WP Engine DE{CODE} 2023 The Virtual Developer Conference

By Published On: March 22, 2023
Wp Engine Decode The Virtual Developer Conference 2023 with SharpSushi

WP Engine DE{CODE} 2023


It’s a week out from the next Conference, WP Engine DE{CODE}. I’ve just received my email to join the ‘Attendee Hub’. I do that and have a kick around inside. Nothing yet.

The Virtual Developer Conference was on Tuesday 21 March APAC & North America 10am to 4pm and EMEA Thursday 23 March also 10am to 4pm.

WP Engine is based in Texas but they have an office here in Brisbane, Australia so the time zone won’t be a problem. One hour difference.

Honestly, I have no idea what to expect but they have just announced their newest speakers are WordPress Co-Founder and Automattic CEO, Matt Mullenweg and Lead Architect of Gutenberg, Matia Ventura so, we have a couple of heavy-weights and I know it’s going to be more tech and more robust. I’m in.

A quick bit about WP Engine

WP Engine has high-quality, managed hosting that offers excellent uptime, WordPress-oriented security, cloud-based platform flexibility, daily backups, and other terrific features. It has a few minor downsides, as well; for example, you need to go elsewhere for email accounts and domain names. Suits me fine.

WP Engine also create a number of very helpful WordPress plugins like Advanced Custom Fields and WP Migrate and their own local WordPress host aptly named local. I have used all. All are very good.

WP Engine has offices in Austin, Texas; Brisbane, Australia; Kraków, Poland; Limerick, Ireland; London, England; Omaha, Nebraska and San Antonio, Texas. Many of their 1,000 employees work remotely around the world.

In short, if you’re looking for an all-in-one solution, this isn’t it.

If you are looking for an easy plug n play solution, yes you can use WP Engine but it’s like using a bulldozer to move a paper coffee cup.

However, if you’re looking for one of the fastest and most secure platforms for deploying and hosting WordPress, not to mention pushing its capabilities to its limits while you’re getting your hands dirty in some code, this might be a new toy to play with at Christmas.

I log in. Sniff around. Each session is back to back and I’m in top form today so I’ll be hitting every session.

There’s a bit to get through today. Some sessions running simultaneously so I’m going to write a full days overview over a few days while I catch up on missed sessions.

11:00 Opening Remarks

Jason Frazier | Senior Product Manager WP Engine

I’m in the Attendee Hub and the ‘Join Session’ button is un-greyed out. I click.
It’s Jason Frazier from WP Engine Product Program with an introduction and orientation on the location of chat, sponsor content, polls, sessions and there’ll be a DJ between sessions. Pretty cool.

11:10 How technology has shaped the power dynamics between designers, developers, and marketers

Jason Cohen | CIO & Founder WP Engine

We take a trip down memory lane on the start of the internet. I wrote about that here too. Amazon logo looked like a swimming pool. Times new Roman was the go to font or the only font. Google was still at Stanford. SpaceJam is mentioned and a pic of Michael Jordan is shown – I’m not sure why.

Back then, Developers had the power. You had to submit a ticket to get anything changed. It was inaccessible. Designers had little to no control and Marketers – forget about it. At Design school we knew this and I think I was the only one who cared to learn Html & CSS and my teacher scoffed at me saying I will never need it. How wrong she was.

Enter WordPress. Now 20 years on and WordPress takes 43% of all websites. Crikey-dingo! And I’ve been there since day one.

WordPress has created a balance of power. Developers get reprieve from our incessant badgering. Designers can stay on brand and Marketers can now create and manage their own websites. And it didn’t end there. Authors, photographers to recipe makers can all access WordPress. Why? Because it is Open Source.

In many ways, today is a celebration of WordPress and I am at the parade.

There’s a lot of talk about ‘Blocks’. Empowering Marketers and everyone else with the block editor. Gutenberg. Love it or hate, it’s here to stay and it’s only growing more traction with more developers absorbing it into their workflow. I get it. I don’t use it. In fact I add another plugin to override it. But that’s my problem.

Enter new topic thread: Headless Architecture.
3% of the top 10m sites on the internet are headless. So around 300,00. It’s an important development trend.
He talks about their product:
Problem; Headless breaks things. Ergo: Things break.
Developers powered has been reinstated ~ again.
There’s a design library for Headless:
The future looks blocky. A lot of blocks.
It sounds like yet again, we’re creating solutions to a problems we don’t have.

And I’m nervous.

11:40 Go beyond with Headless powered by Atlas

Jason Konen | Director of Product, Atlas WP Engine

This is the third Jason in a row and I’m getting typos. He wants to talk ‘Headless Architecture’.

FYI: WP Engine Headless provides a set of tools to make building frontend applications with WordPress as the headless CMS a pleasant experience for developers and publishers. The plugin helps with post previewing, smart content redirects, themes, custom menus aaaand some of us are still not sure what the hell this even is.

I’ll try again: Headless technology is a way of building websites where the front-end and back-end are separate. It lets you use different tools for each part, which can be useful for building complex websites that need to work together. Thanks ChatGPT.

