WordCamp Brisbane 2018 Recap: Supporting the Aussie Community

October was a busy month for us here at Robot Ninja as far as conferences go.

First, it was all things Laravel at Laracon AU 2018. Then it was back to regularly scheduled programming with WordCamp Brisbane on October 27-28.

There’s nothing like getting together IRL when you work for a distributed company. But for the five of us Aussie folks at Prospress, WordCamp Brisbane is especially close to our hearts: our CEO and founder Brent Shepherd and team members Matt and James all call sunny Brisbane home.

As far as WordCamps go, Brisbane was solid—lots of great speakers, sessions, and swag. It was also awesome seeing a lot of younger WordCampers sitting in the audience for the beginner track.

Here’s a rundown of our experiences, highlights and top takeaways.

Australia Has an Incredible WordPress Community

Prospress was a proud gold sponsor of this year’s WordCamp Brisbane.

Prospress was a gold sponsor of WordCamp Brisbane 2018.
Woo! Prospress was a gold sponsor of WordCamp Brisbane 2018.

We also sponsored WordCamp Sydney in July and WordCamp Brisbane last year.

Not to blow our own horn too much, but as a company, we feel it’s really important to attend and sponsor WordCamps here in Australia to support the local WordPress community and help it continue to grow.

This meant we had a booth in Brisbane where we were able to meet some of the 270 people at the event, and also give away AutomateWoo swag t-shirts and Robot Ninja stickers. (If you didn’t already know, AutomateWoo joined the Prospress family this year. Check it out if you haven’t already!)

Dan and Matt manned the booth, handing out AutomateWoo and Robot Ninja swag.
Dan and Matt manned the booth, handing out AutomateWoo and Robot Ninja swag.

The booth was perfectly positioned closest to the coffee and food, which really helped! We met loads of people who were interested in learning more about Robot Ninja and the kinds of testing it does.

It seemed like a lot of people were pretty shocked that Robot Ninja uses real credit cards to test purchases!

The people we spoke to ranged from small teams with clients using WooCommerce through to developers and store owners. They all told us about the pains of manually testing their stores, and how, more often than not, they don’t bother testing at all 😱

What we found particularly awesome was how many people came up to the booth because they had heard of Robot Ninja or were already using it 😍

Stickers and cups: some of my swag from WordCamp Brisbane.
Some of my swag from WordCamp Brisbane.

WordCamp Brisbane 2018: Something for Everyone

The speaker lineup was diverse, to say the least, with plenty of topics that catered to an equally diverse crowd.

There were two tracks with sessions on everything from copywriting and podcasting to more business-focused topics like freelancing, outsourcing, and how to package your product or service.

The crowd at WordCamp Brisbane.
The crowd at WordCamp Brisbane.

The sessions also catered to different experience levels, with beginner topics like Michael Viller’s 10 Mistakes beginners make when setting up their websites through to more advanced topics, such as Rheinard Korf’s presentation WordPress as API Middleware: We’ve been doing things wrong. Let’s fix it!

Overall, the curation of the sessions was top-notch.

Our favorite sessions—for obvious reasons!—were the ones that focussed on WooCommerce and the REST API.

WordCamp Brisbane Session Highlights

WooCommerce REST API Integration – Andrew Duncan

Andrew gave an interesting presentation that demonstrated some of the many ways you can use the WordPress and WooCommerce REST APIs for tasks like syncing WooCommerce Orders to an internal CRM, and how to receive instant notifications of new WooCommerce orders.

We use the REST API a lot at Robot Ninja, so it was great to see others in the community using it and sharing their experiences.

You can check out Andrew’s presentation slides here.

To Eight Zeroes and Beyond: When WooCommerce Gets BIG – Ben Rollins and Ryan Fitton

Ben and Ryan from the team at digital agency Punch Buggy walked us through their journey taking over the development of a large scale WooCommerce and Subscription store, and how they were able to make it more performant and scalable—all without having to take the site down.

They detailed their headaches and challenges; how they dealt with a poorly-designed and coded site, including 16,000 lines of code in the theme’s functions.php file, which touched every different part of the store.

They also talked about the tools they now use to track the performance of the store (including New Relic).

During their session, they even showcased the page load speed improvements and bottlenecks they were able to clear by making different changes to both the code and the infrastructure of the site.

Some of my top takeaways and tips from this session included:

  • When working with a large scale site, the first step is coming up with a strategy that plans beyond the store’s current needs. For instance, if you have a store that is struggling to process 1000 carts, don’t make the goal to achieve better performance for 1000 carts. Your goal should be accomplishing 2000 active sessions without breaking a sweat.
  • Prepare for spikes in traffic. If you know your store will be featured on TV, for example, and you’re anticipating 3000 potential customers as a result, make sure your host knows well in advance (try and give them more than two days notice). Also, ensure that you have some tools ready to diagnose any issues so you can react and respond quickly. (In this case, the guys used New Relic.)
  • Don’t be afraid to outsource help to take care of certain parts of the store. This way, you can better focus on bigger and more important tracks. For example, the store they were working on had a blog, a WooCommerce store, and an app. They outsource another team to work on the app.

What I really enjoyed about this session, though, was that Ben and Ryan talked purely from experience and shared the knowledge they learned during this particular project with the WordPress community. They weren’t telling us what to do—more that they told us about what they did, why they did it, and the results they experienced.

You can check out Ben and Ryan’s presentation slides here.

A Crazy Lady’s Beginner’s Guide to WooCommerce – Toni Livesey

Toni delivered a valuable presentation for beginners that offered lots of great tips on how to help reduce the learning curve for first-time WooCommerce users.

She answered many common questions like “How do I start?” “How do I get paid?” “What shipping options exist?” and more.

If first-time WooCommerce users, her presentation was an excellent starting point. You can check out Toni’s slides here.

WordPress as API Middleware: We’ve Been Doing Things Wrong. Let’s fix it! – Rheinard Korf

We finished up day one watching XWP engineer Rheinard Korf talk us through a very interesting case study focusing on the WordPress REST API.

Basically, he used the WP REST API as middleware for routing requests to third-party services. We used similar concepts for routing/proxying requests to our internal services/network, and found it interesting to hear about Rheinard’s alternative use case.

You can check out Rheinard’s session slides here.

The Hallway Track: Late Night Kebabs

One of the best things about WordCamps is the Hallway Track. This year it took us to a kebab shop after the after party where we had late night kebabs with a couple of interesting guys, Scott Huntley and Leon Stafford.

Scott, an Instruction Designer for the Student Management Services Program Project at TAFE NSW, presented an excellent session on Your First Twelve Plugins. While Leon, the author of the WP Static Site Generator plugin, talked about static websites in his presentation WordPress as a Static Site Generator.

Somehow, a photo of Scott’s car managed to find its way into his slidedeck…

See You at WordCamp Brisbane Next Time!

A big THANK YOU to the WordCamp Brisbane 2018 organizing team, volunteers and all the other sponsors who helped make another awesome WCBNE happen.

We love seeing the WordPress community in Brisbane and across Australia grow and we’re looking forward to seeing it thrive even more in the years to come, as well as being a part of it all.