I’m writing this post on the flight from Ottawa, Ontario to Washington, DC for the 2023 edition of WordCamp US, the annual national WordPress conference being held in National Harbour, Maryland. It will bring together designers, developers, marketers, and other experts in the WordPress space.
This will be my first time back at this conference since 2019. I’m not speaking this year, just going as an attendee.
Although I’ve continued to use WordPress over the last four years as a blogger, and still maintain several sites for clients, I haven’t kept up with everything that’s been happening with the product as much as I used to. My development work has been more focused on Laravel and Vue, or not coding at all – doing engineering management or security compliance work as part of my day job. I’m looking forward to diving into everything new with WordPress.
More importantly, I’m looking forward to reconnecting in person with friends in the community who I haven’t seen outside of Zoom calls or Signal groups chats in 4 years. These are friends who pre-pandemic I was fortunate enough to see many times a year in different cities around the world at the various camps.
Heading into this conference, here’s what I’m looking for:
Web Accessibility has always been another interest of mine, something I’ve advocated for as an important part of web design for almost 20 years now. In the last few years, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) have had a new version released. I’m looking forward to updated talks that focus on WCAG 2.1 and the upcoming WCAG 2.2
Community vs Corporate
My last national-level WordCamp was WordCamp US 2019 in St. Louis. Something that was becoming obvious that year was a shift from these camps being about the WordPress “community”, to a larger “corporate” feel. This was around the time that it seemed there wasn’t a day without a new merger or acquisition being announced in the WordPress space. Google had a booth in the vendor area, so did DigitalOcean and Amazon Web Services (AWS).
I expect this year will feel similar, the national level events (I feel) are going to continue to draw the big names. In a way, I hope I’m wrong. The feeling of WordPress events as a community of smaller agencies, freelancers, mixed in with a few larger agencies was always one of the things I’ve loved about the project.
Funding open source
Very much related to the community vs corporate discussion, is the funding of open source development. So much of the work being done on WordPress is done my people working for free on their own time. Through efforts like the WordPress Community Collective, we’re seeing calls for sponsoring work being done in WordPress. Disclaimer: I’ve been helping sponsor development work related to web accessibility.
Just this past week, a new fund was started to sponsor development of WordPress PHP tooling. This comes on the heels of a post from the authors of WordPressCS (a code linter for WordPress CI/CD pipelines) , declaring about the free development of these tools: “This is an unsustainable situation and it ends now”.
At my last camp, the Gutenberg editor was still the new hotness. Developers were just learning to make blocks. We didn’t yet have the full site editor, block patterns, or many of the other features that have gone into WordPress’ editor.
I’m hoping this year to find people talking about updates to the PHP back-end that runs WordPress. This has always been my core interest in the platform – WP-CLI, the REST API, Actions and Filters, 3rd party integrations, database and cache performance, etc. PHP as a language has advanced significantly in the last few years. We’ve seen WordPress bump up the minimum versions of PHP. PHP 8.x has added lots of new features to the language I hope we’ll see getting baked into WordPress.
Build support for WordCamp Canada
Over the last few months, I’ve been part of a team of volunteers who have been investigating organizing WordCamp Canada (#WCEH), which would be the first national camp in the “great white north” – adding to a compliment of local camps that we’ve historically hosted across the country.
I’m looking forward to talking to attendees, speakers and sponsors about the possibilities for that camp while we’re at US. I know some of our fellow organizers also participated in the WordPress Community Summit earlier this week.
Finally, this will be my first time in the Washington. In my travels I’ve always had a fondness for other country’s capital cities. I’ve spoken about this with WordPressers from other countries before. There’s interesting parallels between Ottawa and Washington, both in the WordPress space and as cities in general. Hoping to spend a little tourist time while in DC.
See you there?
If you’re at WordCamp US this year, I hope we have a chance to catch up.