Headless empowers developers and publishers. The front can use a whole different tech-stack to the back. Pretty cool and I get why.

Huge performance gains were enabled by using headless – Jason cites an example from a client site during the recent SuperBowl with a 10x spike in traffic during Ads. A normal WordPress Config would not have cut it. Employing Headless – could, and did.

Headless is built in to their Atlas product. Plug.

Faust.js is the headless framework to wrap your head around. Plug.

Gutenberg Blocks. For these guys; This is the way. Mando Plug.

There’s a lot to unpack here.

Is headless right for you? For a small site probably not.

For a bigger site utilising ecomm and high traffic with spikes, probably good to start looking at it.

Start thinking ACF Flexible too.

12:10 Privacy sandbox for web: the changing privacy landscape and impact to your sites

Sam Dutton | Developer Advocate Google

Gosh I wish this session was a choice between other sessions like there was later in the afternoon.

Essentially, what you need to know is: Chrome will be making privacy changes through the Privacy Sandbox initiative throughout 2023, while building new technology to keep user information private. There, I spared you.

Think Advertising + Cookies + the Third-Party Advertising eco-system of advertisers tracking behaviour is absolutely out of control. Noted.

Apparently 80% of all web users want better data protection but who knows where that information came from and what do the other 20% want? It’s a weird stat to say.

Data Privacy is important for the web eco-system but then again, web is an open platform. But don’t worry, it’s Google to the rescue and they’re going to take very good care of you. Promise.

We have a tour of the Google Privacy Sandbox. The content is very dry. The delivery is rough and I’m checking my phone.

The speaker must have separate slides on his screen that are his que cards and it’s all being read out as he heads out the door to lunch.

Something is said about ‘Anonymous Performance Reports’. You’ll know but you won’t know.

Finding a balance is going to be difficult; too much tracking of user behaviour isn’t private – too little tracking doesn’t help the granular reporting needed.

Think about browsers observing topics. I have now left the room and I’m eating Japanese. It’s miso soup and salmon rice.

12:40 Music Break with live DJ

DJ Crabrangucci is on the decks and people are commenting in the feed. She’s good.

1:00 How Click Here Labs unlocked composable commerce with Atlas

Jonathan Jeter | Director of Technical Production Click Here Labs
Bryan Smith | Principal Product Manager WP Engine

[ Video to be viewed ]

1:00 Mastering migrations–faster, easier, and safer ways to move your site from A to B

Kevin Hoffman | Senior Product Manager WP Engine
Austin Wendt | Senior Product Manager WP Engine

I caught this one because I hate migrating WordPress so, I’m happy to join this session.

Que the yoga matt and soft music – so what does the flow look like?

Remote to local -> Local to remote -> Remote to remote
Sooo: Remote -> Local -> Remote
WP Migrate is built by WP Engine. Plug.
built by WP Engine too. Plug. I know it. Use it. It’s great.
We export a WordPress site and we head to local and import it. It works.
We connect to our host from local so we’re going to work offsite and push later.
is another host I am now aware of.
MagicSync. Incremental Migration. Push.
Workflows are key here so you don’t loose any data of images fall off the ship on the way.
Basically we are Pushing <–> Pulling DB + Content + Styles and everything in the WordPress net.

1:00 Simplifying payment processing in a shifting global economy

Sajal Agrawal | VP of Product Management, eCommerce WP Engine
Enid Jimenez | Director, Engineering WP Engine
Daniel Chatelain | Founder & Managing Director BayPay Forum

[ Video to be viewed ]

1:30 7 things you didn’t know you could do with Advanced Custom Fields

Iain Poulson | Senior Product Manager WP Engine
Rob Stinson | Product Marketing Manager WP Engine

When you use WordPress to build a website, you can create different types of content like pages or blog posts. Sometimes you want to add extra information to those types of content, like a special field where you can add a video or a list of ingredients.

That’s where ACF comes in. Advanced Custom Fields. It’s a tool for WordPress that lets you create extra fields (like the video or ingredients example) for your content. These extra fields are called “custom fields.”

So, instead of only having the basic fields that come with WordPress (like title or content), you can use ACF to create your own custom fields that are specific to your website. This makes it easier to manage your content and add more information to your website without having to do a lot of coding.

For example, if you had a website about pets, you might use ACF to create custom fields for each pet’s age, breed, and favourite toy. Then, when you add a new pet to your website, you can fill in those custom fields with the specific information for that pet.

They talk about ACF and Making custom post types so it’s not just a CMS anymore.
Endpoints. Restful. Blocks. Since we’re using blocks, let’s style everything to look like a block. Seems to be a trend and I wonder how long this one will last. See
Gumroad for that Andy Warhol poppy blocky design with colour look. Comic book without using comic sans. I just coined that.

