Talk: From local to staging to live

After starting my speaking career in April at WordCamp Sheffield and doing talks at WordCamp Manchester and WordCamp Bournemouth I was kindly invited to speak at WordPress London by Ngaire Ackerley.

Having only been to London a few times in my entire life it was nice to be invited down and I decided to make it an overnight stay, to ease the journey pain!

The meet up was great with some really good WordPress folks taking part. My slides for my presentation titled Local to Staging to Live – Using Version Control and Deployment Tools are below:

View the slides

The video of the talk, should you wish to watch this is below:

Photo credit:

WordCamp Bournemouth 2014 Talks

Extensible plugins

Whilst building the Edupress project extensive customisations were made to integrate with a number of other plugins. This talk looks at how you can build plugins which other developers, plugins and themes can add to, remove things from and build upon.

This talk is related to the talk proposed by Rachel McCollin on the new Edupress project and looks more at the development.

View the Extensible plugins talks slides

From local to staging to live using version control and deployment tools

A walk through of a WordPress development environment work flow from building a site locally, hosting the site on a staging environment and then be able to push sites live all using Version Control (Git) and a Deployment tool.

View the From Local to Staging to Live Using Version Control and Deployment Tools slides

Speaking at WordCamp Manchester

At the end of June WordCamp Manchester takes place at Manchester Metropolitan University’s New Business School Building. I am pleased to able to say that I will be speaking at the unconference with a talk titled “Easy Extensible Plugins”.

Back in 2010 the first WordCamp in Manchester took place at the Metropolitan University as part of the WordCamp UK events and 2014 brings us back there for another informal gathering of WordPress developers, designers and users.

This will be the second time that I have spoken at a WordCamp event, the first being in April at WordCamp Sheffield. My t all will cover what an extensible plugin is, why we should be making our plugins extensible and the tools and functions we can use to do this.

I am really looking forward to the event and look forward to seeing everyone there.

WordCamp Bournemouth 2014 Talk Proposal

Today I submitted my talk proposal for WordCamp Bournemouth 2014. I have titled the proposed talk as “From Local to Staging to Live Using Version Control and Deployment”. I intend to present my development environment and how I develop sites on my local machine first, all the way through to how the site ends up live. Below are some of the things I will touch on:

  • Setting up a local development environment using MAMP
  • Using Github to store your code and provide version control for your project
  • Tips and tricks for using Github with WordPress
  • Making the most of a staging environment, where to host this and when to use it
  • Integrating a deployment system so you can push versions of your project from your Git repository to staging or live sites.

This talk was something that I suggested back in 2013 at WordCamp Lancaster in the hope that someone would be able to present on this, as back then I didn’t have a clue. Thankfully Rob Miller delivered the talk, but as luck would have it I was busy being a site doctor in the other track!

Having spent the last 12 months learning about the best way forward here, I intend to share some of the things that I have learnt.

WordCamp Sheffield 2014

Last weekend was WordCamp Sheffield, a special WordCamp for many reasons if not just for the fact that is was the first WordCamp of the year in the UK. It was also a little different for me as I was speaking for the first time on a topic which I have worked on for a while, customising the WordPress admin screens.

The journey over to Sheffield was a good one and was much quicker than I thought. It really is all that far away! Driving over Snake Pass in the Fog was fantastic, if a little scary at some places, but dropping down the valley at the other side gave some tremendous views.

Arriving just before 0900 at the venue (Mappin Hall) which was part of the University I grabbed a coffee before registration. Lanyards and T-Shirts were given out. The WordCamp Sheffield T-Shirt was a lovely design incorporating a map of Sheffield and the WordPress logo of course. White and blue T-Shirts were seen worn and it turns out that the white T-Shirts were for attendees and the blue for speakers – I got the wrong one, but to be honest I haven’t got many white T-Shirts so I was not too disappointed!

Then started the range of different speakers throughout the day. With two tracks in a large hall and smaller lecture theatre there was plenty to choose from. I started out in the lecture theatre.

Dependancy Management with Composer and WordPress – Tom J Nowell

Tom gave an interesting talk about code dependancies. The overview being that many of the frameworks used in WordPress development end up loading a lot of code that is never actually used – something I have agreed with for a while.

