My WordCamp Chicago Experience

I’m back safe and sound from WordCamp Chicago and boy what a trip it was. I managed to make it alive although a few times, I ended up in hairy situations.

On My Way:

As you might have noticed in posts leading up to the event, I wasn’t to keen on driving through downtown Chicago. However, the drive their was pretty uneventful to say the least. Thanks to this trip, I’ve found out that between here and there is whole lot of nothing. The one thing I really noticed on this trip is how bad the city of Gary, Indiana smells. I could tell I was in the city just by it’s smell. Doing some more research, it’s one of those cities that boomed during the heavy industry days but is now on the decline with a high rate of crime throughout the city. Thank goodness I didn’t break down around those parts. Another thing worthy of note is that I took the turnpike from Ohio just about all the way to Illinois. Total charges for tolls were over $20.00. Next time, I might fly into O’Hare and take the train into town.

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Once I reached the outskirts of Chicago, traffic became a mess. I’m not sure who thought of the Interstate system in Chicago but they did a terrible job. Five lanes or more of traffic filled with semi trucks and cars were all at a deadlock trying to merge on the correct highway. That being I90/94 or I55 south. Took me a few tries but I ended up getting off at the right exit.

Sweet! Pizza Time:

Once I arrived at the hotel, I awaited the arrival of Brad Williams and the Web Dev Studios team as they were scheduled to be at the hotel at around 6PM. We also scheduled an unofficial pre-pizza party at Lou Malnatis. Unfortunately Brad’s plane was delayed numerous times. However, once they got in the air, I met up with a few other people at the pizza place and in the end, we all had a great time with Lisa Sabin Wilson stopping by along with her husband and a few other people. Lou’s pizza was simply awesome. I don’t know how else to describe it. If you’re ever in Chicago, definitely drop by Lou’s and order “The Lou“. You’ll be glad you did.

The Actual WordCamp

Instead of providing a detailed review of everything, I’ll just tell you the highlights and what I thought of the event overall. While the internet was supposed to have worked rather well, it turns out that WordCamp strikes again as being the ultimate test for a facilities internet connection. It failed horribly. The access points were about as unreliable as you can be and when they worked, the speeds were slow. Thankfully, Lisa’s husband grabbed a few access points he had and placed them outside of the conference room which seemed to improve the wireless. But overall, the wireless was very inconsistent.

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Out of all of the presentations, the one on personal branding by Micha Baldwin was my favorite. Not only did he present the information in an entertaining way, but he made some excellent points. This was one of the few times where an explanation about personal branding actually made sense to me. Matt’s state of the Word was also a good presentation. Tim Frick who works for MightyBytes.com I thought had an interesting presentation thanks in large part to him showing off various backends of competing content management systems such as Expression Engine, MovableType, etc.

One of the best things about this particular wordcamp were the 15-20 minute breaks after each session. This provided a substantial amount of networking time during the event. I also noticed that thanks to these networking breaks, the entire room stayed full for just about every presentation. Something I haven’t seen before in other WordCamps. I’d much rather have breaks after a presentation than one session after another.

During the event, Brian Gardner and Lisa were already gathering feedback in preparation for next years event. It looks like the majority of folks want to see a two track, one day event. A business, blogging, social networking type track and a more developer focused type track. It will be interesting to see the lineup of speakers for next year.

As for the venue itself, I liked the accommodations. There were adequate power strips to keep our notebooks going, rounded tables, a great complimentary breakfast on both days, and space outside of the conference room for networking. As far as I can tell, the wireless in this conference room was the only major drawback from having a conference in the UBS building.

After Party:

The after party on Saturday was held at Morton’s Steakhouse. If I were you, I wouldn’t plan on eating here unless you won the lottery, or somehow came across a chunk of change to spend. Most items on the menu range from 40 to 70 dollars. I ended up getting a 12 oz New York Strip cooked Medium for about $42.00 with a side of potato skins. While I generally use A-1 steak sauce on every steak I eat, I chose not to ask for A-1 this time around as I felt as though it would insult the restaurant. However, I have to say that I wasn’t impressed. The cut of meat tasted good but for some reason, I felt like I had better tasting steaks from Longhorn Steakhouse which are exceptionally cheaper than Morton’s. The potato skins tasted pretty good though, no complaints there.

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I hung around Morton’s with the RocketGenius crew for a few hours until the place emptied out. The hour before we all left Morton’s was really cool as we sat around the table with Matt and talked about whatever came to mind. It was a great time.

The Wrap Up:

Matt’s state of the word wrapped up a fantastic event on Sunday. The conference lasted from 9AM – 1PM and boy did time fly. I had the unique opportunity to participate in the WordCamp Chicago promo video which you can watch here, as well as network with people outside of the conference room. Once 1PM came around, we all said our goodbyes and went off our separate ways. Although, a group of people headed off to try out some famous Italian Beef, I decided to hit the road.

Thanks:

Before I end this post, I want to take this opportunity to thank Lisa Sabin Wilson and Brian Gardner for putting this event together. For their first organized WordCamp, 95% of the event went off without a hitch. I also want to thank the following people for getting in touch with me to talk WordPress while at the event. If you’re name is not on this list and you conversed with me, don’t fret it. Just give me a business card next time.

Gary LaPoint – http://GarySaid.com
The Rocket Genius Crew – http://www.rocketgenius.com
The WebDevStudios Crew – http://www.webdevstudios.com
Anthony Montalbano – http://www.tangentthinking.com
Tom Altman – http://www.altmanville.com
Josh Conner – http://www.ibgdg.com
Troy Christensen – http://www.iowapga.com
James Bird – http://www.marshalfirth.com
Bob Randklev – http://www.cyberinnovation.com
Mary DuQuaine – http://www.contemplatingfaith.com

If you would like to see my photos from the trip, check out my WordCamp Chicago photo set on Flickr. Alternatively, you can watch my latest videos on YouTube in which I have three or four from Chicago.

P.S. Please step forward if you’re the one who provided this terrible head cold!

Who is Jeff Chandler


Jeff Chandler is a WordPress guy in the buckeye state. Contributing writer for WPTavern. Have been writing about WordPress since 2007. Host of the WordPress Weekly Podcast.

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