I’ve been attending WordCamp Atlanta since 2013, and it’s been one of my favorite annual WordCamp events. It is larger than WordCamp Orlando, with an average of 600 attendees to our 350, but it rarely feels large with the sensible layout of the venue and separation of spaces. Everything is in one building across two floors, and all of the rooms are near each other.
The ease of getting around, and the proximity of hundreds of WordPress people without a feeling of claustrophobia makes it an ideal setting for conversations. We call the space between sponsor tables and session rooms the “Hallway Track”, since it can be a valuable session space itself. I can talk with friends that I see a handful of times per year, or find out what other companies in the space are up to.
My Workshop – Building a Plugin
Recently I’ve been having success at events teaching attendees how to build their own plugins and themes. I was under a new constraint this time, of offering my plugin workshop in a 50 minute time-slot as a lecture, where it’s been a two to three hour workshop in the past. Treating it as a lecture meant no hands on, one-on-one help, but it let me present the information at a comfortable speed.
The questions that I got, both immediately following my session and throughout the weekend, indicated that I was able to help some of the attendees. I was told by three separate people that they attended the getting started workshop the day before, and my lecture put that information in place for them in an understandable way.
I’m not always confident when I give presentations, as listening to myself drone on for more than a few minutes feels excessive to me, and I can only imagine what others think. Having thoughtful followups made me feel that I provided value.
WordCamps are a great place to learn more about WordPress, but also to learn about related topics, such as SEO and marketing, running a business, or developing applications. We hold a unique position in tech in that our tool serves users at all ends of the technical spectrum. The lower barrier of entry to starting your first WordPress site coupled with the flexibility and extensibility of the platform makes it an ideal way for people of various skills to interact on a common ground.
I only attended a handful of sessions other than my own, preferring to spend time in the Happiness Bar offering help, as well as the aforementioned conversation time. Here are a few of my highlights:
- Getting confirmation from Tom McFarlin, a developer who I greatly respect, that WordPress can serve as an application foundation. I’ve wasted some time that I could have been working on a variety of projects wondering if I’m just trying to fit a peg into a WordPress shaped hole, forgetting that getting something done at all is better than an optimized nothing.
- Being reminded by Adam Walker, co-owner of Sideways8, that routines, habits, and processes are key when it comes to managing your work life. I’m impressed with the number of projects that he handles while maintaining a balance that leans favorably toward family and personal life. Sometimes you just need to hear the same message in a new way or for the tenth time before it sinks in. I’m making some changes based on his presentation, which he shared on his site.
- Getting some ideas on ways to automate my development workflow from Chris Wiegman, a personal friend and team lead at WP Engine. This is one of the places that I feel that I could improve most when it comes to my processes. Some of the tooling that Chris uses is beyond me currently, but I want to expand my toolset. Chris also shared his slides on his site.
The rest of the event
I got to hang out with lots of WordPress friends and meet a few new people this weekend. I try not to only talk to people that I already know, since that leaves out all of the people who would be good friends if I took the time to get to know them now. I also shared dinner, lunch, coffee breaks, and walks around town with fellow attendees.
The real value of these events for me is the personal connection, where I get to talk one-on-one with someone a step ahead of or behind me in the business and product building process. We’re all learning this as we go, and it’s good to be reminded that no one comes in with all of the knowledge, and no business starts fully-formed.
WordCamp Atlanta made these great boards for people to post tips and tricks around business, WordPress, and life. I wish I’d gotten a picture at the end of Sunday!
On the secondary value front, I won an IKEA gift card from the folks at GoDaddy Pro! I don’t usually enter contests at WordCamps, but I’m glad that I entered that one and was still in town during closing remarks. We’ve been talking about getting a new couch at home for a while, and this is the push to make that purchase happen.
A big thanks to SiteGround!
Finally, I want to thank SiteGround yet again for helping to sponsor my trip. I realize that I haven’t yet written a post on the SiteGround Ambassador program, which is something that I’m going to fix now.
I met three members of the SiteGround team that I haven’t yet had the chance to meet, spent some time at their booth, and discussed SiteGround services several times during the event. It’s very easy to do when the conversation comes up from whoever I’m talking to with general interest, and I don’t even feel like I’m giving a sales pitch. That said, I’d do a sales pitch anyway, since I truly enjoy the service and level of support.
I also got to chat with Francesca Marano, the WordPress Community Manager at SiteGround. We chat online regularly, but in person opens up new space for the kinds of conversations that don’t regularly come up online. Again, these events are a great way to catch up and form deeper connection with the people who help make this community worth sticking around for.
I greatly enjoyed WordCamp Atlanta 2019, and look forward to another fantastic event in 2020!