Tom suggested using a code dependancy tool named composer. This is something which I would like to look into in the future and it sounds promising, if not a little complicated.

APIness – Robert O’Rourke

The second talk, again on the developer track in the lecture theatre was all about utilising WordPress’ APIs. Recently I have worked on a number of sites where this has needed to be done and therefore I was interested to see what tips and ticks Robert had to share.

The talk concentrated on the WordPress HTTP API which I was pleased about as I have used this and wanted to check that I was using it in the right way. I am happy to say that I am.

Robert did give a great tip in that if you are using the wp_oembed_get() function in WordPress you need to cache the results as WordPress does not do this for you like it does with oEmbed items in the post content. I will be implementing this fix to one of the sites I was using this on soon.

The Challenges of Running a Multi-Author Blog – Samantha Deakin

Samantha introduced some top tips that she had learned about getting authors on her award winning blog to contribute including having it in their contract that they must contribute to the site at least once a week.

Samantha also outlined some of the useful plugins she had used on the blog over the years, which are outlined in the slides (link below).

View the Slides

Wow Plugins, Awesome Plugins for Your Site – Kimb Jones

Kimb delivered his customary informal talk on the latest and greatest plugins out there at the moment.  Apart from some live demos going wrong, the talk did outline some new plugins that I had not heard of that could be useful.

A Simpler WordPress Admin For Clients – Me!

Next was time for my talk on the developer track. This was my first conference talk and I was a little nervous. I was surprised at how many delegates attended as I was along side Graham Armfield’s talk on WordPress accessibility, a topic which is growing in necessity by the month.

My talk went well and I had some interesting questions at the end – thanks to all those who listened!

Rules for a Teenage WordPress Community

As a teacher I was interested to hear Michelle Dillon’s talk on her experience of creating Rockhaq. It was refreshing to hear that some of the things Michelle learnt when creating the site, were the same barriers and experiences that I have had in the past creating online sites for teenagers in schools.

Hitchhikers Guide to Custom Post Types

Jenny Wong gave the final talk of the day before the Keynote all about Custom Post Types in WordPress, which are the basis of what makes WordPress such a good CMS to use. Jenny talked through what Custom Post Types are, how to add them and use them alongside custom taxonomies.

The final Keynote sessions was a Q&A with the WordPress co-founder Mike Little. Unfortunately I only caught the first 10 minutes of this as I had to leave to head back across the Penninies for home.

WordCamp Sheffield was an excellent event at an excellent venue. It was my first WordCamp where I was a speaker, something that I definitely want to do again soon. But most of all, as always with WordCamp, what makes they so special is the fantastic people that attend. It was great to catch up with everyone again and nice to see some new faces too. See you all in Manchester at the end of June!

Speaking at WordCamp Sheffield

Yesterday I was confirmed as a speaker at WordPress Sheffield taking place on the 26th April 2014. My talk is titled A Simpler WordPress Admin for Clients and I will aim to talk through how the admin can be made simpler and more effective to prevent clients becoming confused.


This is my first speaking appearance talking about WordPress and I must say I am slightly nervous, although I hoping my teaching background will help. Lots of planning and slides to produce now for my talk!

The Digital Barn 2

On Saturday the 22nd of September I took the trip over the Pennines to Barnsley to attend The Digital Barn 2, an event full of informative presentations, workshops, banter and idea sharing. The whole experience was a tremendous success and huge credit should go out to Kimb Jones, Matthew Watson and the Barnsley DMC. The day was an excellent learning experience with some very well presented talks.

The first session I attended was “How to Win & Work with Big Clients” from the guys over at Human Made. I enjoyed this talk as Tom and Joe gave us all a taste of what most of us are working towards. Talks like this always inspire you to work harder, more efficient and provide a better service overall with the view that one day you may be able to attract the types of clients that the team at Human Made do WordPress work for every day. Tom and Joe gave some great tips including:

  1. Be Focused
  2. Be Credible
  3. Learn how to charge
  4. Be excellent

Some sound obvious but we all need a reminder from time to time of the basics in order to focus on what we want to achieve. I was particularly interested in hearing their thoughts on learning how to charge, something which I still cannot get right nearly 5 years into freelancing!

