January 28th and 29th of 2016 marked the first ever A Day of REST, a conference devoted to the WordPress REST API. It’s also, to my knowledge, the first ever conference completely about a single feature of WordPress.
Put on by the Human Made team, there were definitely risks: maybe not enough people would sign up, maybe the content would be too dense, or not dense enough for the audience that showed, maybe the API wouldn’t be in core yet, and more. Yet, none of these things happened, and the conference was a success.
I had the privilege to cover the event as the media partner, and I had an excellent time. It wasn’t a small conference, with over 220 attendees, but it was intimate, utilizing a single track setup, and had a small hack day reserved for 40 people.
It was also a bit of a risk to host the first A Day of REST in London, where it was quite accessible to the European community, but out of reach for much of the American market. Nonetheless, those of us that came from the US, Asia, and elsewhere were able to make mini-vacations of the conference, and the UK and broader European community made a great showing; the event nearly sold out.
Why does the WordPress REST API merit its own conference?
The WordPress REST API drastically changes the landscape for WordPress development. Now, WordPress can be the data store, while other technologies can (but aren’t required to, of course) take up pretty much every other aspect of the website. The front end and the back end components of a website can utilize completely custom web stacks, while the data is stored in WordPress.
The API can be used for modules within existing sites built traditionally with WordPress, or as the engine for entire external web apps. There are so many potential avenues to take WordPress with the REST API, that exploring just a few of them merits a conference like this. In fact, after having seen the conference, I feel that we just scratched the surface. That said, it was an excellent day, where I learned a lot. Here’s an overview of each speaker, and be on the lookout for videos as well, which will be hosted here on Post Status.
Introduction to the WordPress REST API
At A Day of REST, we were guided from the beginning, with an introduction to APIs within WordPress, and the role the REST API will play, by WordPress REST API Lead Developer Ryan McCue.
The Building Blocks of a REST API project
Next, Joe Hoyle — a core member of the REST API team, Human Made CTO, and my co-host on the Draft podcast — walked us through the building blocks of a REST API project.
Unlock the Potential of the WP REST API at the Command Line
Next, Daniel Bachhuber talked about creating a more RESTful wp-cli. The wp-cli project is a powerful suite of tools, but much of the functionality is replicated with the REST API. He’s in the middle of working through utilizing the REST API for wp-cli functionality.
There and Back Again: A Developer’s Tale
Jack Lenox spoke about using the WordPress REST API in the context of single page application development, and WordPress theming.
Building Calypso-like Applications with the WP REST API
Nikolay Bachiyski was instrumental to the WordPress.com Calypso project, and in his talk at A Day of REST, he discussed Automattic’s thinking behind many of the technologies that were used, and some of what they learned.
Pay No Attention to that WordPress Behind Your Application
With perhaps the most fascinating topic of the day, K. Adam White discussed using WordPress in some quite strange ways, like in concert with Ghost, for instance. All of the talks are great to watch, but if you only watch one, I think this would be the one I’d choose.
K. Adam White
K. Adam’s Slides
K. Adam on Twitter
K. Adam’s website
Should I Use the WordPress REST API? Ask WIRED’s, “Ask a Flowchart”
Kathleen Vignos is using the WordPress REST API at WIRED, where she’s the Director of Engineering. In this talk, she walks through how they decide when and where to use the REST API. They’ve gone through this process for considering the API for Latest Posts widgets, related post fallbacks, for Apple News and Slack integrations, and more.
Kathleen on Twitter
The Live Coverage Platform at The New York Times
Scott Taylor — WordPress core committer and engineer at The New York Times — showed us how they use the WordPress REST API to power their Live Coverage Platform at The Times. It’s truly both WordPress and the API at scale, and he’s careful in his talk to discuss some of the issues that need to be resolved for WordPress to be the best choice for such applications.
Scott on Twitter
The Hack Day was small, but productive. Around 40 people got together at the Mozilla offices and knocked out tickets, resolved longstanding issues, wrote docs, and updated the REST API website to officially deprecate version 1.x documentation.
More pictures from A Day of REST
Here are some more pictures I took of speakers, the audience, and the venue at A Day of REST. I really enjoyed this venue, which was exactly what I’d imagine an old and quaint English venue would look like.
The future of A Day of REST
Planning is already starting around what future WordPress REST API events may look like. Human Made is talking to potential partners (and in disclosure, I’m in these discussions as well) about potential events in the United States and Asia so far.
Feedback from A Day of REST was quite positive: more than 80% of attendees would definitely attend again, and nobody said they would definitely not attend again. For many, the depth of the talks and willingness for the conference to go deep on one WordPress feature was welcome, especially because this was an advanced audience of mostly developers, and not all just WordPress developers.
I imagine we will also be seeing stronger focus on the REST API at larger WordCamps. I could imagine simultaneous developer tracks and REST API tracks. And third party events like A Day of REST can go even deeper, with workshops and smaller group teaching, versus only speaker-driven events.
I love seeing people get together and learn. A Day of REST was productive, educational, and fun. I look forward to potential future iterations of this event, and getting back to Europe for a proper vacation (this was my first trip there!). Keep an eye out on Post Status for the official videos, and a round table podcast where I talked to many of the speakers about the WordPress REST API.