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All You Need to Know About WordCamp Sofia 2018

On the weekend 23rd/24th of November 2018, was WordCamp 2018 Sofia. Over 500 WordPress enthusiasts attended for a notable weekend of WordPress sessions, discussion panels, workshops, and volunteer work.

Read our recap post to relive the community experience or see what you missed. We have included conference timeline and talk highlights, top tweets, presentations slides and videos (available on WordPress.tv upon publishing).

[8:30 am] Registration

Registrations started as early as 8:30 am with excellent coffee and tea, provided by the Coffee Sponsor, DevriX. Throughout the day, the size of the queue was constantly changing, waning and waxing, yet hot and refreshing drinks were available for free until around 5:00 pm.

[9:45 am] Kicking off the Day of Talks: Soft Skills

The Camp opened with two presentations on soft skills: communication and networking. That was a smooth start before moving into the deeper and more complex professional themes.

Aleksandar Savkovic @WPAleks: Agile Culture Not Agile Frameworks

Aleksandar’s talk attracted a lot of attention. He spoke about the concept of “agile” as a state of mind and company culture, and its beneficial effect on communication, team and project management. With a fresh sense of humor and some provoking statements, he engaged the audience and kicked off the conference.

Here is why Aleks chose that topic, in his own words:

“Because of my experience with GoDaddy and Enartia/ theCore I’ve heard like 100 times that agile frameworks suck. But I think it’s just because they were implemented incorrectly, without the proper company culture and values to support it.”

Aleks’ Presentation slides: http://slides.com/aleksandarsavkovic-2/agile/fullscreen#/

In a short interview after WCSOF 2018, Aleks shared why it had been special and different for him: ”In Sofia, I feel like home and this was my second year in a row speaking there and third in a row attending, so I always know that a lot of friends are there.”

Nikola Nikolov @nikolovtmw: Beyond Hello: Networking at WordCamp

In his presentation, Nikola gave some practical advice on how to make the most of a WordPress camp. Developers and web designers spent most of their time in front of computers so getting together and networking on a WordCamp could be a challenge.

“Set aside time to network. Sit with new people, network during the coffee breaks, spend the lunch time with friends.”, suggested Nikola.

[10:25 am] Gutenberg vs. Marketing

Nikolay Bachiyski @nikolayb: Gutenberg from All Sides

Gutenberg is the central topic for the WordPress world these days. Inviting Nikolay, who is Meta Engineer at @automattic, to address the many concerns, hopes, questions, and expectations was a smart choice.

Nikolay surprised the audience with an engaging storytelling presentation, built live with the Gutenberg editor itself – how the platform originated, where it is going to, how it is structured, plus details about the work behind the scene.

His talk was funny and inspiring, and full of memorable quotes that made the day:

Question: Is Gutenberg a page builder or a page editor?
Answer: Yes.

– Nikolay Bachiyski @nikolayb @automattic

And while in one of the halls attendees could sneak into what the future of building WordPress sites would be, the other talk was also connecting past to the future, on the crucial aspect of marketing – buyer personas.

Vassilena Valchanova @vasvalch: Building Data-Driven Buyer Personas

Vassilena’s inspiring talk was focused on how data can help businesses understand their users. She shared her knowledge with examples and practical advice on how to use web-based quantitative data, digital tools, and social media feedback to create personalized, analytics-based user profiles of our customers.

In the discussion after the talk, Vassy got into more detail about one of the methodologies she demonstrated – Jobs to be Done, and shared her process of doing customer interviews and some tools that help shortcut the process.

We asked Vassy why she chose that topic: “I believe understanding customers is a prerequisite for good marketing. As business owners, consultants, or in-house marketers, we are often tempted to just invent a portrait of our ideal customer. But using a data-driven approach lets you be more precise and truly understand what customers want.”

And here is what she shared about the feedback she got: “The interesting thing I noted is that even people, who still haven’t set up their business’s website, want to find ways to understand customers better.”

Vassilena’s Presentation slides: https://valchanova.me/freebies/persona-development-wcsof.pdf

After the event, we asked about Vassy’s overall experience and she replied: “I love WordCamp Sofia because I get to both meet new people and reconnect with old friends; the WordPress community is so dynamic that I hear about new interesting projects all the time. I also enjoyed sharing tips and recommendations with WordPress peeps, visiting Sofia for the first time.”

[11:25 am] WooCommerce vs. LoveGuide Showcase

Hristo Pandjarov @pandjarov: Optimisation of WooCommerce

Panjarov’s talk was one of the few that was in Bulgarian, which averted foreign attendees. Yet, e-commerce is a big and steady trend for Bulgaria and a big part of the audience related to the topic. Hristo gave detailed and practical advice on how to deal with speeding-up an e-commerce site, naming plug-ins, showing how to use specific optimization techniques, in order to achieve a fast and successful online store.

