WordCamp Los Angeles 2018 in Review

October 3, 2018 in Community
WCLAX 2018 University Campus

View of the campus from our 3rd floor perch at WCLAX

Last week we rolled into LA for WordCampLAX and were greeted with sunny skies, palm trees, and lots and lots of talented, smart WordPressers. Held on the breezy 3rd floor terrace of the Golden Eagle ballroom at Cal State, it was one of the most unique WordCamp venues I’ve seen, perfectly suited to the dreamy LA weather.


There were three tracks this year, along with a full Beginner’s Day on Friday. It was so successful that they repeated a few of the Beginner’s talks over the rest of the weekend, as Friday completely sold out. There was also an unconference-style Barcamp on Sunday that encouraged audience participation with a selection of topics up for discussion. This is something you don’t see at many WordCamps, but I hope it inspires more organizers to include them because it’s a great way to hear new voices in the community.

Gutenberg – Today and Tomorrow – Konstantin Obenland

Konstantin Obenland, a core WordPress developer at Automattic, gave an insightful update to a completely packed room on how things are moving along in the Gutenberg development world. There is still no release date, which is of course the big question on everyone’s mind. But as of now, there are close to half a million installs using Gutenberg. And thanks to them, the Gutenberg development team has gotten a tremendous amount of feedback, that they’ve been able to apply to their work.

Konstantin Obenland WCLAX2018

One of the more interesting things to learn is about the work being done on nested blocks. Slated for introduction in Gutenberg v2, sometime in 2019, nested blocks will give the ability to compose more complex page layouts in Gutenberg. But they also mean that someday we could see Gutenberg working as an actual sitebuilder, not just limited to pages, for building the structure of an entire site!

This certainly has huge implications for companies selling commercial themes, among others, and Konstantin didn’t dance around that fact. He said that yes, themes are going to experience a lot of changes going forward.

With the introduction of themes and plugins to WordPress Core, there were a lot of opportunities opened for WordPress; this is another one.”
– Konstantin Obenland, Automattic

So businesses will have to adapt and change the nature of what they offer. It may be the end of one solution, but the beginning of a whole new set of opportunities to discover and problems to solve.

From Strategy to Launch: Maintaining Good Client Communication Throughout a Project – Karyn Keene

Having worked both as a freelancer and as a team member at a web agency, I have a huge appreciation for strategy discussions. Anything that can help avoid scope creep, stressful late nights rushing to meet a deadline, and angry clients (and angry coworkers) is super crucial in my book! In September, Jennifer Bourne talked about the importance of having a process for onboarding clients at WordCamp Minneapolis (check out my review of her talk!). Karyn gave a great deep dive into one of the key factors in maintaining good communication with clients: empathy.

Karyn Keene WCLAX2018

What are the biggest reasons for conflict in a client-partner relationship? Two things are obvious, and easy to blame: deadlines not being met, and adding extra work outside the scope. But when we start to recognize the more human problems, like lack of understanding and fear, we can . As a client, it’s a somewhat scary place to be in, when you aren’t 100% sure how the web development process works. If you’re going to get what you want and need. And that fear, Karyn says, starts to create bad communication patterns, controlling micromanaging, demanding all the time.

Conflict often comes from a lack of understanding.
– Karyn Keene

Being able to recognise those things as a fear response can help us to mitigate them. By setting expectations with a clear plan, and providing education on the process and steps involved, we empower them with knowledge and trust.
Our clients don’t know everything they need to do the work themselves, and its not their job to know it. That’s why they hired us. But if we can respectfully teach them what we’re doing for them, and how they can use this new knowledge to be more successful in their business or organization, we empower them. That transparency also builds client trust in our ability to make decisions, helping clients relax and let you take the reins.

You Can’t Charge for Value if You Don’t Understand Your Cost – Bridget Willard

Closing the day was Bridget Willard of the WPBlab podcast and co-founder of WomenWhoWP, a global meetup initiative to encourage and support women in WordPress.

Bridget Willard WCLAC2018

YES it was dark in that room, but this slide sums it up: everyone’s value of their time is different!

Bridget gave a hilarious, candid, encouraging take on the issue many freelancers and new agencies struggle with: putting a price on their time. She explained the many factors that go into making this decision, from calculating your actual costs (money going out the door every month for things like hosting, software subscriptions, your rent, healthcare….??) all the way to deciding how much you actually WANT to work every week.

Math tells you the truth. Don’t be afraid of it. Let it guide you. – Bridget Willard, on realistically valuing your time and work

Bridget was an accountant for over 10 years, and yes she did say the terrifying word “Math” a lot. Because calculating cost requires just as much good, old-fashioned gradeschool mathematics as it does introspective decisions about your freetime and overcoming Imposter Syndrome. But this is a good thing! Taking time to calculate your actual costs before even thinking about your rate gives you a solid, true place to start. Afterall, you can’t be profitable when taking in less money than is flying out the door every month. Yet, a lot of freelancers out there are doing just that, because they fail to take into account the fact that each month actually starts with a huge deficit, that you must first satisfy before you can even consider any pay “income”.

And there you have it!

Thanks to everyone who visited us at the SiteLock booth, we met a ton of awesome folks doing really interesting things with WordPress. This has been one of my favorite WordCamps to date, and I already can’t wait until next year.

bye LAX!
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