Next up was Bea Marshall talking about “Transforming your online presence“. I really enjoyed this talk as Bea had so much enthusiasm and some very good ideas on all sorts of different topics. I will remember Jonny’s question about a Facebook campaign for funeral directors for a while and Bea’s ideas on this were remarkable and very unique.

Next up came my favourite talk of the day from Craig Burgess. Craig comical presentation style amused the audience but his message was a very serious one and one we can all learn a lot from. I think this talk inspired me the most as I got my thinking about my teaching career. I have been trying to teach 11 – 16 year olds why some design is good and some is not so good for such as long time with little success (that and the fact I am not a designer!). Although a good design is very much in the eye of the viewer, it is clear that some designs are clearer good and some are clearly magic. Craig’s talk gave me some great ideas on how to get this message across. Thanks Craig!

Having already thoroughly enjoyed David Coveney’s talk at WordCamp UK in Edinburgh earlier in the year, it was great to listen to “Be A Better Businessman” again with some great improvements and tweaks to the talk, focusing clearly on the ethics of business. David’s story of Abbey National not treating him well some years ago certainly got me thinking about business and they way to run or not to run a business.

Lunch was next and a cracking spread of Pizza’s and garlic bread was included in the ticket price, excellent value at a total cost of £11.25. What seemed like an unlimited supply of drinks, including coffee and beer made for a wonderful lunch time, mingling with many in attendance. I often find that the informal chatter is the best part of these meetups.

Jason Brewster then engaged the audience after lunch with “UX for the public sector”. Jason’s talk was a breath of fresh air talking about the design and how learning how the brain effects the way in which design are perceived really gave me some good points to remember when creating websites. Remember that the eye looks at a page in the letter ‘F’!

The day finished with Rachel Shillcock telling us “How to understand what makes you special”. This was Rachel’s first speaking gig and I thought she made an excellent job of it and gave us all something to think about – well done Rachel!.

So that brings me to sum up my thoughts. The main things that I have taken out of the event are as follows:

  • Focus on your strengths and not your weaknesses; I thought this tweet summed this up perfectly.
  • Be positive and believe in yourself. Push yourself to do new things in order to improve.
  • I want to speak at an event! Problem is I am not sure what to talk about really.

I look forward to the Digital Barn 3 next year and other events in between!

WordCamp UK Edinburgh – I’ll Be There

After an absence of 1 year I will be attending this years WordCampUK unconference in Edinburgh. Having attended both the 2009 (Cardiff) and the 2010 (Manchester) events I missed out on last years event (Portsmouth) mainly due to the distance away. I am looking forward to this years WordCampUK for a number of reasons.

Firstly it we give me a chance to meet up with all the other Compass Design associates. After a meeting last week with Compass Design owner Rachel McCollin I am delighted to announce that I am now a Compass Design associate. As there are several other associates working on the Compass Design team I will be able to meet up with them all and get to know the team.

Secondly, there seems to be some excellent talks this year from a wide variety of speakers. I am particularly interested in the talks on:

Those are just some of the main sessions that interest me, but there is a wide variety that will suit all types of users from WordPress newcomers to WordPress experts. Take a look at the current speakers running order here.

Finally because it is a great chance to meet people that have the same passion and enthusiasm for WordPress, the web and gadgets in the way I do.

I am thoroughly looking forward to attending in July.

WordCamp UK 2010

This weekend just gone I attended WordCamp UK in Manchester, which is the annual gathering of UK WordPress users and developers in the UK.  As was the case last year in Cardiff, I fully enjoyed the sessions and the whole weekend, and as normal I am writing  this post as a summary of what I saw and found out about on the weekend.


Last year event in Cardiff meant a long (ish) journey down to south Wales and a stay over in a Hotel.  This year I was a little more fortunate as I was able to drive their and back on both days without having to endure and overnight stop.  I am not a fan of staying in hotels, in fact I like my own bed too much!

