Lessons Learned At WordCamp NYC 2009

Or: Britney Spears’ Lack Of Underwear Is Matt Mullenweg’s Go-To Example For Information He Doesn’t Care About
Based upon my Twitter stream from this past weekend, one could easily enough have guessed that I spent Saturday and Sunday up in New York City for WordCamp New York City 2009. I had a great time overall, as did pretty much everyone else, at least those that I spoke to.
The recaps of the weekend have already begun to trickle in, of both the written and visual varieties and, while I took some decent notes (and some horrendous iPhone shots), I think the summations are actually better left to those other folks.
Instead of a true summary, I thought I’d rattle off a bunch of impressions and Lessons Learned from the weekend, presented hereafter in no particular order.

  • There are still many, many folks that don’t understand the implications of GPL licensing, some of whom have developed business models based upon these flawed understandings. As you can imagine, significant drama has resulted (needlessly, in my opinion).
  • Mark Jaquith is tall, and unexpectedly so at that. His Twitter avatar simply does him no justice. (Also, Jane looks nowhere near as much like Tina Fey as her Gravatar would let on…)
  • Elastic is stone-cold awesome. I don’t know that it’s the “future of themes and a replacement for parent/child themes” as was claimed, but it is a highly impressive piece of work. It’s a little raw, but it shows some serious promise.
  • Matt jokingly refers to a blazer over an open-collared dress shirt paired with jeans as his signature look. You’re likely to get ribbed if you’re similarly attired in his general vicinity.
  • There are a lot of folks out there who willingly spend money on plugins and themes without realizing that much of what they’re looking for can be had for free. When confronted with this evidence, many are still willing to pay.
  • Non technically inclined folks are willing to pay for someone to be a “Personal Technology Coach”.
  • Non technically inclined folks are also now looking to perform installations of WordPress on their own (with maybe some help from their PTCs…). This, in professional wrestling parlance, would be known as getting “over” with the crowd.
  • When will WordPress finally dump PHP4? When usage goes to sub-10% levels. According to Matt, 14% of users whose hosts report back are still saddled with it. Almost there.
  • The walk from 23rd and Broadway to 25th and Lexington can be made to seem twice as long as the walk from 23rd and Lexington to Penn Station through the simple addition of a nice soaking rain.
  • Stephane is every bit as affable and nice a person as one could ever hope to encounter.
  • BuddyPress is hot, very hot (from a client and developer interest standpoint). The majority of the non-techy types at the camp were very excited by it, as were a goodly number of the techies it seemed.
  • The commuter NJT trains are double-deckers.
  • Folks talk about using “theme frameworks” or “parent/child themes”. What they actually mean is: “I use Thematic for everything, took a look at Hybrid once and actively scorn what the Thesis folks are doing”, all of which speaks extremely well for the effort Ian has put into Thematic. Seriously, most other options beyond Thematic seemed to get mentioned almost as afterthoughts and, well, see the point about GPL issues above in re: the reception for Thesis.
  • If I ever volunteer to help run a WordCamp or even volunteer at one, I am likely to be enlisted as a bouncer/security.
  • bbPress continues to be the red-headed step-cousin of the WordPress family, though the ease with which BuddyPress integrates it may well be its salvation.
  • Matt is personally looking for apps coded on top of WordPress that
    1. Create a record/LP catalog that allows for collection management (an “iTunes for records”, if I recall his phrase correctly)
    2. Function as note-taking/mind-mapping software, allowing the collection of seemingly arbitrary bits of information and then the categorization of said info later (I almost thought of it as a plea for a Yojimbo/DevonThink-style app).

    Enterprising developers, take note: I seem to recall him offering to buy dinner for anyone that came up with successful implementations of either of those ideas.

  • Matt Martz aka “sivel” is an incredibly decent human being and should be bought a beer, if ever the chance arises. (If we’re both at WCNYC next year, Matt, mark me down for one.)
  • I am never attending another conference in which I do not drop my luggage off at the hotel prior to attending. Seriously felt like a Bedouin tribesman for the better part of two days. Tangential point: all my luggage must have wheels from here on out.
  • If there’s any justice in this world, canonical plugins will come to be, and sooner rather than later. Also: “canonical” is a bit too value-laden and perhaps pejorative. Suggestions for another name for the concept are welcome.
  • The “rivalry” between Six Apart and Automattic in no way, shape or form extends to Anil Dash and Matt Mullenweg. Anil compared it to how Nas and Jay Z rip on each other on their albums yet stay friends behind the scene — people always want to see a little bit of drama, a little bit of tension. (I compared it to faces and heels in the WWE, a concept which he agreed, if only in part. *grin*) No word on who gets to be Nas and who gets to be Jay Z in this scenario.He’s also fairly worried about what Tim O’Reilly is calling The War of the Web, which also plays into the GPL vs. pro/premium/pay/non-free discussions.
  • As has been rumored, one of Matt’s prime goals for WordPress 3.0 is to retire WordPressMU and integrate its functionality with the core .org product. The MU functionality will likely be hidden by default and enabled by an addition or tweak to wp-config.php.
  • Day-parking in New York is apparently cheaper than in Philadelphia. Thanks for nothing, PPA.
  • People continue to be excited about WordPress and are using it in really cool and creative ways and it’s very hard, if not impossible, to not get excited right along with them.
  • Microsoft is willing to show their metaphorical face at a WordCamp. They even brought t-shirts and X-Boxes.

There’s a ton of stuff I’m forgetting at this point, but if you really had to take a few simple things away from #wcnyc, let them be: Elastic is awesome, everyone is using Thematic, no more MU past WP3.0, and if you’re a developer looking for paid work, get familiar with BuddyPress, STAT.
I’m already looking forward to 2010 (assuming that Jane and Steve have fully recovered by then… *grin*)