Every time I come back from a conference or event, someone asks — well, a lot of someones ask: “What was the best part?”
I could tell you that the WordCamp San Francisco (@WordCampSF) sessions I attended as a whole were awesome. And, I could share that the event was well planned, well staffed, and well put together. Or maybe I could fill you in on the coffee, soft drinks, water, lunches, party food, libations, desserts, and free t-shirts that were included for the nominal event fee of only $40.
But honestly, the BEST part of WordCamp San Francisco wasn’t any of those things. It was the people.
Except for ONE really rude guy who was seriously not very nice (there’s always one isn’t there?), everyone I met — from advanced developers to new users — was welcoming, supportive, and nice.
As I shared in my post WordCamps: A Rising Tide Lifts All WordPress Websites, until now I had left the WordCamping to Brian. My perception was that it was only for developers, and that if you weren’t a developer you’d be an outcast — like high school (and sometimes Twitter) with the cool kids and the rest of the community. I won’t lie, there is still some of that happening — some people who act like they can’t be bothered to talk to you because they are so much more important. But these people, speaking from my experience, were the extreme minority.
WordPress Attendees Are Incredible
Bourn Creative is experiencing by far our busiest year to date, and Brian and I are crazy busy all the time (which is why we’re hiring). Needless to say, we made a long kid-free weekend out of the event and stayed a few extra days to take in some sights and see a show. This trip was as much about relaxing and recharging as it was learning and networking.
At the event, I was able to meet some awesomely talented people — some whom I have known through Twitter for a long time — who get what it means to be part of a community that has a vested interest in EVERYONE succeeding and getting better.
We kicked off the trip having dinner with a few other design and development agency owners to talk shop and share stories. We also met up with several other designers and developers who also build sites on the Genesis Framework at a killer Irish pub to commune over our trials and success. At the event, we also got to hang a bit with those I have known for a while through Twitter, but had never met in person, like Chris Lema and Dre Armeda who was actually one of the first WordPress developers I worked with back in the day.
I was also thrilled to connect with our hosting company WP Engine, who was a sponsor, as well as several other designers and developers, freelancers and agency owners, and those who are looking for a job and those who are hiring.
WordCamp Presentations Brought Value
I was impressed with the level of access attendees had to the speakers, WordPress core contributors, and other key players in the WordPress community. All speakers were available for questions or to just say hello throughout the event.
The designer/developer track delivered serious information about code, WordPress themes, Buddy Press, responsive design, user experience, WordPress security, and more. While the user/entrepreneur track delivered content on the history of WordPress, basic website strategy, jazzing up your site without using code, when to use WordPress Multisite, collaboration, project management, Buddy Press, and more.
Here’s a quick recap of some of the sessions I attended:
- Tammie Lister (@karmatosed) gave a talk on BuddyPress. I don’t know much about BuddyPress and her talk was more strategic than code focused, which I appreciated. I really enjoyed hearing more about the strategy and the design consideration that are in play with BuddyPress, the shift in thinking you must have to design for communities, and hearing her perspective on why she’d love to see more creative implementations of BuddyPress.
- Mika Epstein (@Ipstenu) gave a talk on why you shouldn’t use WordPress Multisite. I loved her straight forward candor, and get-to-the-point seriousness. She took a somewhat dry topic and made it interesting and fun, while providing us all examples of use cases — good and bad — for WordPress Multisite and how to communicate the pros and cons of it with clients.
- Helen Housandi (@helenhousandi) gave an interesting talk on customizing the WordPress dashboard and the back end of WordPress to create better, more streamlined client experiences, and sites that simpler and easier to use. It was great to find that our approach of clearing out all the unneeded clutter in the backend and focusing on how the site will be used and updated is in alignment with what some of the larger agencies are doing. Seeing some of her examples of what she has done also gave us some great ides for our client sites.
- Ian Stewart (@iandstewart) gave an inspiring talk on designing and developing WordPress themes. His vision for the future of themes and the direction in which he’d like to see theme companies go — niche themes, killer design — was like music to my ears! His message and vision is exactly in line with what I believe and want to see, so I seriously loved his talk. Plus, when I introduced myself at the after party, he was gracious, supportive, and just awesome to talk to.
- Grant Landram (@GrantLandram) gave a talk on project management and how to best communicate clearly and effectively, and set expectations with non-technical stakeholders (clients) that create a successful, positive working relationship. It was reaffirming to hear that all designers/developers struggle with the same type of client frustrations and that as a whole we’re all trying to not only better ourselves as project managers, but to better the experience for our clients.
- Carrie Dils (@cdils) gave a talk on Competition and Collaboration, or “Coopetition”. She made a great case for the positives that come from competition, like better products and innovation and why competition is a good thing. She also made a great case for why we all need collaboration — “As iron sharpens iron, people sharpen people.” (proverb) — and why we’ll all get better if we work together and learn from each other. But my favorite part of her talk, aside from her jokes, self deprecating humor, and silly references, was the idea of coopetition. The idea that we can all compete in the market which will drive us to improve, and at the same time we all can cooperate to help each other, to refer business to each other, to support each other.
- Matt Mullenweg (@photomatt) gave his annual State of the Word address, which I recapped in the blog post: Recap: WordCamp San Francisco 2013, State of The Word by Matt Mullenweg. He delivered some amazing statistic on WordPress, WordCamps, and more.
- There was a panel discussion on growing a WordPress agency with Jake Goldman (@jakemgold), Shane Pearlman (@justlikeair), Brad Williams (@williamsba), and Alex King (@alexkingorg) that was moderated by Matt Mullenweg. Very rarely do I see a panel done well or provide any value, so I was skeptical, but this one was great. Matt was selective with his questions and asked some off the cuff that were really insightful, and the panel (all guys) answered questions honestly, but very much like politicians — They answered them, gave some information, but clearly evaded really answering some of the questions. Overall, I was impressed with all of them and the agencies they have built.
- I also attended sessions by Konstantin Kovshenin (@kovshenin) and Nikolay Bachiyski (@nikolayb) that dove into WordPress code more than I cared for (I’m a designer not a developer). So while I did learn some new things, I was happy to be sitting next to Brian who loved it and had some great takeaways.
Overall, WordCamp San Francisco was awesome and THE PEOPLE were even more awesome
I am really looking forward to my next WordCamp (I applied to speak, so we’ll see) — and I hope you check them out for yourself and your business too!
Photo from those shared on Matt Mullenweg’s site.