“Minify the JS&CSS, optimize your images, upgrade to PHP7, use opcache, get SSL certificate – do the basics and you’ll see a big difference in performance (and sales)”, he recommended.

Nadia Zdravkova, Nikoleta Popkostadinova: Creating and Serving Effective and Attractive Content for Teenagers – the Story of Loveguide.BG

That presentation was also in Bulgarian, showcasing a successful digital brand with an important social message. Teenagers are a difficult target group, especially on sensitive topics like love and sex, so to succeed in elegantly winning them over with content is a real challenge. The two ladies shared how the idea turned into a mass movement which reached hundreds of young people and won the support of influencers, media, sponsors, schools, and institutions.

“Hygiene of content is extremely important, especially when you are an influencer,” was one of the valuable lessons to learn from that success story.

[12:05 pm] UX vs. Deployment

Hristo Laskov @hristolaskov: Start with UX

According to many, Hristo’s lecture was one of the best talks on this camp. With a sense of humor and a storytelling approach, he introduced us into the best practices of making WordPress sites that care about users, engage and convert them.

“UX is all about making things better, easier and faster for the users.”, he said. And so was his talk: with his examples and insights, managing UX sounded like an easy task for every WordPress site builder.

“UX is measured by the gusto of users”, was another basic principle, summed up by Hristo in a funny and memorable way:

Ivaylo Kolbinger Ivanov @Ivaylo85: WordPress Deployment with dkdeploy

This presentation was strictly about coding, a developer-to-developer kind of talk, as Ivaylo is a TYPO3 developer with a particular interest in WordPress. He presented a different approach to deploying code on the server with the help of the capistrano based deployment tool dkdeploy.

[12:45 pm] Hacks vs. Customer Relations

Brecht Ryckaert @brechtryckaert: The Anatomy of a Hack

To be hacked is one of the most unpleasant experience for everyone: developer, site builder, and business owner, and unfortunately hacks are not expected to disappear soon. So, to understand them is the right way to prevent them, that was the main message of this talk.

Brecht shared some valuable insights on how the hacker executes the hack, how our sites get hacked, how to minimize the effects and act fast, etc. Here are some of his best messages to remember:

“If you’ve been hacked you need to hear this: “You’re not the target and that’s a good thing”! Most attacks are automated which means you can fix and prevent it easier.”

“Preventing hacks is a cooperation between the hosting, the user, the website developer, plugin and theme devs.”

“Hack prevention? Updates, updates, updates!”

Brecht’s Presentation Slides: https://www.slideshare.net/brechtryckaert/the-anatomy-of-a-hack-wordcamp-sofia-2018

Petya Petkova: Business and Working with Customers

Petya also presented in Bulgarian. She shared her client relations experience with regard to digital communication, with some valuable examples. Probably the reminder that most salespeople and project managers related to most was:

“The customer has to be trained and educated how to work with his website.”

Although this sounds quite basic, we all tend to forget that using WordPress and updating the content in its system could be a challenging job for non-professionals.

[2:30 pm] Gutenberg vs. Docker

Panel Discussion: Gutenberg – Development, Business, Users

Participants: Milen Petrinski @gonzomir, Petya Raykovska @petyeah, Nikolay Bachiyski @nikolayb, Hristo Pandjarov @pandjarov
Moderators: Elenko Elenkov @elenko, and Vladimir Kaladan Petkov @koledan from @govori_internet

Gutenberg, the new WordPress editor, was the expected focus of this camp and the major question was how much of a change it would be.

As Elenko compared, “it feels very much like the GDPR introduction back in May” because Gutenberg will irreversibly change the future of building sites with WordPress and is coming very soon, in December.

In this highly anticipated discussion, with some experienced opinion leaders, everyone was invited to share concerns and ask questions. We all agreed it was not “a conspiracy to destroy WordPress.” Yet, one of the major challenges, according to Petya Raikovska @petyeah, is that there are not enough developers, trained to work with Gutenberg. And a useful reminder from Hristo Panjarov @pandjarov was that Gutenberg should not stop us from upgrading to WordPress 5.0.

The whole discussion spirit was quite elevated, any fears of the transition dissipated and the panel was closed with a good joke:

Hristo Panjarov pandjarov: “I do not worry that much about the Gutenberg introduction. What could we break that much?”
Everyone: “Hold my beer.”

So, we should all watch what will happen in the next months, and hope that Gutenberg will make everything faster and easier for users, site builders, and the whole WordPress community.

