WCTO 2018: JBS Speaker Ratings


I have gone through all 28 speakers and have rated them on the session content description primarily. There is no attempt to qualify the speaker on any other criteria other than the subject and their lecture’s fulfilling the Wcamp’s mandate – Gutenberg and the Future of WordPress theme. Then I added three columns. Future rates how well the talk covers WP future technologies and trends. Gutenberg rates how well  Gutenberg implications are covered as described in the session description. Finally, MyInterest is exactly that – based on the session’s description, how likely would I attend that talk.

Key Observations

To my surprise, the WordPress Future gets very poor coverage. For example, only 3 sessions got a high rating and then low to none predominated. Yet as can be seen in the remarks below, there is a lot on WordPress Futures plate and it is not exclusively about Gutenberg and Frontend UI Design.

Also, I attended the Google Cloud Summit recently where all sorts of OpenSource technologies are profoundly changing how websites are interconnected and deployed.  Think Kubernetes, Docker, Kafka, ElasticSearch, BigData, Pulsar, etc. Computing as a Service is happening big time. And if you add “WordPress” to any of the names above you will find plugins and interfaces being built for every one of these Open Source tools. And why not? The big 4 in computing [Amazon, Google, IBM, and Microsoft] are working at a feverish pace to make these tools the key to their future as leaders of Computing as a Service.

At the 2014 WordCamp Toronto, a  speaker from Red Dot declared that WordPress was fast becoming the Web’s Operating System. That is not currently realistic. So, based on the minor participation in the big moving technologies for Computing as a Service, the only major Web role WordPress might have a shot at is becoming the Web’s DIY Frontend.  Certainly not the Web’s OS given WordPress’ database configuration woes and slow adoption of the new Open Source interconnect technologies.

Which raises the third Futures issue. No talks were oriented towards the emerging WordPress oEmbed and RestAPI and how well they will serve in the Great Rush to Interconnect.  I have three problems with WordPress as the Interconnect node of choice:
1)the WordPress dependency on the POST table to drive most queries leads to some very complex and less performant database operations;
2)WordPress has RPC, Ajax, and RestAPI for interconnections. Each one has  strengths but also drawbacks;
3)Newer interconnect technologies have a smaller list of WordPress coding languages to draw upon [PHP and JavaScript primarily] with more distant connections to Java, C/C++, Python, Ruby, Scala, etc.

Gutenberg and Frontend UI

Gutenberg is not at present, but has every intention of becoming a SiteBuilder – where users get to create the look and layout of a  complete page – header, footer, sidebar, widgets can be placed anywhere and made to appear and disappear based on user actions. PageBuilders are starting to deliver this capability right now to match Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace. Only hints of this revolution are picked up in the various Gutenberg sessions.

The role of existing 3rdParty PageBuilders in the Gutenberg world is barely hinted at. Yet BeaverBuilder, Divi, Elementor, Site Origin, and Themify have all promised interfaces into Gutenberg. Also consider that Brizy, Thrive and Visual Composer are JavaScript-based so they could connect in as well. The problem for all the PageBuilders is that Gutenberg and its API are React.js based which some but not all of the PageBuilders use. WordPress promised to look at other JavaScript libraries but when Facebook restored MIT licensing, that search was called short. Given that other JavaScript  libraries have an ease of use and speed advantage over React.js – that may have been a missed opportunity

My Interests

Given that I am a developer with a fair amount WordPress experience I found only 2-3 sessions that I would pay to go to. A number of sessions dealt with the writing experience or disabilities in the WordPress context. I have only passing interest in these topics where as others, especially AODA non-compliant shops, may very well be highly interested in the talk.

Likewise, the marketing sessions just did not tap into my interest in PWA, AMP, optin widget and behavior controls, backlink strengtheners, and the measured role of social media. Also, I was looking for A/B testing tools and other measures of SEO effectiveness.

But most telling of all, I found only two “do-not-miss” sessions. This may mean that the Organizing Committee may have some work to do to improve the session’s content.