Inspiration & Education: VIP’s Intensive Developer Workshop

As a VIP featured partner, 10up was invited to participate in this year’s VIP Intensive Developer Workshop in Napa, California. I had the pleasure of representing 10up at the event (although our Director of Strategic Engineering managed to make a cameo appearance, too). Hosted at the amazing Carneros Inn and Resort, surrounded by vineyards, a group of roughly 50 VIP developers and 20 Automatticians spent two and a half days digging deep into the VIP platform.

After arriving on Monday, May 13th, the event kicked off with a meet and greet, where I had the chance to chat with representatives from media outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Penske Media Corporation, in addition to Automatticians I’d only collaborated with online. The meals we shared all week long were delicious, matched only by the stimulating conversations and the content to come.

Napa Valley

Monday evening we had the good fortune to watch a keynote presentation by Typekit CEO Jeff Veen. In his talk he detailed major problems that faced his team after launching somewhat unexpectedly. With solid teamwork and a good understanding of expectations, they were able to turn a potential disaster into a modestly successful launch. Jeff did a good job of underscoring the importance of good technology and team infrastructure.

Days two and three were a mixture of talks given by the VIP team and other Automaticians, flash talks given by participants, and group discussions. These two days really were the “intensive” part of the Intensive Developer Workshop. Subjects ranged from security, to mobile app development, to customizing the WordPress user interface.

I particularly enjoyed Mo Jangda’s talk on the Life of a VIP Dev and John James Jacoby’s (JJJ) talk on VIP theme review. Mo discussed their day to day activities—code reviews, answering developer questions, creating new tools, and even contributing back to the WordPress community—as well as the tools they use and the underlying goals that inform their decisions. We had a chance to see just how much effort the VIP team puts in to ensuring we have a platform that “just works.” Mo emphasized that the team strives to make it a platform that is fun to develop on, and one that continues to evolve and improve.

WP VIP Logo on CanvasJJJ’s talk gave us an in depth look at the code review process, including flags VIP looks for in reviews. He stressed the importance of understanding core functions, as not all of them are well written. In many cases, VIP has alternate versions that offer better caching and other efficiencies. JJJ also reminded us that we should avoid stomping on global variables, executing expensive operations with no caching or efficiency considerations, and using query strings on pages (this causes the pages to skip the page caching). While these operations might fair acceptably in the wild, they simply don’t scale well.

Being pretty familiar with high scale considerations, I was especially excited to see a live demonstration of the VIP deploy tool. Understanding the process our code goes through before deployment is invaluable. The better we understand the VIP team’s expectations and process, the better we’re able to deliver quality code that takes less time to review and deploy. That helps keep us, the VIP team, and our clients more excited about the platform.

Rather than hogging the podium, Automatticians yielded to some hand picked attendees to give 5 minute “flash talks”. A few stood out, including  a demonstration of the Kaiser Family Foundation‘s implementation of elastic search. Fred Cheng described how his Simple Note application went through Y-Combinator to become Simperium, enabling incredibly fast syncing and enticing us with some exciting future potential (collaborative editor, anyone?). Finally, Jake Spurlock of Maker Media took us through their Maker’s Faire site and its use of Gigya and custom post types to create an authenticated login, scheduling, and registration system all without the use of WordPress user accounts.

VIP Workshop BadgeEven with all of the stand out lectures, it was the discussion sessions that really made the event. There was a daily session dedicated to discussion, with two topics to choose from. My first discussion focused on version control. Each participant described the method his or her team uses to sync repositories with the VIP SVN repository for deployment. It was an overwhelmingly git-centric discusion. Most teams maintain two copies of the same code and – either manually or semi-automatically with a tool like rsync –  moved the new code over for SVN deloyment.

I described the git repository I help maintain with git-svn, allowing us to work with VIP’s SVN repository while maintaining a single copy of the code. Thanks to an in depth session at the 10up developer summit, I was able to contribute some well considered workflow tips.

After Thursday’s fairwell breakfast, as I made my way back to Oregon, I couldn’t help but reflect on my amazing experience. Working with VIP is a pleasure, and 10up is proud to be a featured partner. This event confirmed what I already knew: the VIP platform is an outstanding choice for high scale WordPress implementations, and a great home for the code we pour over at 10up.

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