Nemanja Cimbaljevic @bikcrveni: How to Ride a Blue Whale (Getting Familiar with Docker)

The presentation on Docker was another talk for advanced developers. Nemanja demonstrated on a big screen in real time how Docker container can be used to improve the development cycle and speed up the deployment process. We learned that Docker can also be employed to improve our day-to-day operations and save time on provisioning the code.

[4:00 pm] Marketing Strategy vs. WP Performance

Yana Lambreva @MissVendella: Change Your Strategy – Introducing the Three A’s

Yana’s talk was fresh and engaging and a real pleasure for anyone, involved in marketing. The “three A’s” she spoke about cover the traditional buyer’s journey from a simpler perspective:

“Attract – Assist – Affiliate – Those are the 3 As of Marketing”, she stated.

Yana covered the basic principles in building a sustainable brand, using traditional and digital strategies like Push and Pull, FaceTime consultations, surveys, polls and online channels for customer feedback.

It is all about “Values, Communication and Quality – the top 3 factors that make people buy”, she concluded.

Mike Rynart @mikerynart: A Deep Dive into WordPress Performance

Users expect more and more from their web experiences, and at the end of the day, website building is all about performance and interaction. Fast and engaging websites is what we aim for as WordPress developers, and Mike’s presentation was straight to the point. He addressed both beginners and advanced professionals to show techniques for optimizing websites to quickly deliver content visitors care about the most.

After the Camp Mike shared with us why he chose that topic: “Web Performance plays a major role in the success of any WordPress website, especially on mobile. People are using mobile devices to do everything they do, and if something is causing our sites to slow down, it is affecting the user experience. As we continue to push the limits of WordPress to do more when building a website, it’s important to measure, optimize and monitor your performance to continue loading fast and keeping users happy after our WordPress site has launched.”

Watch his session on WordPress.tv and take notes on his advice on how to achieve this:


Mike’s Presentation Slides: https://www.slideshare.net/MikeRynart/get-fast-and-stay-fast
For more information on how to Get Fast and Stay Fast, check out his website: https://mikerynart.com

And we also talked about his conference experience: “WordCamp Sofia 2018 was a fantastic event thanks to the efforts of many people. The Arena Mladost Movie Theater is an amazing space and a great WordCamp venue.“

[4:45 pm] Internationalization vs. Customer Partnerships

Pascal Birchler @swissspidy: WordPress Internationalization Workflows

When it comes to a platform as global as WordPress, it is crucial that themes and plug-ins “speak” different languages. Pascal is a dedicated community contributor with a vast experience in internationalization and he shared his knowledge on that topic, starting with a clear statement that “internationalization comes before localization.

Pascal talked about how to use the latest and best technology to make a WordPress plugin or theme that is fully internationalized. His focus was on the powers of WordPress, GlotPress, and WP-CLI to improve the translation workflow in WordPress projects.

Here is, in his words, why he chose that topic: “Internationalization an area that is particularly interesting to me and dear to my heart. It is also an especially important topic for non-English-speaking countries like Bulgaria, so I think the talk was very well received. There were some very good questions and follow-up questions afterward, which is always a good sign.”

As for his overall camp experience, Pascal shared with us: “The most notable difference about WordCamp Sofia was certainly the venue. Taking place at a local cinema really made for a unique atmosphere. I really liked the engagement with the community and sponsors in the hallway. The local community was very approachable and welcoming to foreign attendees.”

Radost Dacheva: The WordPress SMB’s Guide to Partnering with Large Companies

Very often WordPress agencies are relatively small businesses that work with larger companies. This can be both stressful and beneficial. Radost presented some solutions on how to approach larger clients and build partnerships without a clash of culture, workflows, and procedures.

[5:30 pm] React.js vs. Better WordPress

Mitko Kochkovski @m1tk00: Building Websites Using React.js and WordPress API

React.js is a JavaScript Library for building user interfaces while WordPress REST API is a structured, extensible, and simple way to get data in and out of WordPress over HTTP.

In his presentation Mitko shared how to leverage the WordPress REST API to build excellent websites, using React.js for rendering the frontend outside the WordPress Theme implementation. He suggested using processor class inside the Reactj.js in order to handle all the layouts the website needs.

Sergey Biryukov @SergeyBiryukov: Making WordPress Better

Sergey has an outstanding contributor experience with the WordPress core, translating WordPress into Russian, and helping fellow developers and designers on support forums.

His closing talk summed up what WordCamps are all about: a bigger, faster, more accessible, and better WordPress. It was a smooth introduction to the second Camp day, Contributor Day, as he spoke about the very nature of WordPress and the culture of its community, how the different contributor teams cooperate, how to join and what everyone can do to make WordPress better.

Get inspired by his talk:


… and come join us at the next WordCamp in Sofia 🙂

Read more: Nine Reasons WordCamp Sofia 2018 Was an Exceptional Event

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