlando 2017 was. We wondered how they make any money, but the sponsors must really help out.
Sponsors at the show
- Bluehost – Web hosting, domain provider
- Designzillas – Digital marketing
- BoldGrid – Drag and drop website builder
- OSTraining – Educational web design videos and books
- PressMate – WordPress support and maintenance backup
Sponsors not at the show
- GoDaddy – Web hosting, domain provider
- WooCommerce – eCommerce
- Jetpack – Site maintenance (backup, subscribe, themes, site stats)
- SiteLock – Website security
Bluehost was a HUGE help. I got in-person, technical support – a shout-out to Mike and the team for taking a look at my website. They helped me troubleshoot website caching and website load time. They also installed an SSL certificate for my site right there at WordCamp Orlando 2017. Woo hoo!
In simplest terms, you’ll notice an SSL if you look in your web browser’s URL bar and see “https.”
The SSL certificate is a “Secure Sockets Layer” that provides secure communication over a computer network. This means there is private communication between a website (such as a login page or a shopping transaction) and a web browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari). This provides more confidence when clients or readers visit a website, make a purchase, and it passes browser security tests.
Google Chrome in particular is starting to warn computer users when they visit a website that does not have an SSL certificate (no https), and it will be labeled as “not secure.”
Overall, WordCamp Orlando 2017 provided a welcoming environment without judgment. Many of the presenters say this, and I saw it throughout the weekend with the attendees.
The only think I wasn’t crazy about, was when I noticed the presenters talking before and after many sessions. They exchanged stories, talking about attendees and “stupid questions.” I was not impressed with this (what could they possibly say about a non-developer, then?).
In the WordPress Q&A, I asked about business / design advice on how to transition a blog site to a business website. The first answer was…hire someone. Hire a developer, and get someone to do it for you.
But wait – I want to do this myself. I thought that was an odd answer, but maybe I didn’t phrase it right.
Then someone else responded that I could use a photography theme. That half answered my question. But I was really asking a different question – what is that best way to ease users into the site change? Now I realize how I should have phrased the original question.
I was pretty tired by the end of the day. I debated whether or not to stay for the closing remarks. There was a raffle (I had 5 tickets) and closing comments. I needed some alone time to recharge, so I wound up walking around the gorgeous UCF campus while I could, and took photos.
The verdict is…
I 100% recommend anyone who’s interested in WordPress, coding, and development to go to the next WordCamp. It’s inexpensive, it’s a weekend full of fun and meeting new people, and it’s a very welcoming, encouraging community. Create a schedule that works for you, and attend the session you’re interested in. You will get a lot out of it!