A friendly challenge to all WordCamp Cape Town 2016 Workshop Speakers

It’s Sunday morning 11 September and I am still coming off of the high that is WordCamp.

However, one thing makes me sad. Due to constraints the day 1 workshops were not filmed. While I do understand the logistics of this and why it was not possible, I gets me thinking that it would be amazing if there was some way to still capture this information for those who attended, or better yet, those who could not make it.

And then it hit me. We live in a digital age. There is nothing stopping each and every workshop speaker from taking an hour of our their day, recording their own session and uploading it to YouTube.

So, if you were a workshop speaker on day 1 of WordCamp, I challenge you to redo your workshop in the comfort of your home or office, record it and share it with the world. If your workshop¬†was fairly seamless ( we’re looking at you Konstantin ūüėČ ) then it will be really easy. If, like me, there were things you could improve to help fit it into 1 hour, then make those changes and record your session.

I’m letting Steve and Danielle off the hook, I’m not sure they could record their talk and recreate the magic without an actual audience. ūüėČ

I also already know Chris Muller is off the hook, as his team filmed his talk for him. So Chris, you are first up, upload the video, share it and inspire the rest of the community to record theirs.

You can expect mine by the end of the week!

WordCamp Cape Town – Day 1

So day one of Word Camp Cape Town is over. It was quite a whirlwind of a day, but I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.

My WordCamp experience actually started on Wednesday night, at the VIP dinner. Here I got to meet and chat with a bunch of folk from the local WordPress community who I had only ever ‘met’ online. It’s quite a thing to already have a relationship with someone and then only meet them in person for the first time (I wonder if this is how new Automattic employees feel at their first company meetup?)¬†The vibe was great and I had some amazing discussions¬†with some awesome people.

Today kicked off (after the obligatory 1 hour 20 minute drive from the outskirts of town) with my ‘Extending WordPress’ workshop. It went pretty well, there are some things I could have done better and some things that I nailed, but all in all I had good feedback. It’s always great hearing that people finally understood a specific concept because of your talk and one or two people mentioned that to me, which was amazing.

After that I sat in on Seagyn’s advanced talk on Continuous Integration, Unit Testing and Integration testing. I got to play with Travis-CI and I am excited to start implementing this knowledge into my development work flow

After lunch I decided to stay on the advanced developer track and thoroughly enjoyed Konstantin Obenland’s Settings API workshop. Being able to watch an expert at work is an amazing thing, and Konstantin ‘live coded’ his Settings API example with only one bug (which he fixed in record time) causing him a few moments of quiet contemplation. And I do really mean moments, in the time that it would have taken me to figure out the problem, he’d already figured out the problem and the solution. Amazing stuff.

The day ended with a really fun and interesting talk from Steve and Danielle. I really enjoyed the way that made the entire workshop interactive and interesting. I would have easily listened to a workshop on how to increase your site speed, but they presented it in such a way that they actually made me excited to just go and learn how to do it myself. Well done guys.

Other things that stood our where how many of the local Divi community were present, where ever we ran into each other the obvious topic of conversation was Divi 3.0. I even had the chance to speak to some non Divi users and discuss the theme and its merits with them. I am definitely looking forward to meeting all the Divi Users that are at WordCamp tomorrow at our unofficial Divi Meetup.

All in all day one was pretty special. What inspired me the most was ¬†how full the three different tracks were, I’m looking forward to seeing and interacting with everyone in the single regular sessions track tomorrow

 

Remembering ‘Why?’

It is said you should start with ‘Why?’ Over the past few weeks I’ve gone through some drastic changes in my life. These events have forced me to stop and evaluate why I do what I do and if it all makes sense.

Please bear with me for a moment while I explain. About 2 and a half years ago I opened up a¬†martial arts¬†school¬†in my home suburb. I’d been training in the art of Gracie Jiu Jitsu for almost 7 years, but I was tired of the constant 30 to 40 minute travel to (and then again from) the academy. I was a dedicated student however and I figured that if there were people like me living where I did that wanted to train, If I opened my own school I’d have training partners I could train with closer to home. This could then grow into a business and I could turn my hobby into my job.

