Accessibility WordCamp

I challenge all WordCamp US and WordCamp NYC speakers to caption their talks

Last week I put out a community challenge for WordCamp speakers to caption their talks and help make more accessible. Now I’m issuing a personal challenge to the speakers at WordCamp NYC and WordCamp US to start the ball rolling by captioning their own talks.

Why these two WordCamps in particular? Because they both had CART captioning, which means text transcripts of their talks already exist. And those captions have been made available for everyone to download!

So here’s the challenge:

If you spoke at WordCamp NYC or WordCamp US in 2015, go to the spreadsheet, click the tab for the appropriate event (WordCamp NYC text or WordCamp US text), grab the text file, sign up for an account, and caption your own talk.

Almost all the work has been done for you, so if you want to get the most out of the least amount of work, this would be a great task to start with.

You can help make WordPress learning more accessible, and it all starts with captioning your WordCamp NYC or WordCamp US talk!

My Opinion WordCamp

It is time to rename the “Happiness Bar”

tldr: The “Happiness Bar” needs a new name. I’ll start the brain storming here:

  • Help Desk
  • Help Bar
  • Admin Bar
  • WordPress Help
  • Q&A Desk
  • Support Desk
  • Support Bar
  • Service Bar
  • Oracle Bar

I’ve been a volunteer at the Happiness Bar of close to 10 WordCamps in the last 5 years. The experience of interacting with and helping others working with WordPress has been educational, entertaining, and often enlightening. There is no better place to see first hand the incredible diversity of our community and to experience WordPress through the eyes of other users.

Even so the Number One takeaway from my Happiness Bar stints is this:

“Happiness Bar” is a name nobody understands.

Unless you have volunteered to stand behind the desk at a Happiness Bar in the past or you are a WordCamp organizer there is little chance you know what a “Happiness Bar” is, so let me introduce you to the concept:

The Happiness Bar is a desk at a WordCamp (or other WordPress-centric conference or event) staffed by volunteer WordPress experts where you can ask questions and get help with WordPress. The name “Happiness Bar” probably comes from the thought that getting help and finding solutions to your problems will make you happy.

The problem, which is pretty obvious, is that the name “Happiness Bar” says nothing about what is being provided.

The most important task of giving a service a name is to ensure the name communicates what the service does to the uninitiated. And while a help desk may induce happiness, that is not the function of the help desk. The help desk is there to provide help. The name “Happiness Bar” is more befitting a bar where they hand out cotton candy, hugs, or free jokes.

Talking to WordCamp attendees and asking them what the “Happiness Bar” is I’ve gotten every answer but the correct one:

“Is it where they hand out swag?”
“It’s a place where they give you life advice?”
“It’s a desk where they have life/business/happiness coaches?”
“You go there to get a massage?”
“Do they give away candy?”

When I co-organized WordCamp Vancouver I refused to have a Happiness Bar because I already knew the name was misleading and nobody would use the service. Nobody even noticed. Having staffed Happiness Bars in different cities before and since just validated my suspicions: Calling the Help Desk the “Happiness Bar” is a surefire way of confusing the audience enough that those who could actually use the help won’t ever find it.

I think historically the name makes a bit of sense, but that is irrelevant. The use of the name today is an anachronism at best and self-defeating at worst. What is meant to be cute, fun, and non-conventional, is in reality confusing, non-explanatory, and misleading. When WordCamp attendees are looking for help and can’t find it even when they are standing directly in front of a huge sign saying “Happiness Bar!” any marketer would tell you there is something off about the branding. That happens. All the time. At Every. Single. WordCamp. Old-timers like me know what the “Happiness Bar” is. The rest of the attendees think it’s a place where they hand out swag. Or candy. Or massages. Or some unknown substance that provides happiness.

I think we should have a Happiness  Bar that hands out swag, candy, massages, and free hugs. But if we are going to continue offering WordPress help at WordCamps we need to give the help desk a befitting name. My vote is “Admin Bar”, but that’s just me.

Speaking Engagements WordCamp

Building Themes From Scratch Using Underscores at WordCamp Seattle: Experienced Edition, 2015

Below are the actual usable slides from my WordCamp Seattle: Experienced Edition 2015 presentation on _s. Click the thumbnails to get the full size image.

Speaking Engagements WordCamp

Thinking Inside the Box – My WordCamp San Francisco 2014 Lightning Talk

What started as a challenge ended up as a lightning talk at WordCamp San Francisco 2014: Explain the CSS Box Model in an understandable way to a crowd of mainly bloggers and designers. In 5 minutes. With no live code.

