WordCamp: Worth Your Time? Part 1
Is WordCamp worth your time? I present you with an unequivocal YES.
And also NO.
Let me address the “NO” first.
Three reasons WordCamp is not for you:
1. People annoy you and provide only interruption; you like to write. Or code. Or develop. Alone.
2. Friendly individuals skeeve you out. Especially if they want to shake hands. Or worse, hug. Hand sanitizer…where’s the hand sanitizer…
3. You prefer to stick with what you know. Learning is for school children and people with no better distractions.
And now for six “YES” reasons:
1. You enjoy spending time with like-minded, warm, engaging WordPress enthusiasts.
2. You’re okay with a couple of hugs. Maybe more than a couple. (This was my first event, so hug frequency may vary, depending on locale.)
3. You LOVE acquiring new information and methods. You are a collector of intelligence, a connoisseur of discovery. (For instance, when you open Thesaurus.com, you have to read the “Why October is called October” and “Why inflammable and flammable mean the same thing” articles before going back to actually research the word you wanted.)
4. You love to write, or to develop, or to code. You want to do these things even better. Small improvements snowball to success.
5. If you volunteer, you don’t mind being a little flexible. (In my case, I was assigned to be a runner but ended up helping coordinate lunch distribution and borrowing two fabulous Nikons to photograph the event.)
6. You OWN the AfterParty dance floor. You DESTROY mechanical bull riding. You are UNRIVALED in your ability to watch people dance and ride mechanical bulls. *Availability of mechanical bull riding not guaranteed.
I used Simplenote to record my thoughts upon arrival. No, they’re not paying me for the plug, but they should, because I can’t stop promoting this app. Simplenote is BEYOND AWESOME. Finally, I can enter my notes—verbally or in writing, via my phone or computer or other device—and then search my documents for anything I like. Nifty.
I arrive, just on time, thanks to a faulty GPS that kept sending me back out to the main road. I sit, observing for a few moments as the bright sunshine warms me through the driver window. Clear blue skies, scattered clouds—this couldn’t be a prettier day. Bloggers, developers, coders and other WordPress Advocatenthusiasts emerge from vehicles around me.
We are a diverse crowd, all colors and ages. A knot of middle-aged white women swarm past a pretty black girl. Her long curls bounce as she adjusts her leather bag. A couple of guys in hipster garb chat outside the door, puffing away at slim silver incarnations of the ubiquitous pipes of academia. I wonder if any of them, when alone, don vintage tweed jackets sporting leather elbow pads. Dressed in pink, a baby grins and drools from a kangaroo-style pack as her mother walks with easy rhythm.
I turn toward the sound of a red Dodge truck. A young man, exuding clean-cut-country-boy vibes, climbs out. He doesn’t strike me as a techie or writer, but we don’t all have to look like librarians, right? A man I categorize (in error) as possibly Hawaiian passes me on the sidewalk. Something about him strikes me and I have an immediate hope we’ll be friends. Inside, I almost collide with a tall, dark haired teen. I recognize him as Nik, the youngest speaker on today’s roster.
Foyer activity falls into the realm of controlled chaos. In spite of the last-minute withdrawal of three volunteers, organizers have the situation well in hand. I’m assigned to a hallway, directing traffic. Once the attendees are settled, I wander to the front table. One of the missing volunteers happens to be the photographer. I’m no professional, but I like to be behind a camera.
Kimberly sends me to find Arnel, owner of the first Nikon. I’m happy to find that he’s Mr. He-Seems-Super-Interesting from the sidewalk. He is, in fact, a gold mine of information. I like him even better after he lets me abscond with his super-cool camera and lenses. I get a quick tutorial for each and then scoot along to find subjects.
After helping distribute lunch, which is more fun than you’d think, I snap a few more shots, but Arnel needs his baby back. At loose ends and empty-handed, I make my way to the sponsor tables. Michael, with Semper Fi Web Design, is friendly and willing to answer my many questions.
For some, this may seem ridiculous, but I just haven’t been able to grasp the necessity of owning a domain. WordPress.com has been fine; I have no complaints. Michael answers every question without rolling his eyes or indicating his comprehension of how deep my ignorance runs regarding domains (and pretty much everything else technical).
He also never alludes to his position with the company. When he gives me information, he writes it on another individual’s business card. I have no idea he is the CEO until later, browsing the website.
If you’re wondering about whether you should pay to have your own domain, the answer is yes, you should. It’s sort of the difference between renting and buying a place to live. With a rental, you shouldn’t paint or hang pictures or otherwise make major improvements. Owning your domain equals ability to do pretty much whatever you like with your page. (And yes, you can stay with WordPress.)
In addition to being full of great advice, Michael also has an excellent Nikon. He asks me to take a few photos for his group, then allows me to steal it for a while.
(Must toot my own horn here: when I return it, he does not have to pry my cold, dead hands from the camera. I let go easily. Sort of. I used to have a D100, but gave it up because of the weight. This new equipment is so much lighter. Anyone want to buy me one for Christmas?)
Just before the last session, I take a group picture of some of the Women of WordPress. Shayna, one of the speakers, tells me she’s impressed with my ability to sneak the camera into sessions. “The only time I see you is as you leave; I never even notice when you’re snapping pictures.” Success! #IamBatman
Shayna turns out to be another great source of information, and she’s also quite funny. I’ve been waffling on whether to attend the afterparty, but since she’s going, I decide to join the fun. It’s the right choice for so many reasons. Conversation, food and people watching. Three of my favorite pastimes.
I decline to ride but take inordinate pleasure in the mechanical bull tossing people. It’s almost embarrassing…until I realize that I’m not alone. “RIDE! RIDE! Hang on! Ohhhhhhhhhh…” The collective shouts encourage even more riders.
As the line to ride dwindles, a live band gears up.
Amid the noise, Shayna explains HTML and CSS. My translation: HTML puts words on a page. CSS makes them pretty. Now I get it! She also convinces me that I need at least a basic understanding of how to use them.
Another attendee, Kate, suggests Codecademy, a free site that teaches the basics of coding, for free.
Since returning to real life, I completed a few lessons and am writing this post in the HTML tab, learning what all these cool little symbols do. Yes, I’m a blossoming geek. Don’t hate.
Thanks to all the great information and explanation from my new friends, I plan to migrate to a domain within the next few months. I understand that I should be able to do it without losing you, but you may have to sign up to follow again; we’ll see. I’m getting mixed messages on that one. Just thought I’d give a heads-up.
So, should you attend a WordCamp in your area? ABSOLUTELY. Unless, of course, you really hate having more fun than you can imagine with people who have a similar passion to your own. Also, if you don’t like making connections or learning, stay home. Otherwise, if one is nearby, ATTEND!
If you’ve already attended or plan to do so, tell us about it! What did you love? Do you wish something had been different? Was there an epiphany? Dish, or you’ll be next to ride the mechanical bull.
Photo above by Casey Alexander. Check out the gallery of some of my favorites— WordCamp: Worth Your Time? Part 2
*About half the pictures haven’t yet been posted on the website; once they are, I’ll share.