Fast forward 2 and a half years and last week I closed the school down and turned it into something resembling a ‘jiu jitsu study group’. The plan¬†of turning my hobby into a business soon meant that I had lost sight of the ‘why’¬†I opened it in the first place, the ability to train close to home. I was so wrapped up in the administration, marketing, teaching and everything else that goes along with running a school that I had forgetting to get some training in myself. It was a hard lesson to learn.

This has given me fresh eyes with which to look at the reasons why I first became a software developer. I didn’t do this because I want to have my website listed on a top 5 list or because I wanted to sell plugins or be able to say that ‘I was the lead developer on that big website’. I didn’t even do it to work with specific markets or sectors of industry. I became a software developer for the simple reason that I like writing, be it code, a technical document or a tutorial or a blog post. I’m not what I would call a ‘creative’, I can’t draw or design something to save my life. What I can do is develop software that solves a specific problem or write an article or tutorial that helps someone achieve a specific task.

The honest truth is that I shouldn’t be working as a freelancer. I should be working for a company, where I am simply a small cog in a bigger machine. I am not cut out for the administrative tasks that come along with working for yourself. I barely even remember to bill my clients sometimes. But the reality of my unique situation means that I cannot, at the moment, go and work full time for a company. And it means that I am also currently failing as a freelancer. So where does that leave me?

Well, as I did when I restructured my jiu jitsu school into a study group, I will share the same quote that defines my current state of mind.

In the words of Jocko Willink,¬†‚ÄúGet up‚Ķ Dust off‚Ķ Reload‚Ķ Re-calibrate‚Ķ REENGAGE‚Ķ and go out ON THE ATTACK‚Ķ‚ÄĚ

Today I launched my Patreon at http://patreon.com/jonathanbossenger. It is an attempt to re-calibrate myself and my development/writing services in such a way that I can continue to do what I love without the immediate need for fulfilling client requirements. In short I hope to build an audience of interested parties who are prepared to support me now for any plugins and tutorials I have already written or that I plan to release in the future. It will eventually mean that I can ditch the need to find client work and focus on what I do (pretty) well, write code and tutorials for others to use.

I trust you will consider supporting me.

UPDATE: So since launching this Patreon I’ve had some success with my plugin sales and I’ve decided to close the Patreon. The web development world isn’t yet ready for this kind of crowd funding. Since doing this I’ve noticed a few other developers are trying it out themselves, and I wish them well. I’ve just realised it’s not for me.

Getting ready for 2016

Digital Resolutions.

2016 sees a new direction for me. For the first time since I started programming in 2004, I will be 100% self employed.

This doesn’t mean that I have always been employed by a boss for the last 12 years. There were some attempts at working for myself in the past, but each time it was at the request of someone else. This time it is a decision I have come to after much consideration and planning.

I am quite looking forward to this new direction. It will no doubt come with its struggles, but I get to focus on one of the things I like the most about working in the digital space, namely working with clients and solving their problems via technology.

To prepare myself for this new journey I have made a few digital¬†‘resolutions’ for 2016.

1. I will not reinvent the wheel.

Open source content management sytems have come a long way since I started custom coding CMS’s in 2004.¬†With the worldwide adoption of WordPress as the CMS of choice¬†and the multitude of top quality free and premium themes and plugins available, there really is no reason to develop a website from scratch any more. More often that not, when discussing various user requirements for a website, a quick Google search will reveal that (to coin the Apple catchphrase) ‘there’s a plugin for that’.

So my plan is simple. Instead of writing all the code myself, I will build on top of the shoulders of giants. Similar to what my colleague Ross has done over at Shopcreatify, I will be offering my services as a website ‘fitter’. A digital foreman if you will. I’ll get my hands dirty every now and then, but first and foremost I will use tried and tested themes, plugins and services, developed by experts in their respective fields, to deliver amazing web and mobile solutions to my clients.

2. Back to school

One of my secondary goals for 2016 is to spend as much of my free time as possible learning new skills. Not specifically development skills (e.g. new languages and/or technologies) but skills that will allow me to bring a more rounded service to my clients. A large part of this will be a focus on digital marketing. This isn’t just to be able to provide basic digital marketing services to my clients, but also to grow my own marketing¬†experience, both for my digital¬†business and the jiu-jitsu school I run.

4. Personal projects

There are a couple of personal software projects that I am keen to build on and grow.