The video slides are unfortunately largely cut out of this video so you don’t get to see the fancy stuff the audience were privy to, but you get the general idea: On the web every tag is a box. And on the web magic happens when you think inside the box.

When you’re done, go check out the other great talks at WordCamp San Francisco 2014 over at


Video: Future Responsive Today – responsive images and flexbox

In late July I did a talk at WordCamp Vancouver about responsive images and the new flex box display mode in CSS. Above is the video from the talk, posted on, complete with crazy rants and me using the crowd as a live code debugger.

Speaking Engagements WordCamp

See you at WordCamp

If WordPress has any part of your life – be that as a publishing application at work, your blogging platform, your CMS, or the tool you use to build websites – you owe it to yourself to attend a WordCamp in your neighborhood. WordCamps are locally organized Open Source conferences focussing on WordPress and everything WordPress related and is the best place to learn, share, and meet others to whom WordPress matters.

This year I’ve made my mission to go to several of these events, and I’ve even been given the privilege of speaking at a couple. So, if you’re going to a WordCamp in the near future and that WordCamp happens to be in Vancouver, New York, Montreal, or San Francisco, track me down and say “Hi!” I might even have something cool to give away!

Is WordCamp for You?

Every time I go to a WordCamp I meet a huge pile of new people who are attending for the first time. What do they all say? “I had no idea it would be like this! I can’t believe I took so long / hesitated / didn’t think there was any point in going!” The reality is if you are asking yourself the question “Is WordCamp for me?” then the answer is a big resounding “YES!” It’s an event for everyone who touches WordPress – from the absolute beginner who has yet to set up her first site to the seasoned pro who has built sites for the biggest corporations and has her name prominently placed in the WordPress developer credits.

One of the many great things about WordCamp is the atmosphere: Everyone has been a beginner and everyone remembers their roots so there is no elitism or clique forming to speak of. WordCamp also has a refreshingly high level of diversity. Attendance is usually close to a 50/50 split between the genders and visible minorities are gaining a stronger presence and influence.

In short you have a place at WordCamp.

2014 Speaking Engagements

As I mentioned I’ll be at several WordCamps this year: Seattle (this past weekend), Vancouver, New York, Montreal, and San Francisco. There may be others added as well (I’m eyeing Los Angeles and Toronto at the moment), but that’s it for now. In the cases of Seattle, Vancouver, and Montreal, I’m also speaking. Here are the short pitches:

Future Responsive Today – Embracing mobile-first with <picture> and FlexBox

WordCamp Vancouver, July 26th

Responsive Web Design is about to get a whole lot more responsive with the <picture> element for responsive images and Flexbox for responsive layouts. In this talk front end developer and web standards expert Morten Rand-Hendriksen will provide the audience with everything they need to use these new tools today and show how a true mobile-first workflow will help them make cleaner, more efficient, and more responsive WordPress sites. You’ve heard about <picture> and Flexbox and now you’ll know how to implement them in your WordPress projects today! The future is now and it is responsive.

Building Themes from Scratch with Underscores

WordCamp Montreal, August 16 – 17

Free and premium themes are great, but if you want to build a truly custom website with WordPress you need to build a custom theme from scratch. In this presentation designer, developer, and educator Morten Rand-Hendriksen takes you through the process of building a theme from scratch with what is arguably the best starter theme available: _s (Underscores). The presentation looks at design and development decisions and principles including mobile-first, accessibility, responsive design, and information architecture, and takes a deep dive into the structure of the Underscores theme to show the audience how to build a theme from the ground up to become what you envisioned and more.

Web Design is a Process (link to slides)

WordCamp Seattle, June 28 (past)

Web design does not start with a Photoshop comp. Web design does not start with a Photoshop comp. Photoshop is step 7. Or 10. Or 50. Before you draw a single pixel on your canvas there are a myriad of things that need to be covered. This talk is an exploration of the web design process, all the way from the first client meeting to the shipping of the final product. The audience will learn about IA and UX techniques, card sorting, personas, concurrent development, agile process, version control, the works. This will be a hyper-intensive flyby to give people who work in or want to enter the field of professional web design and development a better understanding of all the roles they’ll have to play and all the ground they’ll need to cover if they want to be truly successful.

See You at WordCamp!