Still a city centre location had me slightly nervous about driving through Manchester centre with all the one way roads and tricky navigation.  Thanks to several people on the WorddCamp UK mailing list, including Rachel Shillcock and Gurbir Singh about car parking facilities and directions getting their was easy.  The free parking also made the event extremely good value for money at £20 for a ticket.


WordCamp UK started off for me with a talk from Michael Kimb Jones all about the development of WordPress themes.  It really is amazing how far we have come with themes, especially over the last 12 – 18 months.  There was a time when all themes were essentially the same with just different CSS, whereas now we have all sort of themes doing different things with option pages etc.

The commercial theme market was very much at the forefront of the discussion and as to how companies such as StudioPress, Woo Themes and the like make their money.  What can certainly be said is that they make big money according to the figures that were mentioned during the session.

Later in the day, Jonny A also talked about themeing with some interesting ideas, hints and tips about best practice when creating a theme.  Particular he concentrated on some of the newer WordPress 3.0 template tags and features such as get_template_part() and custom post types.  Personally the jury is still out about Custom Post Types particularly since they are driven by the active theme which could cause problems, but I am sure they have their uses.  In fact OttoPress has stated just this rcently, indicating that they are often misunderstood.

Using custom post types right now is, for most people, a bad idea. Only specialized usages really exist for them… for now

That then brings me onto Theme Frameworks.  Don’t get me wrong I can see the benefits of using a theme frameworks, but in my limited experience of using them, they cause a lot of problems as it feels as though you don’t have full control.  It will be interesting to see first impressions of Wonderflux the new theme frameworks for designers out soon in private beta.


I also attended the WOW plugins session, another presented by MKJones.  I found this very useful as it opened me up to a lot of plugins that would be very useful, yet I have never heard of.  There are so many plugins that you tend to just stick to the ones that you know about really, so sessions like this were people can share there experience of different plugins is a really good idea.

One that really caught my eye was Gravity Forms, even though it is paid for.  Many had been advocating this in the past on Twitter and having seen it first hand I thought it was worth buying, particularly as I negotiated a 25% for WordCamp UK after the event through a Twitter conversation with the author!

I am yet to write my first real plugin but maybe it is time to delve into that area now after having seen what can be done.  I am sure that some time in the future I will give it a go when I have some time, or have the necessity.


Dave Coveney is always an interesting speaker and he did not fail to deliver this year, particularly with his talk on WordPress in Enterprise. This is something that is always close to me because we run an ‘Enterprise’ environment in our school, with over 1000 users.  Dave was mentioning about some of the difficulties of integrating WordPress with an Enterprise Windows server environment, something which we seem to have overcome at the moment using a plugin called wpDirAuth.

In many ways WordPress seems like the perfect solution for so many enterprises with it licensing and open source advantages, yet we still see a slow uptake by the enterprise community. Personally I think the majority of this comes down to accountability. Since WordPress is Open Source there is no-one on the end of the phone to ring up and sue if it all goes pear shaped.


BuddyPress looks like a really good tool and would seem to have all sorts of uses in all sorts of sector, particularly in my sector of education.  Paul Gibbs, a BuddyPress forum moderator gave 2 very good talks covering the basics of BuddyPress as well as how to create your own BuddyPress theme to get your sites looking as you want them.

This is something that I definitely want to have a go with in the near future and Paul’s presentations with the advice and insight he offered is certainly going to help.

WordCamp (UK?)

The weekend ended on a slightly controversial note.  The last session was intended to be a meta session with attendees discussing the future of WordCamp UK, what worked well this year and what could be improved in future years.  Jane Wells from Automattic (the company behind the WordPress project) appeared to indicate that WordCamp UK would need to become a regional event rather than having a single national event.

The audience did not take too kindly to this and argued against this being the case.  Personally I think that it should stay the way it is, and if people want to get together regionally then fine.  In fact some already do, for example there is a Manchester group.  We are a small country at the end of the day and an event of nearly 200 is better in my opinion than events all over the country of 20 -30 people.  But to be honest, I don’t think I am that bothered either way, as long as WordCamps in the UK can continue, whatever they are called and wherever they are.