My Journey at WordCamp Europe 2017

My fellows from Pixelgrade and I attended WordCamp Europe 2017 in Paris, and I must admit it was a blast. Again. Luckily, I haven’t lost anything this year. Yaaay!

This was my first time in Paris, but visiting a vastly cultural city didn’t overcome my expectations as the event itself did. I admit that I’m not such a great fan of Paris. Instead, I truly enjoyed the beauty of WordCamp and the warm of people from 79 countries all over the world.

In this article, I want to share with you some specific thoughts about my journey: the talks that I enjoyed most, the people who changed my perspective, the WordPress mates who shared useful stuff.

Before the WordCamp

We landed in Paris pretty early (on Monday), so we had plenty of time to visit the city before WordCamp. Also, enough time to experiment some restaurants with tasty food and outstanding wines. Well done on this one, Paris!

In the first days, I was lucky enough to be invited by the Pantheon team to their enjoyable, pre-WordCamp dinner with WordPress lovers. I must admit that I wasn’t expecting for such a great gathering. In fact, I thought I would deal with a bunch of people talking business, advertising or everything in between.

Well, I was quite impressed to see that people came just came to enjoy a dinner, have a friendly chat and a good time. I’m glad that I was there, made some great connections and some bonus points for catching the first row at the photo table.

Day #1: Contributors Day

This WordCamp started with a Contributors Day and I choose the JavaScript path with no regrets.

1) The first workshop was lead by Zac Gordon in the beginnings of JavaScript Vanilla. I’m not a JS amateur anymore, but from the start of the day, I wanted to learn how the masters teach their students and sure Zac is a great source of inspiration in that sense. #teachseption is the new keyword. Code source of the workshop here.

2) And why not strike the iron while it’s hot? Adam Silverstein shared an engaging history lesson about the evolution of JavaScript within WordPress. I’ve learned that a good javascript framework doesn’t need to be cool to do its job well. On top of that, backbone.js was always that nice buddy who maintained the models and collections in a performant and consistent way. Code source of the workshop here.

Here are my two cents on this matter:

We can debate all day long about the React vs VueJS, but these frameworks are meant to create nice interfaces and render the content fast and clean. How we deliver data to those frameworks will still be a JavaScript problem, a data processing concern, and backbone.js is still damn good at data handling.

In a Workshops day, Talks are like a breath of fresh air.

3) David Aguilera made a strong point about the fact that the WordPress themes and plugins directories could use some analytics data. All the big marketplaces like Playstore or Apple Store have good analytics served by default, why not have this kind of data for our toys? After all, we just want to make them better, so we need more information to relate to.

I know that there were a few people in the room who linked with this concept, but I find this topic very interesting, and I’m sure that if we get over the privacy paranoia we can achieve even more.

4) This particular point was rephrased by John Maeda in his talk as well, along with Mark Uraine and Cate Huston. The only difference is the phrase they used: “We need to know our clients to understand their problems”. Slides are right here, (btw, this was about the REST API data), but shouldn’t be also about analytics?

Moreover, K. Adam White iterated on this matter too and highlighted the fact that good software needs relevant data and that data needs a good visualization.

Day #2: WordCamp Europe, bring it on!

1) I started my day with Alain Schlesser and his speech about the loading process in WordPress. I need to admit that I studied how WordPress loads on several occasions, but I never got it as fast as he made me do it.

2) Next, the schedule challenged me to take a tough decision: a good community talk with Caspar Hübinger or a good developer talk with Otto Kekäläinen?

I went with Otto’s talk about PHP profiling, speed, performance and lots of good tips. The slides are here and I highly encourage you to take a look over, but the speech itself is hard to equal.

3) John Maeda comes on stage and he strikes again with his overall attitude. Funny, witty, with a very inspirational talk, full of motivation and good vibes.

Overall it was a great day, I’ve met a lot of new people, re-connect with older folks and I felt the network started to grow. Thumbs up!

Day 3: time to dig deeper!

1) The second day starts with Andrew Nacin. I still remember his awesome quote: Developers solve issues too.

By now I picked my favorite talk for this episode of WordCamp. Andrew inspired and motivated me to go over my fears about decision making and concentrate on the problem solving not on the code itself.

I’m glad that he broke a piece of this paradigm in which designers are presented as the rulers of this world.

2) Improv Lessons

“Slack is great to pass an image from a computer to another, but that’s it. The real communication is face to face when you can see your partner reactions.” – Dwayne McDaniel

A delicious speech, funny and eye opening. I enjoyed it in every word even thought it means (for me personally) to get out of my comfort zone, drop the never-ending NO, and learn how to handle my conversations with my team in a better way. Resource about this talk on his blog

3) Rian Rietveld reminded me about some great Accessibility rules that I kind of forgot. She is kind enough and already made these tips public on her blog. I was lucky enough to meet her on my way home, in the metro, and had the chance to thank her for the wonderful speech.

4) Over-heap time

Before the lunch, I though I would clash or something because I really felt overwhelmed and wanted to get some distance and sleep on what I heard during the days.

It was a lot of new information to me, a bunch of new people, new names, new programming tips, so so many things to remember and I felt like I really needed a break. I detached from all the people, even from my teammates, and just watched them. Nothing to say, nothing to remark, it was just a moment of “please free some memory from RAM so I can go back to Talks.”

The short meditation moment went well, the lunch was nutritious, so I was back in business.

