(Disclaimer: FYI, the deluxedelivers.com site is far, far from finished; light-years away, in fact. However, I felt that it was important to start getting up some blog posts regarding WordPress and what we are doing development-wise, and our current business site is – gasp! – NOT powered by WordPress, so I went ahead and put this up. Look for major improvements and an official launch of the site on Valentine’s Day. And enough about my site; start reading below about WordCamp Birmingham.)
I attended my first WordCamp this past weekend, and I’m calling it a success on several levels.
First, I learned more than I thought I might, and that is not always the case when one attends a conference. Second, I met a number of interesting people. Third, I got inspired.
Not bad for a day and a half in January.
The event was held Saturday at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex and Sunday at Samford University, with somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 people signed up for the weekend — including, fortunately, my wife Jean, who was attending courtesy of her day job.
The event was split into three tracks: Beginner/User, Intermediate, and Development. To get the most out of our time, Jean and I attended most sessions separately (although we did join forces for a couple of sessions). I split my time between the development and intermediate tracks, attending five sessions on Saturday that covered e-commerce, custom post types, CSS, content creation, and site marketing.
I took something away from each and every one (some more than others), but hands down, the presentation of the day belonged to Wade Kwon (full disclosure: I am a friendly acquaintance with Wade, and hold him in very high regard professionally. However, I believe a vast majority of those who saw his presentation would agree with me.). He was professional, concise, and highly informative. You can view the slides from his presentation below.
Saturday seemed to be better-attended than Sunday, but as I attended only one workshop on Sunday, I can’t be certain. The space at Samford was akin to a rabbit warren, and I did not see how many were in attendance at the other two tracks (my session was a workshop that lasted for three sessions).
The Sunday workshop by Kelly Householder dealt with the ins and outs of working freelance. It was another great session and I am glad I attended that workshop. It addressed a number of issues I have run into as Jean and I develop Deluxe.
Overall, I have to say that the event was very well-organized. The good people running show provided attendees with lunch on Saturday (with a vegan option, which was nice to see), a nice t-shirt (I wore it over a thermal shirt on Sunday, hoping for some nerd cred.), plus stickers and buttons (I’m a sucker for loot. I was awful at trade shows, and as a kid I used to stock up on travel brochures at every rest stop. How many “Lost Sea” brochures does one 11-year-old need, anyway?)
Of course, the attendees were who made the event. There was a tweet going around on Saturday evening about how amazing the WordPress community is, and I have to agree. There was a cordiality and (this is totally a subjective opinion) a positive vibe coming from almost the entire crowd. I felt like people came to learn and inspire each other. Sometimes at events like this, you get a sales-ish feeling; not here.
I made it a point to introduce myself to the people who sat next to me or who I ran into at the show. I met a nice couple from Huntsville (she does real estate blogs, he’s her developer); a photographer from Tampa who was pulling double duty in the ‘Ham by attending the event while visiting his son and new grandchild; and is often the case in Birmingham (the largest small town in the world), I met someone with whom both Jean and I shared a number of mutual friends.
I think the most important aspect of my attendance was the inspiration WordCamp kindled in me. The sessions I attended have made me want to learn even more about this fantastic tool, to dig further into the guts of WordPress, to sharpen my skills for my clients and to start creating our own content that garners readers and maybe even shares a little wisdom.
Of course, it all wasn’t perfect, but it was close. During one session I felt like I was back in calculus class at Auburn, partly because some of the subject matter was over my head but also because the presentation itself was lackluster, and a couple of the other presentations did not meet my expectations in some small way or another. Yet as stated before, I took something positive away from each and every one.
Splitting the location of the event was not a big deal, although the space available on Sunday could have been more centrally located. But I’m not complaining; space costs money, and I completely appreciate the need for the good WordPress folks to keep costs down. I definitely got my money’s worth.
If this is what WordCamp is all about, you can bet your booty I will be back again next year. Well done, folks, and thanks.