WordCamp Brisbane 2017 will be held on July 22-23 at QUT Gardens Point in Brisbane, Australia. With 300 people slated to attend and an awesome line-up of speakers already announced, the two-day event is shaping up to be an impressive one.
While today there are multiple WordPress meetups and WordCamps in the Land Down Under, this wasn’t always the case. In fact, in the past, there was just one WordCamp for the entire country of Australia. In this interview, WordCamp Brisbane Organizer, Ricky Blacker explains the evolution of the WordPress community in Australia and how WordCamps have evolved alongside it.
Torque: How does the Australian WordPress community differ from other WordPress communities around the world?
I think the main difference is the fact that in Australia we are a relatively small population spread over a large land mass, creating pockets of communities separated by great distances. Despite this, the Australian WordPress community is very tight nit, traditionally acting almost as one entity for the whole country while still maintaining unique identities for each particular corner of the continent.
Torque: How have you seen WordCamp Brisbane evolve over the last four years?
In the past, we have only had one WordCamp for all of Australia each year, mainly due to the fact that it was the same group of organizers running each one. We had our first WordCamp Brisbane in 2015, and generally, we try to give a different city a run every year but as we grow in numbers we are seeing more members stepping up to fill the organizer roles.
So last year we were able to have two WordCamps in the same year: one on the Sunshine Coast in May, and then another in Sydney in September. This was a significant move forward for our community and gives me hope that eventually, we can run multiple WordCamps across the country consistently.
Torque: How have you seen the local WordPress community change?
For our local community in Brisbane, I have seen it grow and become more organized and social. In the early days we had our meetups in a venue that we had to vacate at 8 p.m., so we would try to get members to keep the social interaction going at a nearby bar, but we would always lose a lot of people on the way.
We now have an awesome location at the Ephox office (who make the TinyMCE editor) so we don’t have to leave when the talks are finished, and we have some generous sponsors who allow us to supply drinks and pizza. As a result, we, are retaining attendees longer, and stronger friendships are being formed.
I have also seen a lot of new meetups form around us and grow, which allows people in areas away from Brisbane to engage in the community without traveling great distances.
This also means that for WordPress fanatics like myself, it is possible to attend at least one meetup each week and meet new people and learn amazing things about the platform on a regular basis.
Torque: How did you become an organizer for WordCamp Brisbane? How long have you been involved with WordPress?
I found the Brisbane WordPress meetup back in 2013 when I was learning about WordPress and stumbled across it on Google. I started attending religiously every month to gather information from the experts who volunteer their time to present, and to forge new relationships with others in the industry.
In 2014, I attended my first WordCamp in Sydney and immediately fell in love with the WordPress community. I still remember watching the speakers on stage and thinking to myself “one day, maybe in five or six years when I reach an elite level, I want to be up on that stage.”
Less than 12 months later I was speaking at WordCamp Brisbane, and while I was nowhere near the elite level, I had discovered that to speak at a WordCamp you just need a story to tell or a little bit of information to help someone learn something new about WordPress.
As I was watching the organizers, many of whom were friends, running around making this fantastic event happen, I thought to myself “one day I want to organize a WordCamp.”
Less than 12 months later, I was organizing my first WordCamp on the Sunshine Coast and for no other reason than a group of us put our hands up and said we can do that – and we did do it. I also found out first hand why we were only having one WordCamp a year in Australia: it is a lot of hard work.
In late 2016, a few of us from the Brisbane WordPress meetup decided it was time to have another one, and so here I am again, knee deep in speaker submissions and trying to source some awesome coffee for another WordCamp and loving every minute of it.
The WordPress community is full of some of the most amazing and friendliest people I have ever met in my life, and I always feel lucky to have found and be accepted as part of it.