The Hey Pressto! conference is a unique way to share and consume a WordPress conference – it takes place entirely on Twitter. Centered around WordPress and ClassicPress, the conference will be comprised of “speakers” who will tweet out their content within fifteen tweets on September 24.
We recently sat down with Pat Lockley and Phil Barker, the conference organizers, to learn more. Watch via our YouTube channel, or read the transcription, both included here for your convenience.
Hi, so welcome to my guests today. I’m Michelle from Sentree hosting today. Although several people will know me also from GiveWP and from my own podcast WPCoffeeTalk. So I’m all over the place, as far as Twitter and WordPress goes, but today we’re actually going to talk to Pat Lockley and Phil Barker from Hey Pressto conferences.
[00:00:25] And I. I guess in the last month, really become aware of what you guys are doing with conferences and I am a hundred percent intrigued, which is why I asked you to join me today and we can find out some more information and put it out for the world to kind of consume in a different way. So, so welcome.
[00:00:44] First of all, thanks for joining me today.
[00:00:47] Hello, Michelle. I’m sorry. It’s good to have you. Thank you so much for being here. So Hey, Presto conferences. I first found, I think you followed me on Twitter and I followed back. And, and as soon as when I follow people back before I follow people back, I do a little vetting.
[00:01:04] So I always go click over to the profile and click through to any links that are on there. And I was just like, what is this, Hey Pressto conference thing? And then I discovered it’s a WordPress slash ClassicPress conference that takes place entirely on Twitter and in a year where everybody is a little overwhelmed with video content and, and zoom meetings and things like that this seems like a brilliant solution to me. So tell me, where did you come up with this idea and how did you kind of get it implemented?
[00:01:38] Well, we, we can never claim ownership of the idea. My partner was doing a, a conference in 2018, possibly 2017. And, there’s a long running story, that we, that a few of us, myself and Phil included had been trying to do a WordPress education conference in the UK for about 10 years.
[00:01:59] I mean, equivalent to WPCampus, if you know, WPCampus. And we had meetings and meetings and we could never quite get all our ducks in a row. I apologize if that’s too cliche, but I think we have that one here. I’m very cliche heavy. So sometimes I’ll be using a reference that makes no sense.
[00:02:19] So I’m always slightly nervous. Yeah. And I was sitting there, um, uh, I worked from home and my partner was, was, was, was doing a conference presentation from the sofa. And I was sitting next to her and all of a sudden the metaphorical light bulb we’ll pay to have my head. Um, and I’m like, Oh, hang on, no need to hire a venue.
[00:02:38] So out catering, so all this stuff to do with WordPress conferences. I can just. Just organize it on Twitter and yeah. So that was, yeah, that was 2018. We, yeah, it must have been 2017, 2018. We organized the first Press Ed conference, which is a WordPress conference, which happens on Twitter. Um, but that’s purely around, um, education, pedagogy and research.
[00:02:58] Um, and then we, uh, I was talking to someone about promoting it this year. Cause unfortunately Press Ed’s 20 this year, 20, this year happened, uh, right at the end of March. So everyone was. Properly and well for, for large spots, um, large parts of the world, at least not, not discounting and China and so on was, was right in the middle of the beginnings of lockdown.
[00:03:22] Um, but we’ve always happened roughly around then. Um, and we’d always arranged to happen then. And we felt it was a tough call, whether we keep going, because some people will be too busy to do it, or we do it because we fundamentally. I didn’t get it for this reason. So, um, yeah, but then yeah, I should have gone back to a shot it, but the idea was very much borrowed from the public archeology conference, which is where we got the idea from.
[00:03:44] Um, but they’re all, um, there’s, there’s only been a handful of Twitter conferences so far, so there’s been, um, there’s an archeology one, the humanities commons did one, the digital orientalist did one. I know the room, they’re all related kind of a, um, a sort of club of us that seems to be doing it quite a lot.
[00:04:00] And I was talking to somebody about, um, Pressto conf 20 and trying to get some promotion out there for it. And they said, Oh, that’s what the conference, just on WordPress with a really great idea. And my brain went: yeah. So the conference is on WordPress. That’s kind of what I’ve been doing. And I went, but I’ve never considered doing it just on WordPress.
