Last weekend I had the opportunity to participate in WordCamp Austin, my third WordCamp since moving to the capital of Texas. While I’ve spoken at WordCamp Austin each year this year I took a bigger role by helping organize, volunteer, speak and generally participate any way I could.
WordCamps are a strange beast, if you haven’t been to one it basically a one or two day WordPress conference comprised mostly (or maybe ideally) of local speakers and attendees who get together and discuss all things WordPress. That said they don’t have a local “feel” at all like many similar events. Instead WordCamps, for about $20 a ticket, tend to be one of the most engaging and best planned conferences I’ve ever been to.
This wasn’t my first WordCamp and in fact last year alone I also attended WordCamps in Miami, San Francisco and London. While all WordCamps have some great aspects there are three things this year that really helped set WordCamp Austin apart.
WordCamp Austin Took a Chance on New Speakers
While there are always plenty of great speakers at any WordCamp Austin did a great job of keeping to its roots with a good number of new (at least to the WordPress community anyway) speakers. Chris Nichols, Michele Butcher, Grant Norwood and Amanda Krauss (among others) took the time to give back to the WordPress community of which some of them haven’t been members themselves for very long. To me this is what a conference like this is all about. Building up the local community is an important endeavor and one which you don’t always see at similar conferences.
WordCamp Austin Stepped Up Its Game
Two years ago WordCamp Austin was a rather small affair of about two hundred attendees and a little more than a dozen speakers over the course of a Saturday.
This year WordCamp had almost 500 people plus 36 speakers, 2 keynotes, a youth camp and a contributor day spread over 3 days. It was epic in comparison to years past and provided the community with a range of topics and activities that simply wasn’t available or maybe even possible before.
WordCamp Austin – It’s the People
Content is wonderful but it isn’t the sole purpose of any conference. Heck in some conferences such as SXSW I would argue that content is the side-show behind the real reason people attend: networking.
WordCamp Austin this year didn’t disappoint. With attendees ranging in age from 2 to 82 and from as many backgrounds as one can imagine the folks at WordCamp this year didn’t disappoint.
I was exceptionally fortunate this year in this regard. With the iThemes crew in attendance I spent most of the weekend catching up with them outside of Edmund, OK (a rare occurrence) as well as both meeting new folks and catching up with old friends.
From Friday afternoon through Sunday night the people made WordCamp truly an awesome experience. Some of the more notable folks I was fortunate enough to meet this year included Andrew Nacin, lead developer of WordPress, Jason Baker who develops a really cool looking accessibility plugin, Morgan Estes, a WordPress developer from OK who attended with his wife and daughter (his daughter really stole the show for much of the weekend) and so many others that I couldn’t hope to list them all in one post.
Of course old friends were there too and WordCamp itself wouldn’t have been possible without the likes of my wife Joy (who literally ran through the building most of Saturday trying to keep things running), Chris Nichols, Jackie Dana, Michele Butcher and Corey Ellis all of whom helped keep the event (and in some cases the volunteers) going.
Finally there were the friends from other WordCamps and WordPress in general who graciously donated their time and money to helping make WordCamp Austin a success. Folks like Ryan Duff, Chris Lema, Joe Casabona and Carrie Dills all traveled to Austin to share their knowledge with the locals. With folks like this how could an event go wrong?
In the end while the content was great it was the people, both old and new to the WordPress community, that made WordCamp Austin a success and helped me realize just how fortunate I was to be a part of it.