Torque asked me to cover WordCamp Miami. I got the email basically as I was getting off my plane in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and instantly, I felt like Johnny Depp’s character in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (minus the copious amount of drugs and Benicio Del Toro as my lawyer).
This was only my second WordCamp, and the only other I’d been to was tiny in comparison. So I didn’t know what to expect, let alone what to write about.
Yes, during every talk, I took pages of notes, and lots of pictures, but why rehash what everyone said? There was a livestream available (where you can still view many of the talks), you can download the slides and handouts, and I’m sure, in the near future, all talks will be uploaded to WordPress.tv.
So no, I’m not going to write you a simple recap.
Instead, I’m going to do what Chris Lema taught us in his talk on finding blog topics:
Start with a point of inspiration, turn it into a story, teach a lesson from the story, and give an action.
So what is my story from WordCamp Miami?
Flow is the psychological term that describes when you are completely immersed in an activity. So much so that time just seems to flow by. It’s the feeling you get when you start reading an engaging book and soon realize that three hours have passed in no time.
Flow is what I experienced this weekend.
It feels like just a few hours ago I was getting off the plane and my business partner was picking me up from the airport. And as I’m writing this, I’m preparing to get back on a plane to head back to Los Angeles… four days later.
I don’t want to be all gushy and over-optimistic… but heck, I’m going to be anyways.
Why WordCamp Miami Was So Awesome!
Like any community, it must be judged by the people that comprise that community. And I don’t think any community has as many helpful people as WordPress. So…
Number 1: The People
I feel like the type of people in the WordPress community can be summed up by one man: Bill Erickson. His dark black hair and beard contrasted with his almost white suit gave him that air of godliness, like some spiritual force. Add to that a soft demeanour.
This is only amplified when you hear this man talk, and realize that he is a genius. He seems like a god walking among us mere mortals.
Yet, after his talk, he didn’t run to go hide from the attendees. He stayed right where he was and was more than willing to answer and help as many people as he could. Heck, he was talking with me for so long that I got shooed away by a volunteer because he needed to go to his next panel.
But Bill was not alone at all.
Every speaker at WordCamp Miami, every attendee, every volunteer, went above and beyond to be helpful, friendly, and above all, nice to one another.
In fact, there was a happiness bar where anyone could get help or advice from WordPress experts.
When you consider that most people at this conference gave up an entire weekend to either volunteer for free, or teach others, or even just come to learn, you really see just how impressive this community is.
And while talking about the people, I want to make another point clear:
Number 2: Egos Were Left At The Door
There were some powerful people at this conference. From Syed Balkhi, to Chris Lema, to Karim Marucchi, to Cory Miller, and many more.
Each has a long list of bragging rights that, in all honesty, they are entitled to. These four, and all speakers and attendees, left any and all ego at the door.
I wasn’t surprised to see Mark Jaquith give a talk on caching, and then jump into a seat to hear Doug Stewart teach us about Vagrant.
Cory Miller had no problem giving us a presentation talking about both the successes and “failures” that iThemes has had along the way (I use quotes because, as Cory said, “It’s only failure if you don’t learn and grow.”).
Syed Balkhi provided us with an awesome, uncensored inside look into the marketing tactics he used to launch the plethora of companies and products he started (including OptinMonster).
As I said, each of the speakers at this conference, if they had come in with an ego, totally deserved to. But not one of them did.
Number 3: Everyone Had A Chance To Geek Out
There really was something for everyone at this conference.
With a Beginner’s track, a How-To track, a Developer track, a Content & Design track, and even a track for kids, no matter what your interest in WordPress, you could geek out—and feel free to geek out without judgement.
For me, most of my geeking happened in the Developer and Business tracks.
Whether it was Shawn Hooper wowing both myself and the crowd with his introduction to WP-CLI (which, by the way, is totally awesome and I don’t know why I haven’t been using it!!!) or finally learning exactly how Vagrant could be used in my workflow, I found my heart pumping with excitement as I took note after note and wrote down all the ideas that were popping into my head.
Or, there were those who geeked out about the incredibly popular My Little Pony stickers.
I’m an official pony now! #wcmia #mlpfim #unicorn pic.twitter.com/K4cjKqe4tQ
— Michelle Schulp ☜ (@marktimemedia) May 28, 2015
And that brings me finally to the point, as Chris Lema taught us.
I’ve told you my story, and now it is time to transition into my point—my lesson. WordCamps are amazing.
Everything about it is fun: from the networking, to the food, to the friends… heck, even celebrating David Bisset for all the hard work he did was exhilarating (Thank you David!!!).
As I said, I could have provided a summary of everything I learned, but didn’t think it would do this WordCamp justice because you can always find the talks online now and later.
Instead, I wanted to instill how important these WordCamps are to keep the community alive and thriving.
And as my business partner and I drove back Sunday night after the closing remarks, both tired, exhausted, ready to take a nap, the psychological flow starting to wear off after hours of conference time, we realized that the true value of the conference happened between talks. The real value was in the conversations with attendees, speakers, organizers, and sponsors. Hanging at Dave and Busters.
What You Need To Do Now
Chris Lema says now is the time I leave you with an action.
Attend a WordCamp. There are WordCamps everywhere.
You can find out all about them at WordCamp Central, or you can even see which WordCamps I’ll be attending next.
Hope to see you at the next one!
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