WordCamp Colombo 2017 – from the front row

We had the first ever WordCamp in Sri Lanka on the 23rd of September 2017 held at BMICH. I am proud to have been a volunteer for this successful event. This is a brief summary of what happened and what I learned from this eventful day.

wordcamp colombo front row
Me at the front row

WordPress REST API

Himash Tehan began the first talk after the introduction by the Chief Organizer, Dasun. He spoke about how to use the WordPress REST API as a mobile back-end. It was delightful to see how something which began as a Google Summer of Code project take off to be part of WordPress Core and serving as an important update which has changed WordPress forever – it is no longer ‘just a CMS’.

WordPress at the Enterprise Level

Rahul Bansal from Pune, India gave us some insights from his journey of beginning as a tiny business selling $15 projects all the way up-to selling projects worth $100,000 to enterprises. His company rtCamp is the first and currently the only WordPress VIP partner in Asia.

Among Rahul’s advice was to sell WordPress as your own product and to always back it up with strong support – ‘Don’t ask the client to Google the issue they are facing’. He also advised to be proactive and hang around where the corporate customers like to hang out in case you are looking to work with them – this was part of the answer for a question I asked him.

He also conveyed that the enterprises love White Papers and for them it’s all about code quality. Finally, he advised that an organisation has many systems, and to not pitch WordPress for everything.

WordPress and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

Samantha Pathirana, an award-winning entrepreneur, researcher, consultant, trainer and scholar spoke about how WordPress can help achieve the SDG’s 17th goal: ‘Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development’.  He explained how WordPress can help in creating employment for youth, women and disabled.

Why Great Support Matters

US-based Karen Arnold, who leads the Happiness Engineer hiring team at Automattic spoke about how and why support matters in the WordPress world. She gave good examples from her experience in working for Automattic and how Automattic values support deeply.

We were surprised to hear that even Matt Mullenweg spends a week with the support team each year — that is an indication of how much support matters at Automattic.

Karen was asked whether we should integrate AI into support.  She replied “At Automattic, we’d never have robots talking to customers!”. This again highlights how important it is to have great support with a human touch. She also reminded us to think about the times when you did not know all the things that you know now.

Find some of the notes I took from her speech below:

  1. Our customers are our livelihood.
  2. Remember your knowledge is not everyone’s knowledge.
  3. If you produce something and you’re not there, your customers will leave you.
  4. Really care about the issue your users need support for.
  5. Have complete control over your schedule. Do work when you are most productive.
  6. Be empowered to actually help. Give employees the freedom to do things for the customer.
  7. Answer the actual questions, not the literal questions.
  8. Meet your customers where they are.
  9. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
  10. Respond. Be present. Have fun.

The lightning talks

There were four lighting talks of 10 minutes each by Dwain, Harshadewa, Asith and Prasath, the last two in Sinhala and Tamil languages respectively.

One of my favorite quotes for this day was made by Dwain:

Harshadewa gave us an interesting talk about ‘Design thinking’ and how it can change everything.

Hardening WordPress is an art

This was the topic of Chathu Vishwajith. Easily one of my favorite talks, Chathu gave us a host of tips on how to harden WordPress. Some of the tips were:

  1. Don’t forget to update WordPress
  2. Have your own usernames/passwords rather than the default ones
  3. Take regular backups
  4. Use ‘WordPress Vulnerability Scanner’ to scan your site for vulnerabilities
  5. Disable XML-RPC if you are not using it
  6. Limit login attempts
  7. Stop directory traversal
  8. Remove unused plugins or themes

Takayuki Miyoshi

One of the all-time best and post popular plugins is Contact Form 7, authored by Takayuki Miyoshi. Takayuki came from Fukuoka, Japan to attend the event. It was a great honor to meet Takayuki and to listen to his valuable advice. His topic was ‘Lessons Learned from Ten Years of Plugin Development’ and contained these 7 points:

  1. GPL matters
  2. Documentation matters
  3. Feedback matters
  4. Support matters
  5. Translation matters
  6. Accessibility matters
  7. Improvement matters

Take a look at his own post, which has the complete slideshow as well:

https://ideasilo.wordpress.com/2017/09/26/7-lessons-learned-from-10-years-of-plugin-development/

Why front row?

As a volunteer for WordCamp Colombo, I looked after timekeeping for all the speeches. This meant I had to hold an iPad displaying the countdown to speakers. This was the reason for sitting on the front row, which also meant that I got to listen to the speakers better!

TL;DR

WordCamp Colombo was an event organised by the WordPress Colombo Meetup group. I have attended many of their meetups. However, the WordCamp was quite something else — being physically present on the same floor as the knowledgeable speakers from Colombo and abroad. This was the very first WordCamp for Sri Lanka, where we had many local and foreign speakers talking about various topics in which they had experience in. I am looking forward for next year’s WordCamp already and am eager to help out as well.

 

3 thoughts on “WordCamp Colombo 2017 – from the front row

  1. Interesting read. Specially about the hardening WordPress. Should regard website security seriously nowadays alot of sites are getting attacked even in Sri Lanka. Maybe we can have a little session on website hardenin oneday

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