WordCamp Savannah Flashback

Or, Why You Should Attend a WordCamp Near You

Talking with Matt Mullenweg

Talking with Matt Mullenweg

I know. WordCamp Savannah was months ago back in the sultry summer days of August. You’re probably wondering why I’d write about it now. I mean it’s almost Christmas!

Well there are a couple reasons.

First, I never really shared what WordCamps are all about and why you should want to attend one.

The second reason I’m posting this new is that Frank Niemeir took some photos of me there. I talked with him at the time about getting copies of them, but I forgot about it and I’m sure he’s a busy guy. However Frank just emailed me the shots. Not that it would be hard to guess the ones Frank took based on quality alone, but they are the ones that I am in. (The other 2 came from my camera.)

Oh, and as an aside, check out the photo on Frank’s home page. If you click on it you will see the “before” and “after” versions of how he edited the photo in Photoshop. It’s pretty cool what he does.

What WordCamp Is

WordCamp Savannah 2010

WordCamp Savannah 2010

WordCamps are grass roots community organized events put on by WordPress enthusiasts to bring together folks interested in the platform. Because the experience level of attendees often ranges from the core development team on down to people who have never used WordPress before there is nearly always something for everyone.

That broad spectrum approach makes WordCamps a great place to get your inner geek on without worrying about your eyes glazing over from over the top tech talk. There are developer tracks and newbie tracks. And some of the larger WordCamps will have other tracks as well.

Ultimately the two biggest advantages to attending WordCamps is learning more about WordPress and networking with other folks who are interested in WordPress. At WordCamp Savannah, for example, about half of the attendees were business men and women who were relatively new to WordPress and were looking to tap into the power of the platform to promote their businesses better online.

My WordCamp Experience

Since I do a fair amount of WordPress training as part of my business I volunteered to help out on the first day of WordCamp Savannah to answer questions in the beginner session. I’m pretty good at translating geek-speak into normal language so it was a natural contribution for me to make. And since we had something like 65 folks in the beginner session there was plenty for me to do that day. And I met some great folks too!

Chris w/some WordPress core developers

Matt, Chris, Mark and Andrew

That evening as we were all getting ready to head out the door, Jane Wells, who organized our event, asked me if I would be willing to fill in for a speaker who dropped out at the last minute. Since I’ve got no problem running my mouth I said sure!

So that night I put together a little 30 minute talk about some of the less common features that can be found in some WordPress themes, and presented it the next day.

And I got to meet some folks in person that I’d seen around online for years like WordPress core developers Mark Jaquith and Andrew Nacin. I also met a ton of new folks too like Shayne Anderson of 9Seeds and Sally Strebel from Page.ly. In fact, SuccessCREEations now offers WordPress web hosting because of that connection with Page.ly. Not only that, but Otto spent some time helping me out with a technical question I had about oEmbeds.

Whew!

Matt Mullenweg

Over the course of the weekend I ended up spending a little bit of time with WordPress founder, Matt Mullenweg.

It started at the end of one of the days with a brief conversation that ranged across a few subjects. I shared the basics of a project I’m working on (which has since changed directions and morphed into something much bigger than I anticipated at the time. I can’t wait to tell y’all about it!)

Matt & Jane at the Crab Shack

Matt & Jane at the Crab Shack

At least I thought it was a brief conversation at the time. But looking at the photo Frank took of us shaking hands at the end of it I see everyone else has left. (Gorgeous asked me when she saw the photo this morning, “Was that staged?” No. We just talked longer than I realized. In fact I didn’t even know Frank took that one.)

Because I was a “pinch-speaker” I got invited to the speaker’s dinner after the conference. As we sat down I ended up at a table with Matt, Otto, and Michael Torbert, the guy behind the All In One SEO Pack plugin (which happens to be the most popular WordPress plugin behind the Akismet spam filter.) Let’s just say I did a lot of listening at dinner that night. 🙂

We ate at the Crab Shack out on Tybee Island so I offered to give folks rides back to their hotels back in Savannah since I was headed that way. Matt along with a couple other folks too me up on that.

Why do I share all this?

Well I say this to explain that I got a tiny peek at the guy who is arguably the single most influential person behind WordPress. (I’ve heard the terms benevolent dictatorship and oligarchy used to describe the WordPress organization, though I don’t know how fair those characterizations are.)

For me that was a refining moment as far as my business is concerned. SuccessCREEations has always been heavily oriented towards the WordPress platform. And because I liked what I saw when I got an up close and personal look at some of the WordPress core team I’ve made the decision to double down and hitch my company’s future to WordPress.

Matt & Chris

Matt & Me

Sure Matt comes across as a very nice guy. It was obvious to me that the decision making filter he uses is “What will be the best thing for the WordPress community as a whole.” I’m especially impressed that he is as poised as he is and has such a clear vision for the future of WordPress that he does. I’m here to tell you that if I had the influence that Matt does at his relatively young age I would have made a complete hash of things. He is wise beyond his years. After meeting him I am confident that he will continue to steer the WordPress platform a direction that is compatible with my own core values and those of my business.

Now I’m not saying that attending a WordCamp near you will necessarily change the direction of your whole business like it did mine.

But it just might.

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