[00:04:15] So I emailed Phil to say, do you fancy doing it? And, um, he said, yes. And here we are.
[00:04:21] That’s wonderful. That’s great. Um, So I was thinking about how, you know, I actually, I was messaging you all before on Twitter to get a little more information. And then I was doing a little more research and figuring out how, like, if I’m going to apply, which I’m still working on, that I have to come up with my perfect pitch for you all, because I do want to participate.
[00:04:42] I promise. I promise I will. I just want to perfect it first and figure out what I’m going to talk about. But anyway, So I was thinking about how, um, Twitter chats have become a thing now, too. So like BlueHost has a Twitter chat, other non WordPress kind of events have Twitter chats and the idea of a Twitter chat is everybody’s answering the same question.
[00:05:04] So somebody posts a question and everybody responds with a hashtag, et cetera. You’re kind of taking that same idea, but instead say, instead of saying, Hey, answer our questions. It’s like, tell us about what you’re doing that’s special in WordPress. Tell us about something that you could help other people understand and WordPress and take it to the next level.
[00:05:25] So I, I was thinking about how those kinds of things kind of work around together and then thinking, well, how do you organize something like this? And then, you know, I asked you all about it. Like, Oh, there must be a hashtag that we’re including for the conference. So my next question becomes, how do people not hijack your hashtag in the middle of a conference?
[00:05:49] It hasn’t really happened yet. No, not to my knowledge.
[00:05:52] I mean, I’m not trying to put it out there for people to do it. I’m not suggesting they do.
[00:05:57] Um, but. You know, sometimes you, you know, towards the end of the day of a conference, you, you start getting, um, spammy comments coming in. Uh, and that’s true of any, any sort of events on Twitter on any hashtag on Twitter or yeah, very often face to face conferences. We’ll have a, a back channel that’s on Twitter based around the hashtag and that won’t get spammed a little bit, um, or we’re doing really. Doing really, it’s bringing the back channel to the forefront. So it’s the main event. I quite like to think that some people might get together and actually have a face to face meeting.
[00:06:36] Is there a back channel for the Twitter conference, but yeah. Um, so far we haven’t had a problem with people’s spamming, yeah, spamming, the hashtag.
[00:06:46] And so when you are, as an organization, you’ll be retweeting the official, um, speakers. And so anything else would be conversation around that? Is that correct?
[00:06:57] We encourage engagement with the speakers and around the topics that are raised using the hashtag, because you know, a conference isn’t just people standing up and presenting at conferences. People conferring people talking to each other, discussing the ideas that are raised. So, you know, we want genuine use of the hashtag by people who are interested in the conference, but anybody who spams it gets blocked. I think from what I’ve seen on the people that spam as well, tend to use multiple hashtags, they then tend to use just one hashtag and as such in a kind of a signal to noise perception thing. It’s quite easy to spot the people that haven’t been involved. Um, and so it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s relatively easy to take them out.
[00:07:40] There’s no way to stop it. It’s Twitter. There’s fundamentally no way to stop it. Um, but, uh, yeah, it’s never really happened. I think on the Twitter conference, um, I think partially because they, they tend to sit within, um, communities of practices such in that, unless the spammer is the person who is directly involved in that.
[00:08:00] And also it’s that it’s the negativeness of the spammers is just a choice for them to make on how they want to be perceived in their career. And if they want to come with wash techs, we think of no work for it. Just, isn’t a good look for them in my mind. So they’re welcome to, to to attempt to hijack but I think it might, um, might work up worse for them.
[00:08:18] It usually does because people who are there for the right reasons, usually attack those kinds of people through Twitter and say things like, what are you even doing here? So I don’t imagine it’s going to be an issue for sure. Uh, so what are some of the topics that you imagine or encourage people, like I know that there’s a list of topics or potential topics on the website. Um, and when you think about presenting at a word conference, so whether WordCamp, or a WordPress conference, things like that. You envision as a speaker getting up on stage, having a slide deck and walking through things, presenting in 15 tweets or 15 tweet threads is a little bit different than that.
[00:08:56] So it takes a little bit of, um, adjusting your brain and your mindset as to how you might do that. So what are some ideas that people might consider or at least some, um, some categories that they might think about?
