Mountain Xpress does Wordcamp Asheville

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This past weekend marked the first Asheville Wordcamp hosted on the Enka campus of A-B Tech.  Speakers and camp attendees from across the region gathered to discuss, collaborate, learn and really just geek out over the popular Content Management System (CMS).

WordPress is one of the most downloaded and utilized CMS frameworks in the world.  Over 60 million websites use the CMS including yours truly,  Mountain Xpress.

For a rundown of what Wordcamp is all about and how our local chapter here got the ball rolling, you can read this post by Xpress reporter Jake Frankel.

Wordcamp Asheville
The official badge of Wordcamp Asheville 2014 along with a hand grenade.

 

Representing Xpress were IT Director Stefan Colosimo, Web Devloper Kyle Kirkpatrick and me, Brad Messenger, also a Web developer.  Upon arrival, we headed straight to mission control to pick up our official badges and hand grenades. At first glance there appeared to be more MacBooks, tablets and iPhones than actual people.  There were coffee stations conveniently located in every conference room, along with some other refreshments and banana bread.  Wait, WHAT?!  BANANA BREAD! Yes, they had banana bread … (see image right).  We immediately felt right at home (Xpress staff regularly bribe us with banana bread so that we’ll tackle their latest challenges). We were ready to immerse ourselves in a meltng pot of geekdom and all things WordPress.

Our first session was hosted by Asheville’s own Marc Beneteau (@wpacademy).  He runs a WordPress training academy at WPAcademy and has developed an comprehensive online encyclopedia with boatloads of information on WordPress.  His presentation was targeted towards beginners and focused on some of the more popular WordPress plugins folks are using today. One of the beauties of WordPress is the ease with which you can add functionality to your website. Plugins are independent bits of software that can easily be installed on your WordPress site for features like slideshows, spam protection, newsletters, analytics, navigation menus and social-media buttons, just to name a few. There are currently over 30,000 WordPress plugins available for download, according to wordpress.org, and these plugins have been downloaded more than 670 million times.

Following the plugin session, we headed upstairs to the “Developer” presentation hosted by Evan Volgas (@evanvolgas), titled “Git-ting Jiggy with Git and WordPress”. Git is a version control system (VCS) developed by the founder of LINUX.  Essentially, a VCS is used to keep track of the many changes website designers and developers make to their code. Every time a change is made, the VCS saves that version of your code just in case you need to reference it or roll back to it at a later date.  An organization might use a VCS in order to allow several developers to contribute to the same “master” code repository.  Evan’s talk specifically covered version control with WordPress and how you can use Git to help manage your workflow.

It was immediately apparent that Evan had taken advantage of the conveniently located coffee stations as he was threatening attendees with hand grenades and speaking at a rapid pace. Nonetheless his talk was very informative and offered some key points to take home.

Wordcamp Asheville
Evan Volgas “Git-ting jiggy with Git”.

Next up, we stopped by the “Designing for Content” presentation hosted by David Hickox (@roboticarm).  He’s a laid-back, freelance Web designer who has a grudge against drop-shadows, for good reason. His well-crafted presentation offered some wonderful insights on how to build your design around the content and not the other way around.  Given that we just rolled out the new MountainX.com site, there were a number of ideas we found applicable to what we, as a news publication, are trying to accomplish — things like font sizes, font styles, line heights and overall design philosophy were covered during his talk.

Wordcamp Asheville
David Hickox “Designing for Content”.

The last session of the day was hosted by one of our own developers, Kyle Kirkpatrick, who spearheaded the development of the new MountainX.com site. His talk focused on highlighting some of the migration pains associated with moving our old site over to WordPress. Kyle’s presentation covered some of the more technical aspects of moving all of the articles, users, passwords and data over to the new platform.  This inevitably set the stage for some possible quality snoozing time and social-media updating. But this wasn’t the case.  Kyle did a great job of keeping the audience engaged by providing some comic relief and breaking technical items down into humanly digestible pieces.

Wordcamp Asheville Kyle Kirkpatrick
Kyle Kirkpatrick “CMS migration to WordPress”

And just like that the day came to an end. We were left to reflect on everything we had just learned. But wait, maybe not.  There was something else that needed our attention.  On the back of our official Wordcamp badge there were two little circles, like little punch holes.  Above these circles were the words “FREE” and “BEER.” After further investigation, and reading the rest of the info on the back of our badges, we realized there was still some more Wordcamp to be had.  Free beer at the Wedge.

What better way to end a day of nerdery than to head over to the local brewery and have a pint of Asheville’s best IPA at The Wedge Brewing Company.

Wordcamp Asheville has assembled a list of links to all of this years presentations, and they can be found on the Wordcamp Asheville website here.

If you are interested in viewing the actual presentations, all of this years talks were recorded and will be available at wordpress.tv very soon.

 

 

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About Brad Messenger
@BradMessenger is one of the in-house web developers for the Mountain Xpress. When he's not sitting in front of a computer you can find him out in the woods on top of some knobby tires, on a road bike headed up the Blue Ridge Parkway, hurling tennis balls for his boxer pups or sipping on an Iron Rail down at The Wedge.

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