I was lucky enough to attend A Day of REST Boston (ADoR) on March 9, along with many of their workshops. If you’ve never been, and if you develop themes or plugins for WordPress, try to make next year’s event. I’ve never been to a conference that had as many smart people talking about tangible uses and implementations of the WordPress REST API.

React, and Vue, and Backbone, oh my!

JavaScript frameworks dominated the conversations. Whether it was old-school Backbone, the big dog React, or the newcomer Vue, every workshop, and almost every presentation featured at least one of these frameworks.

Personally, I found this to be ideal. One of my biggest motivations for attending ADoR was to get more experience using JavaScript front-end frameworks with the REST API. The conference did not disappoint. Everyone left with pages and pages of notes to help implement all of these frameworks into WooCommerce, the Admin Dashboard, theme frontends, and stand-alone apps.

While these are all great examples individually, all of them in combination can be overwhelming. If you’re familiar with the JavaScript Framework world at all, you know that it’s suffering from option overload. Each presenter reviewed the pros and cons of their preferred framework and how it compared to other major frameworks. And each time there really wasn’t a clear winner. Ever. In any use case. I left with a lot of decision-making anxiety regarding the framework to choose for our next major project at WP Engine.

I was using the REST API before the REST API was cool

Another small realization, the WordPress REST API hasn’t really hit the mainstream yet. In fact, the developer community is still figuring out exactly how to use it (well). Maybe this shouldn’t be surprising since we’ve only had core-level access to it since December. But with all the hype that’s surrounded its release, I still find it interesting that there are only a handful of prominent examples of its effective use.

For a typical front-end developer, the most common (and in my view most useful) use case is to “lazy load” content onto your own site. REST API-powered filtered searches like WP Engine’s Resource Center is gaining in popularity quickly. And “headless” WordPress sites are picking up steam as we figure out better ways to load WordPress content from a totally separated front end.

There still aren’t many examples of developers using the REST API to grab content from multiple WordPress instances or to cross-publish content across several sites. That surprises me, as those are some of the big advantages when you have a uniform API across all WordPress instances.

Idea overload

Coming back to the office on Monday, I realized that I had three projects from ADoR I wanted to implement immediately on our websites. That’s a major win in my book. Most developer conferences leave me with some new tricks and possible angles to take in the future. The fact that ADoR gave me such concrete ways to speed up and improve our websites speaks to the conference’s quality.

Personally, I don’t even know where to begin. There are so many possible side projects that I could take on, I’m afraid I won’t ever start any of them (see decision-making anxiety above). Do I build my own IoT network that is triggered by my WordPress blog, like Ben Foxall? Do I write a React-powered theme like Mel Choyce’s Foxhound theme? Or do I try to integrate Backbone into my favorite plugin, CMB2, like Adam Silverstein’s Shiny Updates?

At any rate, I have projects and ideas to keep me RESTing for months to come.

Lessons for my own presentations

Perhaps selfishly, I was paying close attention to the presentation styles and what worked from an audience perspective. We’re gearing up for WordCamp Austin 2017 down here, and I want to have some good presentation recommendations to give to speakers before the event.

Lesson #1 – Don’t show code on a PowerPoint slide. Or, at least, don’t show more than 3 lines of code on a slide. Anything more than that and our eyes glaze over as we struggle to read that 12 point, monospaced font on a blurry screen 150 feet in front of us.

Lesson #2 – Stories are great. Real world stories can help an audience relate to your talk. Especially if you’re delving into complex and abstract topics, bring the conversation back to Earth.

Lesson #3 – Less is more. It’s a classic rule of public speaking, but you’ll never get through as much content as you hope to. Put together ⅔ of the slides you think you’ll need. And put ⅓ of the content on each slide that you want to put on it. Let the audience think through what you’re saying, rather than trying to keep up with what you’re saying.

Lesson #4 – End on a high note. The last presentation of ADoR was Brian Foxall’s homegrown IoT network. It was a live demo (eek!) writing code that lets physical items publish to WordPress, and lets WordPress control physical items. The presentation was fun, lighthearted, and interactive. And the audience loved it.

Slides

After the event, the organizers were kind enough to share the slides with all of us. Many of the slides are public, so I’m sharing with you, kind Torque reader, these incredible nuggets of RESTful wisdom.

Ryan Hoover

Ryan is a WordPress Developer for WP Engine and the lead organizer of WordCamp Austin 2017. He's been using WordPress for about 10 years. But that's only when he's not covered in sawdust or touring wineries with his wife and son.

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