[00:09:11] Uh, we were trying not to be prescriptive and it’s one of the, one of the, um, interesting problems with organizing the conference where we were trying to focus on making it, um, a potential chance for as many people as possible. And so we don’t want to, we don’t want to say don’t do some stuff, but a lot of people then say, oh, well, what could we do?
[00:09:31] And it’s like, okay, I have to kind of meet these, both meet both of these, both sides equally. And you know, if someone wants some ideas, we’re happy to provide them with ideas, but we try not to be too scripted. So one of the, one of the great things about some of the submissions we’ve had so far is we’ve had, um, two submissions from, uh, the Indian subcontinent and that’s that’s that’s for, for Hey Pressto for hey that’s very precise for precedent. We’ve never, we’ve never had some issues in that area. So we’re clearly reaching people. And one of the issues with coming up with our days is you’re always conscious. Is this the idea of a well and well means, well now they’ve, um, you know, oh, I guess about 500 miles apart, but we’re both, we’re both English men.
[00:10:12] Um, he’s hiding out in Scotland. I’m right bang smack in the middle of England. Um, I mean, these are ideas about what you think about WordPress. Both were both, um, from a, from a university background, from a university education background. So there’s always a concern that our ideas would be certain ideas that other people wouldn’t necessarily take up.
[00:10:30] But what we’re interested in is encouraging people to share knowledge that they think is worth sharing something that they’ve come across. And it’s one of those things that you think we’re apparently 33 to 37% of the web with the numbers going up. So you probably have to edit that change to 38 by the time I didn’t, I didn’t, I’ve just, I’ve just looked back at one.
[00:10:47] So it’s 5.5. I should have checked to see what the number was now where you had either. And I’m usually on top of that, so, yeah. Yeah. But it’s, um, it’s. It’s the knowledge of, you know, that there’s going to be little stories and it’s that point, you know, like when you go looking for an answer and you’re, you, you find the one person that had the problem that you did, and you’re like, Oh great.
[00:11:07] Someone has taken the effort to pull down to a blog post to share, to share that with the world. And it’s that little thing, which is really small approaches rather than kind of. Kind of big kind of macro kind of approaches that we’re, that we’re keen on. Um, so is there anything, well, I would say from this, from you to start your own blog, you had an interesting time doing it.
[00:11:24] You, you tried doing it yourself for the first time. This is some of the things that people do look out for. You try to do this [undecipherable] and you just set up WooCommerce and found this plugin really useful. Um, you wrote your first big block here with some hints here, with some things like that. And you’ve just taken a plugin from free to say, freemium or premium plugins. How did you do it? What did you learn? Um, if it’s anything within the WordPress or ClassicPress, those kind of things, to be honest and something that basically, like I said, about a light bulb, I did a, I did a Twitter conference presentation a while back about how we can, how we came up with this stuff for these conferences.
[00:11:59] And it’s that kind of, when you’ve, you’ve kind of, um, had your light bulb moment or you’ve, you know, you’ve solved a problem. That’s been, that’s been bugging you for years, probably. Well, that’s awesome. I think, you know, as I was trying to think it through, I was, it occurs to me that really anything that might be helpful to somebody else is the right topic.
[00:12:20] Just like when you’re considering a topic for WordCamp, for example, one of the benefits of this though, is if you’re somebody who gets stage fright, there’s no such thing here because you’re not on, you’re not on a stage. The audience is just other people reading what you’re writing. So those people that might not want to participate by getting up on stage or recording their faces somewhere really can take that fear out of it and participate in a way that they might not at other conferences.
[00:12:50] Phil, it looked like you were going to say something and I interrupted you.
[00:12:52] I, no you didn’t interrupt me I was going to interrupt you. Okay? Yeah. It’s important as well to remember that you don’t have to be an expert to have something that’s interesting to say for other people. Yeah. Experts who are interested in, what are the problems that novices face, for example, because you know, that’s what experts want to be able to help with if they’re in that particular field.
[00:13:17] So yeah. We’d encourage anybody who’s used WordPress and you know, who, who’ve done something, which they think is interesting, um, to, to, to take part and, and yes, you’re absolutely right that, um, it’s, it’s good. If, if standing up and presenting in front of a large room of people is not your thing, then you know, this is a great way of doing it because you can have everything lined up in advance.