1:30 Introducing the React-Gutenberg Bridge: Headless block support for an even better editing experience

Teresa Gobble | Software Engineer WP Engine
Blake Wilson | Senior Software Engineer WP Engine

[ Video to be viewed ]

1:30 WooCommerce reporting with New Relic

Damien DeHart | MSP Partner Engineering Team Lead New Relic
Joshua Dailey | Product Marketing Manager WP Engine

[ Video to be viewed ]

2:00 Cutting edge pattern management and creation

Phil Johnston | Senior Software Engineer WP Engine
Michael Day | React Engineer WP Engine

[ Video to be viewed ]

2:00 Demystifying Core Web Vitals

Mark Davoli | Director, Web Development Amsive Digital
Matt Chase | Director of Development Vital Design
Mike Crantea | Director of Frontend Engineering XWP
Sanjucta Ghose | Senior Web Developer WP Engine
Alex Zuniga | Product Manager WP Engine

Perceived performance.
Is your website fast? Secure? Easy to find? How about using it? Pleasure or pain?

What are the best ways to measure your site performance:

Image optimisation is a big one. With all these fast speeds we’re throwing larger images up which isn’t always great.

2:00 How to build your first headless WordPress project with ACF + WPGraphQL

Jeff Everhart | Senior Developer Advocate WP Engine

[ Video to be viewed ]

2:40 How agencies use headless tech to solve technical challenges and win new projects

Scott Jones | Founder and CEO Illustrate Digital
Adam Davey | Director of Technology CandySpace
Dennis Ngin | VP, Digital Experience Wpromote
David DiCamillo | Chief Technology Officer Code & Theory
Rami Perry | Key Partner Account Manager WP Engine

[ Video to be viewed ]

2:40 How to stay on top of security in 2023

Ramadass Prabhakar | SVP and Chief Technology Officer WP Engine
Sergi Isasi | VP of Product for Application Performance Cloudflare
Lawrence Edmonson | CTO Barbarian
Jimmy Squires | Chief Technology Officer space150
Tim Nash | WordPress Security Consultant timnash.co.uk

I didn’t gleam any tools per say apart from the guy wearing a Cloudflare tee. All made valid points around the challenges of WordPress Security. And all from personal experiences either on their own or for clients. When you’re running one of the most popular website CMS’ in the world you’re going to be a target for attacks. Period.

A common issue noted by everyone was that most clients don’t seem to care too much about web security. Which is a surprise because the damage it can do is significant. No one cares until they have to and guess who bares the brunt? Developers.

There was a general surprise that DDoS attacks are still so prevalent in 2023. A DDoS attack is when someone tries to make a website stop working by flooding it with traffic. Think of it like a bunch of people trying to enter a store all at once, so that no one else can get in or out. In a DDoS attack, the attackers use lots of computers to send a huge amount of traffic to a website all at once, overwhelming its servers and making it stop working.

Cloudflare is designed to protect websites from DDoS attacks. Cloudflare works by acting as a sort of shield between a website and the rest of the internet. When a DDoS attack is detected, Cloudflare can help to filter out the bad traffic and only allow legitimate traffic to reach the website. This helps to keep the website running and prevent it from being overwhelmed.

In a nutshell, assume that something bad is going to happen, it’s just a matter of time. When it does, know who to call. There’s a malaise of care on web security. And while everyone is remote now, it opens more opportunity to let security slide. Please, don’t ever log in to your bank on a free airport WiFi. Just don’t.

2:40 When is it worth investing in block-centric building in WordPress?

Katherine White | Chief Technology Officer Kanopi Studios
Aurooba Ahmed | Software Developer
Brian Gardner | Principal Developer Advocate WP Engine
Phil Crumm | VP Marketing & Growth 10up
Sam Munoz | Community Manager, Developer Relations WP Engine

[ Video to be viewed ]

3:20 Fireside chat with Matt Mullenweg and Matías Ventura: The super future of WordPress

Matt Mullenweg | Co-Founder of the WordPress Project & CEO Automattic
Matías Ventura | Lead Architect of Gutenberg Automattic
Monica Cravotta | Vice President, Marketing WP Engine

What a lovely talk to be part of. It was a pleasure to listen to them both and see them on screen.

WordPress is almost 20 years old. It’s a story of community. It is not a closed or walled garden. It’s open for everyone to access and use. WordPress is truly the scaffold for so many websites and businesses.

The super future of WordPress: they want to see Gutenberg Block Editor being used in more places. After all it is a block editor and not just for WordPress.

The final message on why WordPress is such a popular platform used by millions? Once you install it something is there to start on. Editing something is always easier than creating from a blank slate.

4:00 Networking

DJ Crabrangucci is back on the decks.

Conference Wrap

Today’s Conference was so much easier than last weeks 2 day Digital Marketers Australia Conference which was awesome. Today was just 6 hours. It was virtual so no trains and trams. I didn’t have to get up at 5am. I didn’t have to stand up and talk to the person next to me or play a game to win a free coffee. It short and sweet and direct, technical and like dma gave us loads of links to great resources.

I really liked how everyone was from everywhere. The US. Australia. Spain. India. And it all just worked. Because its the internet, we all have the same problems. Website Security. Updates. Themes. Page Speed. SEO. So it was a relief to talk shop and hear my native language.


URL: WP Engine DE{CODE} 2023 by WP Engine
When: Tuesday 21 March 2023
Where: Online Virtual Conference
More info from their blog here.

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Written by : Digital Crew