Are you going to a WordCamp this year? Have a story to tell or a question to ask? Make your voice heard in the comments below, go sign up for a WordCamp for yourself, as an attendee, a volunteer, or a speaker, and maybe I’ll see you there!


Web Design is a Process – Supporting Links for my WordCamp Seattle 2014 Talk

At WordCamp Seattle 2014 I did a talk titled Web Design is a Process in which I refer to a number of different services and sources. Below are all the links for easy retrieval.

Speaking Engagements WordCamp

WordCamp Vancouver 2013: Speaking and Moderating

WordCamp Vancouver is returning to our fair city on August 17th. For the past two years I have been one of the organizers, but this year I am going to attend as a speaker and moderator instead. It’ll be a nice change of pace for me and it gives me an opportunity to share some insights about how I work with WordPress with the Vancouver community. Very exciting.

Can WordPress Really Do That, Take 2 – my talk

The title of my talk is, quite cryptically, “Can WordPress Really Do That, Take 2”. This talk is a follow up of sorts to a talk I did at WordCamp Victoria 2012 and will be a full breakdown of the process of building an extremely complex site. Since the site is still being built I’m not going to reveal what it is or what it entailed here (you’ll have to come watch the talk to get that info), but what I will say is that the talk will involve insights into everything from design, information arcitecture, working with clients, working with designers, managing unusual assets, to setting up custom post types, adding custom data points, importing enormous databases, creating custom searches and loops, and beyond. What can I say? It’s a complicated project.

Can WordPress Really Do That, Take 2 is a talk targeted at anyone working with WordPress professionally – be that as a content manager, a site owner, a designer, a developer, or all of the above. And yes, WordPress really can do that.

Running a WordPress Development Business – moderating a panel

The organizers have been kind enough to ask me to moderate a panel on running a WordPress business. This is going to be an exciting discussion with lots of valuable takeaways for everyone. The panel consists of four well established WordPress developers from Vancouver and beyond and I’ll make sure we get a lively discussion going about everything from managing clients to getting paid to hiring minions and building great sites.

If you have any questions, topics, or other things you want me to bring into the discussion, let me know either in the comments below or by harassing me on Twitter or sending me a message. The whole point of a panel discussion is for the audience to learn something new, so your input and participation is essential.

Come join the fun!

As of this writing there are still tickets available so whether you are a seasoned pro or you’ve just started looking at WordPress you should go get your ticket and join the fun. This is the event for our community, so go get your fill of WordPress and meet lots of new people who share your interest in open source and web publishing!



WordCamp Vancouver interview

Some of the peeps over at WordPress event calendar plugin came to WordCamp Vancouver last week and took the time to do an interview with yours truly about the value of the WordPress community and events like WordCamp and WordPress meetup groups. Check it out.

By the way, if you are in Vancouver and would like to talk to other WordPress enthusiasts you should check out the Vancouver WordPress Meetup Group.

WordCamp WordPress

WordCamp Vancouver 2012: You Must Attend

If you are one of the thousands of people in Vancouver that use, work with, or interact with WordPress in your work life or private life, you need to attend WordCamp Vancouver coming up on October 13th, 2012. The event, hosted at BCIT’s campus in Burnaby, has speakers, workshops, and presentations that will blow you away and give you a whole new understanding of WordPress and what it can do.

WordCamp Vancouver is for everyone and you will find something for you whether you are a beginner or a seasoned pro. More importantly WordCamp Vancouver is an excellent opportunity to meet and interact with other WordPress enthusiasts, designers, developers, bloggers etc.

This is especially true for beginners: If you are just starting out with WordPress, attending WordCamp Vancouver will be the best decision you made (after deciding to use WordPress of course). I’m not saying that because I’m an organizer, I am saying it because it’s true. Ask anyone.

Tickets for WordCamp Vancouver 2012 are $25 per person and include coffee, lunch, snacks, and the conference itself of course.

Check out the schedule for all the talks and workshops and check out the speaker list to learn about the great local and international speakers we have on our roster.

What are you waiting for? Got get your tickets now and prepare for a day of WordPress awesomeness.

WordCamp WordPress

WordCamp:Developers – a WordPress conference for WordPress developers

WordCamp:Developers - the WordPress Developer ConferenceGet your calendars out and mark this date down with a pen: Thursday May 5th, 2011. In fact, mark that whole week down. Vanessa Chu, Anny Chih and I are putting on the first ever WordCamp:Developers as part of Vancouver Open Source Week and the week ends with Microsoft’s two-day Make Web Not War open-source conference. All in all Vancouver is going to be the place to be in May (Northern Voice, the two-day blogging conference is the very next week) so you might as well clear your schedule and get ready!