[00:13:41] Um, you can schedule your tweets in advance, get everything written, you know, in a, in a separate documents and copy and paste it in, or, you know, a number of different ways can be used to make sure that you’re, you’re prepared in advance. Um, and in a way, I found what I was presenting that meant that I could focus more on the responses to the, to what I was saying than just making sure that I got what I wanted to say.
[00:14:07] Right. Yeah. No, that makes perfect sense. And you could make sure everything’s spelled correctly before you tweeted as well.
[00:14:16] Yeah, yeah. Yes. Yeah. We’ve already dealt with my spelling this week. So I think that’s, that’s the thing as well, is that. Is that a lot of it is partially down to down to a fear. And one of the things that necessarily looking at some other conferences that are around its hits, its big names, big, famous WordPress people.
[00:14:32] And um, looking at kind of encouraging people who perhaps would, would think, oh, this isn’t worth presenting at WordCamp or this isn’t worth presenting it at a meetup. Um, I’ve got no problem talking. I can feel comfortable with the fact that I can waffle for hours on any, any topic. Um, and I, I did one, I did one talk, um, at a meetup in London.
[00:14:52] Um, and it was very much, I’ll do things as worthwhile when I, I tried to make it as full of as much information as possible. So even if it wasn’t necessarily, um, I, I could, I could perhaps get past the notion of, whether it was worth if one person were watching by the fact that at least I presented people with a lot of useful information.
[00:15:08] Um, But, but one of the other benefits of, of the Twitter conference is, um, whereas you guaranteed, I would hope to get, a polite a round of applause. Um, regardless of if presents at WordCamp for a, um, a meetup group I’m on Twitter, you have the retweets and the like buttons. So you’ve got, um, you’ve got guaranteed feedback and people are normally very polite and very encouraging.
[00:15:30] And again, going back to you kind of feel, um, We’ve always had, um, a really good, um, mix in terms of people presenting at the Twitter conferences and it’s normally much more open. And one of the, one of the early [uninteligible] who did that first ever conversation. The first ever conference presentation was, was a Twitter conference presentation.
[00:15:48] And that’s a great thing to see, um, because it it’s a, it’s a useful thing. This, I might say, it’s about getting the knowledge that people have, how they want a platform, so that knowledge can be shared and everyone can learn from it. So the more we can help to overcome that fear or one of the things that’s on the, the call for submissions is the fact that we’ve got guest accounts. If you don’t necessarily use Twitter that much, or you don’t typically want to put the story onto onto your main username or something like that, then we can help facilitate that. We can’t claim that Twitter is, you know, everyone knows it’s not a perfect place and, but we can hopefully try and mitigate a few of those problems.
[00:16:23] I saw that on your site. I thought that was brilliant for people who, uh, like you said, who aren’t necessarily on Twitter or who, might maybe even need some anonymity behind what they’re presenting. Yeah. If you want to do the, everything, I got, everything I got wrong. The presentation that it might be useful to take one of those anonymous accounts.
[00:16:44] Five times I market myself as, as a web designer. Yes. Yeah.
[00:16:50] There’s your idea, do the worst mistake you ever made in WordPress, but just that when you spend four hours looking at your code and it’s because you’ve, you’ve done one equals rather than two or something like that, you say I just lost. I’ve just lost an afternoon of my life.
[00:17:05] I had one recently where I had a massive problem, cause I just thought I got one variable called without and one variable called with. And I’ve just written with twice rather than without. And it was just, that was like three hours of just, you know, you couldn’t, you can’t have, you can’t see it anymore cause you’ve been staring at it forever.
[00:17:19] Yeah. Yeah. That’d be, we should personalize the theme. What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done. What’s your worst? Most shameful.
[00:17:26] It was, it was my podcast. That is one of the questions I ask. Every guest is what’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in WordPress. And what did you learn from it? So there’s a lot of good answers in there.
[00:17:38] I wanted to ask about, and then of course, anything that you want to add as well, is that, um, a Twitter conference is. Basically 100% accessible or at least it can be right. So Twitter itself is accessible in the least, I think it was last year, they added alt, um, alt text for images and even for gifs. And so, or as some people say JIF’s, but I think they’re wrong when they say it that way.
