Published 5th June 2015
Last week I attended my fist WordCamp in Miami. As I said before it really was a week of firsts. It was my first time in the USA (and my first time in Miami obviously), my first long haul flight, my first WordCamp and the first time meeting the Delicious Brains team. It was a great trip and I came away feeling the benefit of so many of these new experiences. However the highlights of my trip weren’t always the ones I expected to have before I flew out.
The biggest highlight by far was meeting Brad, Ian, Iain, Ash and Jeff (and their better halves) from Delicious Brains. I’ve only been with the company for a few weeks so it was truly amazing to get the chance to meet with everyone so early. I’m pleased to report they are a bunch of great gents who are like-minded and super sharp. Now that I’ve met the team I can honestly say no amount of Slack/Skype compares to meeting people in real life. I know that may sound obvious, but in our modern workplace (i.e. the home) getting out and meeting people was refreshing and encouraging. If you are like me and spend most of your time within 20 feet of your bedroom, take my advice and go to a conference or meet your colleagues. It’s totally worth it.
Anyway on to WordCamp Miami. I can’t really compare this WordCamp to other WordCamps as this was my first, so I’m just comparing to my expectations of a WordCamp. There was your normal mix of nerds and “famous” WordPress people, and plenty of schwag. In general people were very friendly and the talks were great. It was awesome to finally hear people like Chris Lema and Mark Jaquith speak but I wouldn’t say I was blown away. It was about what I expected.
I was more impressed with talks from people I hadn’t heard of. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I learned about WP-CLI from Shaun Hooper and was seriously entertained at Morten Rand-Hendriksen’s talk on Designing for Informational User Experiences. I should point out here that we only went to the conference on the Saturday, as we were flying back on the Sunday and there was a bunch of talks I would have loved to have seen on the Sunday. However overall we probably only attended talks about 50% of the day. The rest of the time was spent networking or chilling which, it turns out, is one of the main points of WordCamps.
It was in the “hall track” that I experienced another unexpected highlight of my trip, meeting customers. Getting the opportunity to meet with people to use (and love) your product was exhilarating. It really does make you feel all warm inside. More importantly we got the chance to speak to people about their problems and how we might be able to solve them. As a team we walked away with a whole bunch of product and idea validation and that, I think, was the most valuable experience of the trip.
So the overriding theme in all of my highlights was that I got to meet people. There really is no substitute for it, and for that reason I’ll be going back to another WordCamp. Don’t get me wrong the location, the food and the talks were all great and I’d still consider myself an introvert, but I’ve come back with a fresh enthusiasm to get out there and meet people and share experiences with others. If you’ve never been to a WordCamp, and you’re a WordPress developer who works from home, go book a ticket for your nearest WordCamp. You won’t regret it.