I went to WordCamp London 2018

Between the upcoming VuTales rewrite, some freelance/ consultancy projects, and my love/hate feelings towards WordPress in general – I ventured (alone!) to London to attend WordCamp Lodon this year.

In numbers: this was the fifth PHP conference I’ve been to, the second I’ve personally paid for, and my first WordCamp. Now I think I finally have enough experience of these things to really compare and contrast them and give a proper review.

I’ve found conferences to be a mixed bag overall and feel the same about WordCamp. Overall though I enjoyed my time there like I have at all the conferences I’ve been to, and I’ll attend next year and maybe some other regionals. Maybe Brighton – I’m not sure.

The talks

When I say that I’ve found conferences to be a mixed bag, what I really mean are the talks.

I contend that the best talk I’ve ever seen (in person too!) was Michael Cullum‘s talk at PHPNW 2015: phpBB, Meet Symfony. The reason is because it was a talk that you couldn’t really condense down into prose and make into a blog entry. It was entertaining but also informative and told a story that worked best as a talk.

Conversely, I’ve attended talks where people have literally copied a top 10 list from their website/blog and converted it into a talk. These kinds of talks tend to be terrible.

Although a lot of talks could probably be blog articles, the better ones present something difficult and use the medium of a presentation to explain things that are hard to express or explain in prose. And to that, one or two of talks I attended I felt were too remedial. To be clear, this is a gripe with all conferences I’ve been to, not just WordCamp. That said, it’s a balancing act – and what I consider simple as a senior developer others may not.

David Lockie‘s talk on Blockchains was interesting. A shame it ran out of time towards the end. I am very dubious towards the abundance of blockchain related tech, but the talk was a good starting point for some of the use cases that are not cryptocurrency. I do think that there wasn’t enough linking back to WordPress in the talk – especially given that the title started with “WordPress and Blockchain”.

Tammie Listers‘ talk on Gutenberg was a good jump into the subject especially for a back end dev like myself.

Unfortunately there were two talks I attended that I felt were poor.

The first was a talk on an idea that I felt was very technically questionable. It was a solution looking for a problem that was over-engineered, brittle, and had significantly better and easier options other than the one being proposed.

The second was apparently showcasing a product that was meant to be immediately available but as of writing isn’t (also the website is still broken). It also advocated using WordPress as a development framework. WordPress is not a development framework, it’s a CMS . Do not try to use it as a framework. You will write terrible and inflexible code. There are much, much better alternatives for that (Lavavel, Slim + components, etc).

Things I liked

The ticket price – At £40 it was a steal. Under half the next cheapest ticket (£92 for PHP South Coast’s Early Bird ticket). One of the key reasons I decided to go was because it would be so affordable. The biggest expenditure was the hotel costing something like 2/3s of the overall cost for me.

The venue – Having been to now PHP South Coast and PHP North West – the latter in a dedicated conference location – I was shocked at how good the venue was. By far the nicest I’ve been too. The aircon worked. The lecture rooms were all well sized and only once did I see one end up standing room only.

The catering was the well above what I was expecting and organised with military precision and efficiency. Between talks there was free tea, coffee, apple and orange juice as well as biscuits and fruit.

There were security guards haunting the entrances to the buildings, which felt a bit odd – but whatever.

Sponsors – sponsors at conferences are what pays for stuff, but WordCamp despite the low ticket cost didn’t repeatedly bash me over the head with announcements from sponsors and overbearing calls to go visit their stands. As before, very impressed given the low ticket price.

There was one sponsor whose stand I refused to visit because I find their advertising to be repugnant.

I managed to haul a nice water bottle, a 32GB USB stick, two notepads and a good quality (if small!) mug all from Timpani. As well as a fair amount of stickers, pens, and assorted whatnot from everyone else. I now have WordPress and Jetpack badges on my backpack and stuck a few of the stickers on my MBP.

Things I didn’t like

Premier Inn – Why must you be so expensive and the rooms always so hot!? Argh!