The first ever WordPress community summit (wpcs) took place last Monday in gorgeous Tybee Island. The weather was a bit chilly thanks to Sandy, but that didn’t keep anyone from enjoying themselves and taking part in amazing discussions. Attendees, each there by invitation, was composed of Automatticians, core contributors, WordPress based companies, hosting companies, plugin developers, designers who have contributed to the community somehow.
The unconference started with everyone wishing to discuss a certain topic giving a 2 minute presentation detailing what they wanted to discuss and who they would like to have at their table. Discussion topics ranged from how to recognize non-code contributors to WordPress, reducing the pain of Plugin and Theme reviews, the future of Multisite and much more. Altogether, there were four time slots for these discussions which lasted 45 minutes. So we all got a chance to participate to 4 sessions and join in on stimulating conversations.
Each session had a note taker and the group needed to come up with one action item. You can view all of these notes on the wpcs website if you wish to read them in more detail.
I was quite surprised when asked to come to the summit. I had seen a call for nomination on twitter, but simply ignored it thinking that it wasn’t for me. I’m guessing that my contributing to the support forum may have had a play in the decision, but frankly, I view my time on the support forum as an addiction. I get withdrawal symptoms if I don’t at least help one person a day.
The first session I went to was all about Theme reviews and guidelines. The major issue brought to the table was the difficulty and lengthy process getting themes accepted in the WordPress.org repository. Chip Bennett, Konstantin Obeland and Emil Uzelac, who are all on the Theme review committee explained, that each day at least 10 themes are submitted and the team, all volunteers, simply can’t keep up. Having said that, there were a few suggestions that were made that could improve and expedite the process. A single trac ticket per theme would be a great improvement and a way to flag issues more efficiently were some of the suggestion. Since then, Emil has already stepped up to the plate and enlisted opinions, further thoughts and comments from the community.
Other suggestions, included changes to featured themes display on the repo, having more of a rotation instead of showing the same ones over and over again would give more exposure to lesser known themes. Additionally, if you compare how WordPress.com showcases its themes to WordPress.org, the .com site does a much nicer job at displaying these. Can the design at .com be brought over at .org? Only time will tell, but I expect great things to come on the Theme side of things.
I followed this excellent theme discussion by joining a group wishing to make changes to the Codex. It’s been said time and time again, that the Codex simply gets no love. Information on each page is organized to explain the basics to users at the top and very soon jumps down to developer mode which scares the bejesus out of new bloggers. It was thus suggested that the Codex be revamped and written solely for developers. New bloggers and users of WordPress will soon be guided to a series of handbooks. These handbooks have been in progress for a few months and coming along nicely, but still need some editing. If you would like to contribute, we can always use your help.
With regards to the Codex, our final action item was to put together a roadmap and plan it’s future. Currently built on MediaWiki, some would like to see it migrate to WordPress, others would like PHP documentation. Personally, I like the Wiki, I would just like to see more up-to-date information and code snippets. By the way, did you know that anyone can edit the Codex? Yes, even you. Next time you are there, just log in and start editing!
Following a wonderful BBQ lunch, we eagerly started the afternoon sessions. The first one, for me, dealt with the issue of women in WordPress, or rather the lack of. With 104 attendees, it was noted that there were only 12 of us women. Were we there just because of that? I would like to think not. Discussion about putting together a positive code of ethics was discussed and we agreed that overall, the WordPress community is much less sexist and misogynist than others, but there’s still room for improvement. One of the biggest issues is the fact that most women, don’t put themselves out there enough. Thus the action item for the entire wpcs group was to recruit one woman to come and speak at their local meetup. Perhaps this will encourage more women to step up and stand on the podium along with men at many more WordCamps to come.
The last group discussion I attended was led by Rachel Baker who wished to discuss the mySpacefication of websites by providing so may Theme options. Lively discussion ensued between Michael Fields, Chris Jean of iThemes and Mike Hansen from Bluehost. With only 4 people in our group, it was great to listen to both sides of the story. Both Michael and Rachel felt that too many options is not the right way to go, but if you’ve ever used builder, you will know that Chris’ opinion is very different. In the end, we didn’t come up with any action items. Everyone came away recognizing that there’s room for both Themes with many and no options and that customers differ in their taste.
All in all, it was a very invigorating conference and I’m glad I went. Going to such a conference is at times like going to a wedding, where you’re just a friend of the family and don’t really know anyone else there. But I was blown away by everyone who made the effort to introduce themselves and engage in great conversation. Even competitors were there and I didn’t see a single fist fight. I’m looking forward to following up on everyones’ action items and seeing how WordPress evolves. Thanks again to Jane Wells who put together this amazing conference and the invitation.