My WordCamp Columbus Experience

wordcamp If you’re reading this post, it means I returned home safe and sound! Although I will admit, I almost fell asleep on the way home! At any rate, I had a blast this past weekend at WordCamp Columbus. My day started at 5AM but I didn’t get on the road until 6. I arrived at the location at 8AM where the event table was laid out with all sorts of cool WordPress schwag such as stickers, pencils, little buttons, etc. I managed to grab a little button for my hat. The staff at the greeting table were friendly and helped out those who needed some questions answered. In fact, it was nice of the staff to have spare parking passes on hand in case those who attended forgot theirs.

As for the event itself, the venue was spacious, definitely climate controlled. Before the first presentation, the internet was working just fine. However, once Jane Wells started giving us the state of the word, the internet took a dump and it didn’t come back for me until the first part of the next session. It was unsteady throughout the rest of the day but at least I managed to record a few sessions which you can view here.

There were so many speakers that the day consisted of two tracks. This allowed attendees to define how they wanted to experience the event by only attending the sessions they were interested in. If attendees were not interested in sessions, a third room was setup for an unconference style of sharing information. I never had a chance to visit the unconference room but I heard it was a great atmosphere. The provided lunches were a great treat. Even though I wrote this on Twitter, I’ll say it again, the cookies in the lunch were AWESOME! So much so, one of the attendees at the event managed to grab me an extra pack of cookies to take home.

Unfortunately, due to live streaming the presentations, being active on Twitter as well as the forum chatroom, I was not able to concentrate much on the content presented most of the day. But I did manage to gain a few tips from Lorelle as they relate to speed blogging. My favorite session was the one by Noel Jackson where he discussed the future of themes. It was very interesting to hear his take on the matter and I agreed with most of what he said. I managed to get his presentation recorded on Ustream so give it a listen if you have time.

After the conference was over with, I managed to be part of the group which had dinner at a local place in downtown Columbus Ohio called the Elevator Brewery. A local brewery and pub which also had some pretty good food. By the way, this location was near a very cool looking piece of advertising for a Paint company. Check it out.

Don't Park under This Billboard!
Don't Park under This Billboard!

This group of people included myself, Jonathan Davis, John Dillick, Coffee2Code aka Scott Reilly, Lorelle VanFossen, Jane Wells, and Nick Momrik. We sat around for about four hours talking about EVERYTHING WordPress. In this four hour discussion, I felt like more was accomplished than a weeks worth of Twitter/Forum messages. It was great to talk face to face with a group of people who love WordPress and want all aspects of it to succeed. One of the more interesting aspects of the conversation involved Nick giving us an idea as to what he does for Automattic with regards to being a Happiness Engineer. We discussed things we wish we could unpublish from the net, what we would like to see happen to the software in the future, GPL (haha if you only knew how much GPL was mentioned in my presence, everyone would be drunk) but John Dillick had some great information regarding the topic, the problems associated with trying to create that one theme for all audiences, the difficulties of being backwards compatible, and so much more. Scott Reilly surprised the heck out of me when he said he still does most support for his plugins on the comment form of his blog, he still doesn’t use a forum. Scott is the author of about 64 plugins but he only has a dozen or so on the repository. Word is, he will at some point do a mass move to have them all on the repository.

Last but not least, it was awesome to see people come up to me and ask if I was Jeff Chandler, the guy of WordPress Weekly or some people said WPTavern. I felt that tingling sensation when I got to talk to people in person who are fans of both the show and the website. Many people told me that WordPress Weekly does a great job keeping them up to date on the happenings within the WordPress community. The biggest complaint I heard was the audio quality on top of some people coming in low while some were too high. I understand their complaints and I hope that at some point in the future, I’ll have the equipment necessary to fix that. As a side note, the business cards were a hit!

Things I Didn’t Like

I’m not sure how the impromptu session came about, but on the schedule for lunch, there was a video playing on the screen related to how WordPress helped changed peoples lives. After that, Mark Ghosh and Lorelle got together to discuss WordPress a bit and also got the audience involved. However, everyone was eating lunch and because of the video/talking taking place, the hour long lunch period featured very little time for networking.

It must have sucked to be the guy talking about WordPress in the enterprise to a room filled with people wanting to know about tools and techniques in creating a custom WordPress theme. The guy that was supposed to do that session ended up leaving due to a family emergency. I was looking forward to the theme talk as well but it was funny seeing Chris Poteet slam the built in WordPress search functionality. He had a short presentation but it was to a group of people not exactly into the topic. So the atmosphere didn’t gel well.

I’m in the same boat with alot of other people in that none of the speakers really dived into the guts of WordPress to either explain how to do things, or just explain what is there and how it works. On top of that, there were no speakers which talked about the future of WordPress, a visionary approach if you will. I bet if someone were to do a presentation highlighting five or ten things you could use WordPress for other than blogging, that room would have been filled.

I would have liked to have seen a session on the basics of WordPress plugin development. Something that could have been in done in 20 or 30 minutes explaining the guidelines, a good readme file which worked with the plugin repository, and maybe a few other things. My suggestion in the future is if you’re going to have two tracks, make one track WordPress centric where every session deals with the software while the second track deals with marketing, social networking, etc.

In Closing

In closing, I want to extend a special thank you to the organizers of WordCamp Columbus. This being their first event, it seemed to go over rather well. I hope there will be a round two come 2010. It was great to meet Jonathan Davis of the Shopp plugin in person, along with everyone else. Too many people to name but I had a great and memorable time. I’d show you some pictures or video clips of the event but I forgot my camera battery in the charger.

By the way, after participating in this WordCamp as a guest, I think I’ve made up my mind on being a presenter if there is a WordCamp Columbus in 2010. Right now, I think I could do a good job doing a session called WordPress Beginners. Introduce WordPress to those who are new or are thinking about using the software for their own project. Introduce people to themes, plugins, and provide some resources to help them progress with their project. You guys think I could do it?

Now to get ready for WordCamp Chicago in three short weeks.

Check out these other resources from the event:
Pictures from Mark Ghosh
Mike McBrides review of the event
Slides from the Internet Security session

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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