Why a WordCamp for Developers?

Vanessa and I have been running the Vancouver WordPress Meetup for the last 9 months and the overwhelming response we’ve gotten is that people want to learn more about web development with WordPress as a platform. They also want to know more about related technologies, future developments and things like user experience design and information architecture.

So far the only WordPress focussed conferences have been regular WordCamps. But although these conferences are great for bloggers and people who work with WordPress, their focus tends to be more on blogging and basic publishing and less on hard core development and other related topics. Because WordPress has grown from a solid blogging platform to a full fledged CMS we felt it’s time we put on a conference focusing on the people who use WordPress to build stunning, functional and ground breaking websites. Thus WordCamp:Developers was created.

What Can I Expect From WordCamp:Developers?

Like I said the focus of WordCamp:Developers will be on topics that are relevant to people who work with WordPress as a development platform every day. Right now we are scouring the continent looking for the best and brightest speakers with expertise in advanced WordPress development, Information Architecture, user experience design, security, eCommerce and so on. Based on feedback and trends in the community we are also looking for speakers to focus on new technologies like HTML5 and CSS3 as well as integrated technologies like JavaScript and AJAX.

The goal of WordCamp:Developers is to provide a platform for the advancement of WordPress as a serious Content Management System and start a discussion about how we, as web developers, can use WordPress to make the web a better, more functional and more attractive space for everyone.

If you are an expert in any of the fields listed above or anything else related or relevant to WordPress development or if you know someone who is, go fill out the speaker submission form or get in touch with us through the website ASAP.

The deadline for speaker submissions is February 28th so get crackin!

Tickets, Venue and Volunteers

We are in the process of rolling out ticket sales for WordCamp:Developers. We were going to release tickets this week but some very generous sponsors have just come onboard and with their contributions we are able to push down the prices and make the event more accessible so we need to crunch the numbers again to ensure we give all our attendees the most bang for their bucks.

We are releasing a total of 200 attendee tickets for the event. Our 12 main speakers will be added on top of that number, and if you buy a ticket and then get selected as a speaker we will put your ticket back in the general pool for someone else to pick up.

WordCamp:Developers will be held at the SFU Harbour Centre in downtown Vancouver. The event will feature two main tracks, UX (Focus on Designers) and DEV (Focus on Developers) as well as an ad-hoc (un-conference) room where attendees can pitch 20 minute talks on the day of the event. We are booking a total of 12 speakers, 6 for each of the main rooms, and ensuring that each talk will be on its own topic so attendees get the most out of the event.

As part of admission all attendees will be served a great lunch in a room overlooking the harbour and we’ll have coffee, snacks and other goodies throughout the day.

This event, like all WordCamps, is a not-for-profit volunteer based innitiative and we are looking for volunteers to help both for organization and day-of management. If you’re interested in playing a part in WordCamp:Developers get in touch with us through the website.

Sponsorships and Swag

As I mentioned earlier this event could not have happened without the generous support of our sponsors. We already have a couple of big companies on board (TBA) but we are still looking for more sponsors to make this event as great as it can be. On that note I have to mention the Microsoft Canada team that is putting on the open source conference Make Web Not War and Vancouver Open Source Week. I spoke at Make Web Not War in Montreal last year and I can honestly say it is one of, if not the best conference I’ve been to. And the Vancouver edition, slated for May 6th and 7th, proves to be even better!

If you or your company is interested in being a partner please check out our sponsorship page for all the details.

Based on feedback from other events we are trying to make WordCamp:Developers as green as possible. As part of that we are being very counscious about what kind of swag we will be handing out to attendees, speakers and volunteers. To that end the focus of all our swag will be on usability. As in we will only hand out things our attendees can use and have a use for. That means if you or your company have a product, virtual or physical, that you feel would be of use to web developers, we want to talk to you. Get in touch with us through the website and we’ll get the conversation started.

Consider This Your Personal Invitation

WordCamp:Developers is a WordPress conference for developers, by developers and we put it together because we know developers like us want a place where they can talk shop. Consider this your personal invite to the conference, to attend, to speak, to sponsor, to volunteer. WordPress is an open source platform that is changing the world and we want everyone to be part of the revolution. So mark your calendars, get the word out and let’s make WordCamp:Developers and Open Source Week amazing!