5) The moment of Matt’s Interview. Since are plenty of ideas and lots of feedback about it, I just want to add that I strongly agree with his vision, and I’m eager to embrace new challenges.

6) John Blackbourn roles and capabilities. Nothing fancy to talk about here, but from a technical point of view, this speech taught me that I’m not even close when we talk about roles and capabilities. I have some hooks and technics in my mind, and I feel I have a better clue about how to use them. All in all, here are the slides.

7)K. Adam White – Data Visualization with the REST API.

It couldn’t end better than this. Adam gave us such a new perspective about the RESTfull API and how we could make the most out of it. And this comes from a guy (me) who tried to give new purposes to this system since it was a beta plugin.

Au revoir, Paris

Even if Paris wasn’t as beautiful as expected, I cannot complain. Caspar wrote an article after WCEU, and he taught me with his story that empathy is a big thing, and there are people with bigger problems than how beautiful and clean is a city or not.

Before this WordCamp started, I was lucky to talk with Bridget Willard. At some point, she said that “WordCamp is about the people” and she is right for many reasons. It’s not about the place; it’s not about the code, it’s not about the products, not even about the strategies or visions. It is only about the people, their problems and the way we can learn to solve them.

Dream big and see you in Belgrade … or maybe in Iași at some point?

The art of assumption making

assumption

Don’t ask yourself what is the art of assumption making yet, just ask if you have ever seen the assumption-making as an art? Can you see it now if you take your time to think about it deeply? First time when I asked myself this question, I was like, “Well, at least the person who assumes right all the time must be a successful one, no?”

A weird thing to ask from the scratch of this article, but this question is rooting in my mind lately. The more I’m paying attention to a wide range of assumptions the bigger is the suspicion growing inside me and throws with questions like “How valid is the information we encounter every day?” or “How accurate is the communication between us as humans,  team-mates, friends, lovers or husbands?”

 

Being part of a team makes me struggling to identify which parts can make us better on multiple levels: individual and collective as well. In my opinion, attacking the assumption is critical because if the team does it right, we win time, and if it does it in a wrong way, well, we need to figure it out.

What is an assumption?

Assumption (noun) [uh-suhmp-shuh n]:

  • Something took for granted
  • A supposition
  • Something took as fact when there is no proof … yet

Synonyms: presupposition; hypothesis, conjecture, guess, postulate, theory.

I like to call the assumption-making the tool which handles the unknown or the probable. Making an assumption is a powerful thing, this gives you the power to consider some untested facts as true.

As a programmer, I can dare to compare the assumption-making action with any cache system, and the main point is that they are both powerful because of their speed.

I’m crazy enough to take it to the comparison level, so let’s assume the cache/assumption as:

Property

Cache

Assumption

Speed

The purpose is to speed up the system.

Is faster to assume a fact than actually checking it.

Reliability

There is always a chance that the cached version might be outdated.

Until is tested, there is no way to rely 100% on it.

Handling

In particular cases, the cached version requires a manual validation.

For an assumption to be valid sometimes you need a manual check like reading a book, google it.

Recentness

Works most of the time with the latest hit.

The recent experiences with the subject have a greater impact on assuming.

An assumption is also a powerful tool for handling in math, logic, algorithmic, and it is always triggering some interesting discussions like this one.

My point is that the assumptions are necessary for our communication, and we need to be a little more careful when we think “Meh, it’s just an assumption, I can work with that.”

But we are only humans

The point of this article is actually to reveal the huge power of assumption-making in human relationships, interactions or even planning. Every team has to suffer a lot when the so-called “poisonous assumptions” pop in.

What do I call a poisonous or toxic assumption?

  • All the assumptions based on gender, age, minority, religious, income are useless; also, they interfere with the real skills/attributes of the discussion partner, for example.
  • The worst case scenario first. This assumption induces a subconscious negativism, and it has a big impact when starting a planning or a simple proposal.
  • Assumptions about clients, co-workers, or partners when they talk. Not listening to your dialog partner because you don’t trust their knowledge or you simply assume he is stupid can make you lose the main focus.
  • Stereotypes, all of them, sexists racists, based on age, income, etc.

To avoid that, maybe we should exercise to rely first on positive assumptions:

  • Best case scenario
  • I know he failed, but at least he tried
  • He didn’t do it with bad intentions

Small note: even the Agile Manifesto is base on 12 assumptions 😉 yeah the big famous team managing concept is based on pure speculation, ha!

Learn by example

I’ve been truly inspired by listening to Sheena Iyengar TED talk The choosing art. She talks about how an environment can affect the assumption over choices.

The most eloquent example I can give to you is the fact that American people see the choice as a birthright and the Japanese people see it as an action with responsibility. I’ve learned how much can the cultural origin and the beliefs hurt our assumptions. Can you imagine how many decisions, critics or self-thoughts are made every day based on the simple fact that we grew in a certain environment or country?

If a subconscious thing as our culture can affect our choices and our perception regarding a bunch of perspectives, I believe that there are more factors interfering here. For example, I think that an assumption is also influenced by:

  • Current state
  • Beliefs
  • Sentiments
  • Experiences
  • Welfare
  • Fatigue

In the end, all this article is an assumption since I’m not a psychologist with a degree nor a successful entrepreneur. I just had the pleasure to dig deeper the situation and try to communicate around it in a way that represents me. Instead of a conclusion, here’s a quote:

Never assume the obvious is true.

― William Safire ―

Thank you!