A few years ago I wrote a piece of web based software to help a client (and my jiu-jitsu instructor) manage his students. This has huge potential for all the other martial arts gyms in South Africa and I just haven’t had the time to develop the idea to a point where I can offer it to multiple clients.

I am also part of a family run business with my wife. There is a lot of scope for converting manual processes into digitally driven ones and I am keen to get my hands dirty making our lives easier by improving our processes through automation.

3. Family man

The primary reason I am taking all of the above steps is to be able to spend more time with my family. Over the past four years I have been working on site at a great local development company but time with my family suffered, due to the hours I was busy with the various things I was involved in. Starting off on my own will hopefully give me some flexibility to spend a little bit more quality time with my family.

I’ve never been one for new year resolutions, based purely on the fact that most people never see them through. So I don’t really want to call these resolutions, the are life decisions I have made (for good or for ill) that I plan to live on a day to day basis.

I can’t wait to see how 2016 turns out.

 

 

Digital Marketing Workshop

As an entrepreneur, small business owner or freelancer, one of the most important skills you need to have, after being amazing at what you do, is digital marketing.

The biggest learning curve I had as a developer was when I launched my Jiu Jitsu school. I soon learned that ‘If you build it, they don’t necessarily come‘ and my journey into digital marketing begin. I was truly amazed at a) how much could be accomplished with a good digital marketing strategy and b) how easy it is to do it wrong.

If you are in the same position as I am and you want to leverage technology to promote your business or you want to learn how you market your business better online, I highly recommend the Digital Marketing Workshops hosted by Mashup Marketing. The next one is on the 4th of November.

Whether you are a small to medium business or simply an individual responsible for marketing duties but lack digital experience then this workshop is definitely for you. If you are just passionately learning about digital marketing then feel free to join as well. The digital workshop will help you understand what digital marketing is all about and equips you with the knowledge and tools to help you grow any business online.

 

Word Camp Cape Town 2015

So this year I was fortunate enough to attend my first Word Camp.

I’ve been meddling (at best) with WordPress for the better part of the last decade, I’ve set up a few blogs and sites and even completed some custom development using WordPress as the base but I’ve never been someone who was ‘focused’ on WordPress or the WordPress community. This year I decided to take a deeper look into what makes the local WordPress community tick. Boy, what a ride it was.

Day one dawned a typically early spring Cape Town day, namely rain. After getting out to the awesome venue that is the River Club, we got to mingle with some of the attendees and pick and choose our selection of ‘swag’. I wasn’t sure what the protocol was, so I just grabbed a few interesting items, my favourite of which was the USB power banks supplied by FNB/Paypal. A spread of coffee/teas and muffins awaited us while we milled around the entrance area, and then onto the workshops we went.

I chose to attend all the developer workshops and I wasn’t disappointed. From Brent’s talk on Varying Vagrant Vagrants to Pippin’s ‘Commitment to Backwards Compatibility’, each speaker was interesting, knowledgeable and insightful. I especially enjoyed Justin’s talk on the WordPress API, mainly because how interesting and funny he was at the same time, even after a 16 odd hour flight.

Day two was more of a typical conference day, with¬†everyone seating in the auditorium, cinema style, listening to the talks of the day. Our’s MC’s were the always funny¬†Derick Watts and the Sunday Blues who had the crowd in stitches in between each talk.

The talks on day two were just as interesting as day one, but the two that stood out for me the most were Drew’s ‘It takes a Village to make¬†Wordpress’ and Bruce’s ‘The Age of the Digital Superhero’. Not that all the other speakers weren’t great (they were) but these two resonated with me on a personal level.

The last talk ended¬†with the words ‘f*cking awesome’ which was apt, as this was the feeling I had when I left WordCamp. I met some amazing people and was inspired as a developer, both and a personal and a technical level. WordPress has come a long way in the past few years and it was really great to see and meet so many people who are developing, using and growing WordPress as a platform.

Special thanks go to Hugh Lashbrooke, who put all this together and was super friendly every time you chatted to him, even though I am sure he was buzzing from the nerves of running such a huge event.

And finally, thanks to all the amazing WordPress users and developers I meet, who made me realised that there is something special about belonging to an open source community.

I’ll definitely be back next year.