Here it is, October already; just under three months to go before 2014. Yes, I said that: TWENTY FOURTEEN! Wow! It was not that long ago (2012 to be exact) that I visited my first WordCamp. I had been involved in WordPress development for only a couple short months when Gregg said to me, “Hey – you should come out to San Diego for WordCamp!” My first thought was, “great, another conference.” You see, I hate.. no…. LOATHE conferences. My experience has always been that they’re nothing more than a bunch of people out to push their own product with very little interest in who you are, what you do or how you do it (unless it could somehow make THEM more money). But, none the less, I opted to come out for WordCamp San Diego. After all, Gregg was paying for the ticket (I believe it was about $25.00 – AND I get a T-shirt!). All I had to do was buy the flight. My attitude about conferences was changed by that first WordCamp, and here are a few reasons why:
Reason Number 1: People – Not Companies
When I went to WordCamp, the thing I noticed was that it was a gathering of people. Lots and lots of breathing, human, feeling PEOPLE. I realize that other conferences are nothing but people as well, but they are usually there as representatives of their companies (mostly), sent with the sole mission of bringing in more prospects or clients back to the mothership. WordCamps, however, are different. There is an immediate common bond that you pick up if you’re paying any sort of attention at all. And that’s the common desire to gain knowledge all based around a common theme: WordPress. Now, my first WordCamp I spent in the Developer’s Track. After all, I was an aspiring WordPress developer. But I’ll admit that 99% of it was above my head. WAY above my head. The 1% I understood? “Hi, my name is ______. And I’ll be your presenter for the next 40 minutes or so.” Oh, and I guess I understood the giveaways, too. . . and lunch. It’s hard to be confused by a sandwich (or three).
Reason Number 2: Accessibility
At the time, I confess that I was so green that I didn’t know any of the big names within the WordPress Community. But what was cool, was that as I was hearing about people that “contributed to core” (which sounded incredibly lofty at the time), or built these amazing plugins or themes that were there, they were all surprisingly accessible. I mean, these guys included their contact information in their slides! Not some toll-free number or website – but actual personal email addresses; sometimes even cell phone numbers! How cool is that?
At WordCamp Kansas City, I was lucky enough to have dinner with some of the “big names” in the WordPress Community and had some great conversations. In fact, my one-on-one with Chip Bennett is still one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had; and we hardly even spoke about WordPress!
Reason Number 3 (and probably THE most important reason): Community, Community, Community
Before going to a WordCamp, I had *heard* about the WordPress Community, but really, you hear about that within any industry, so it didn’t mean much to me. What I found was that this WordPress Community was actually a community that worked the way it should! Everyone has the same common goal: Make WordPress better. And with that goal in mind, everyone works to that end, in which ever capacity they are able. Because of that, you find that people are not only willing to help but they WANT to help. They don’t care if you just discovered WordPress yesterday or have been doing it since its inception. They know that what you get out of it will always be greater than what you give, but that you HAVE to give something or it’s just not going to work. And guess what: it works!
Since San Diego, I’ve personally been to several other WordCamps which included Kansas City, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago and Grand Rapids. All of these WordCamps were different and yet, the one thing I have come away with, beyond the knowledge, is new contacts; many of whom have become actual friends. And that’s even better!
This year, ServerPress was extremely proud to have been in a position to give back to the WordPress Community not only by providing a great tool to designers and developers with DesktopServer, but by participating as a sponsor at several WordCamps. We were happy to sponsor Milwaukee, Grand Rapids, WordCamp LA and with Boston coming up (along with the possibility of others). And in 2014 we plan for even more! So, if you haven’t been to a WordCamp, I would URGE you to go and experience one of the best (if not THE best) aspects of WordPress. Get yourself to a WordCamp! You’ll thank me later!