[00:18:00] Um, and so if you are presenting, there’s a lot of things you can do to make sure that anybody using a screen reader or anybody who’s using assisted devices on the web can not only read your tweets. But also, um, any images or any slides that you might have presented as an image as well, to make sure that you’re taking full advantage of all those things.
[00:18:20] And then the last thing I would add is that you’re using camel case in your hashtags so that anybody who is using a screen reader, they understand what those what those hashtags are as well. So. So I think it’s brilliant because not only I am somebody with mobility issues, I go to a WordCamp, and if I have to walk very far from here, to the venue to lunch that I’m usually sitting there without lunch.
[00:18:40] And so I’m attending a conference in my own home. I can make my own sandwich, sit down with the laptop and just, and consume all of the information. And if I have to take a call. Or I have to do some work. I can come back to it later and actually watch through it all. It’s there forever. Unlike WordCamps where you hope the video worked and it might end up on WordPress TV someday, a Twitter’s there and it’ll stay.
[00:19:03] So it’s something that you can continue to go back to and learn from over time. What else would you add before I let you all go for tea for the day? I know that it’s late afternoon for you. It’s still morning for me, but, um, I did want to, and I, and I do have closing question, but I wanted to give you an opportunity to say anything else that I might’ve missed.
[00:19:19] Yeah, we, we do, um, um, we do provide, we, we we’ve come across the hashtag and since we’re using some, uh, there’s a UK charity called the Royal national Institute for the blind, they provided some advice for making it more accessible. Um, we do tell people who present rather than guidance, and we ask them to say, use images to put alt text on the images. on the system that they use to tweet on. Cause you don’t get to be descriptive. It doesn’t allow them to put alt text, then we are naughty and we say, should you wish to then put a description of the picture in the next tweet, you can have bonus tweets. And so you can go above 15 tweets. Should you want to do so.
[00:19:52] And like I said before, I don’t know if we said before someone was presented in English and in Spanish. So they were allowed to slightly tweet. So they didn’t it, they did it bilingually. And so, yeah, again, again, But hopefully, and so far, all of them, all of the submissions have been in English, although from people whose first language, it could be something else, but we’re hopeful.
[00:20:12] We’re happy for people to submit that as well. That’s another form of accessibility as well. We should, um, we should focus on, um, Uh, yeah, we’ll obviously we’re keen to get people to submit. Uh, we’re also very, very grateful for you giving us a chance to talk to you as well. I hope we are. I can’t guarantee you that you always speak for Phil.
[00:20:29] Um, but we’re, we’re loosely aligned in some way. We’ve spent…
[00:20:33] He’s smiling. I think he’s happy.
[00:20:35] He could just be being polite. He’s very polite. Um, yeah. Um, and we’re keen and, and, and the other thing that we always say, and we’ve, we’ve mentioned in other threads on Twitter and so on is that we aim to be the best conference and the best experience we can be for as many people as we can be. So no feedback is, is, um, is too small, no feedback isn’t welcomed where we’re practicing. Um, something I heard from the first one is radical listening, trying to listen as intently as we can, to as many things as we can, like just today. Um, someone had asked about, um, potential ideas and how we could give people ideas on what Twitter conference presentations look like.
[00:21:12] So I spent a little bit of time this morning going through some of the, some of the 20 conference threads and putting those moments into a big thread on Twitter and then putting those onto the site. So now when you come to submit, if you choose to submit you’ll see there’s links to the contact form. You can get in touch with us.
[00:21:26] If you’ve got any queries, you can see. Um, some ideas that we’ve come up with, from professional sessions or then you’ve seen some real successful sessions that people have done at other Twitter conferences. So we just try to make it up. Um, what if barriers or, or, or structural issues there might be that we do our best to, to, to, how can we get some more help, um, help facilitate your progress.
[00:21:46] Fantastic. So why don’t you tell us the dates, date to submit by what’s the date of the conference, and then hit us up with your, your Twitter account and your website.
[00:21:57] Um, yeah, the date of the conference is Thursday, September the 24th. Um, the deadline for submissions is September the third, midnight on September the third. We’ve never said what time zone.
[00:22:11] So I assume it’s midnight your time. So traditionally it’s very much midnight on September the third. Um, but that basically is changed by me the next morning when I wake up. Um, so in theory it’s probably midnight, somewhere like Guam or, um, uh, you know, yeah. Somewhere in there, somewhere in the very Western Pacific.
[00:22:33] Um, and one of those things don’t wait to the last, think about that.
[00:22:38] On last Twitter conference, someone submitted, uh, just as I was turning off the submission page. Sorry.
[00:22:48] Now that’s what you call under the wire!
[00:22:53] The website is, HeyPresstoConf.org. You can put to www iin front of that or 2020 in front of that. You get to slightly different places, but they link together and the Twitter account is @HeyPresstoConf. And I think the only thing to look out is that Pressto has got two S’s in it.
[00:23:18] As it should. And anything associated with WordPress, of course.
[00:23:21] And a capital, and capital P as well.
[00:23:23] You know, there was a bot on Twitter. Wasn’t there that if you, if you typed WordPress with a lowercase, P it finds you and shouts at you. I’ve not seen it for a while, but that might be cause of just, I’m just, I’m just hard coded into typing it properly. Well, I don’t want to be shamed that also I’m constantly, I actually have it as an ATEXT to make, to correct me if I do it improperly.
[00:23:45] So let let, let’s ask your listeners to, um, Follower us on Twitter, go to our website, please. If you find what we’re doing interesting. We tweet information about us and if English, for example, isn’t your first language. We’d love to reach the rest of the world. So, um, if you want to translate some of our tweets as we create them, that would be fantastic.
[00:24:13] Yeah, yeah, much much is, uh, Phil and I, um, all the organizers. Um, I think we always try and phrase it as we are the current organizers, um, and, uh, such that we’re, we’re conscious that, um, Mmm. Um, you know, we’re both from a very similar background and we’d like to see, to broaden that approach and see if there are things that we can do.
[00:24:35] And we’re happy to have other people on board too, if you liked the idea and we’d like to help out, um, with something else, that’d be great. Um, we have someone so far has volunteered and translated our call for submissions into Italian. Um, the rest of them will translate, will pay for translators for the rest of the, um, but yeah, word of mouth networking.
[00:24:53] So talking about spreading our, spreading on knowledge and spreading what we’re trying to do, and if you want to join it and join it, we’d love to have, um, as many people as possible do the submissions. And we’d like to think that if you’ve got any queries about that, then please do reach out and contact us.
[00:25:08] We need to, we’re very keen to help people to learn from people in as many ways as possible.
[00:25:13] That’s fantastic. Well, I, for one will be submitting. Yeah. Again, I don’t know what, but, um, I may, I may tweet you, I may DM you on Twitter. Yeah. Do you think this will be a good topic? We’ll see. Um, and I may just go for it.
[00:25:25] You’d never know, but I’m hoping that lots of other people will do the same. At the very least even if, if you don’t have an idea and you don’t want to present, please follow the conference on September 24th. Um, a lot of people will be putting lots of time and energy into that. So, uh, follow it like them, like their tweets, retweet their tweets and share in the event that day, DM people follow people, meet them online.
[00:25:54] Let’s make it into, um, a truly international and fun, not only learning event, but networking event as well. So yeah. Exactly right, right. Okay. Of, It was a lovely description, uh, a fun international networking and learning event would be able to be, uh, um, a good site description.
[00:26:15] You may have that. I will give that to you. Of course.
[00:26:18] Thank you.
[00:26:19] Well, Pat and Phil, thank you so much for being here with me today. I appreciate learning all about it. Um, we’re going to transcribe this, so it will be available in a few days on the, um, on the website for everybody to read with all of those different links and things as well. And certainly we’ll be retweeting you and sharing the possibilities for everybody to attend.
[00:26:39] I appreciate all that you do for the WordPress community, and I’m really, really, very much looking forward to this event. So thank you so much for being here.
[00:26:47] Thank you, Michelle. Thank you. Thank you, Michelle in fact to everyone that’s listened. My pleasure. Okay. Well, we’ll see you on the 24th.