There I was, staring down at Philadelphia from a plane on my way home to a colder state. The past few days were a whirlwind of fun, meeting people and learning about how others do business in this industry.
I wanted to take a moment to write down some of the highlights for myself and pass it along to others. If you’ve read my post on why WordCamps are what is right with the world – you know what WCUS means to me – if not, you should check it out.
So what is #WCUS – or WordCamp US?
It’s a geek carnival of sorts. It’s where almost 1,900 computer geeks (self proclaimed by the way) get together in one place to learn what others are doing, see how to optimize their own workflow, learn about new products and drink a healthy amount of alcohol at the after parties.
There are talks about security, REST API, design, content and SO much more. If you are a beginner – WordCamps are for you. If you are a pro – WordCamps are for you. It’s all inclusive and tickets are only $40 – not too bad considering the value you get.
So let’s break it down a little bit more. If you have read my post on WordCamps in the past, then you know it’s all about meeting people and making connections. My personal goal at every WC is to meet 3 new people and make lasting connections. At WCUS I was able to far exceed that number and it’s absolutely wonderful.
As you may know, I was sent along by the great people at GoDaddy to be an evangelist of sorts. I’m an avid user of GoDaddy products, so it’s really a natural fit for me. I mention this as a disclaimer, but also to explain that I was able to connect with the whole crew from ManageWP.
Let me tell you, these guys and gals are amazing. They really know their stuff and are excited to help anyone and everyone. Their job at WCUS was to simply enjoy the event, but they were dying to show how the product could help people and even organized a live demo.
Needless to say, I signed up on the spot (because it’s free with my GoDaddy hosting) and am already seeing the benefits. Again, this isn’t an ad for them – it’s simply the truth. I can’t even name the whole team as there were at least 7 people from ManageWP, but I was able to make a connection with every single one of them.
Let’s move on to others now, shall we? I was able to do a small interview with Logan at SiteLock – another program I am going to sign up for and try out – which was a blast. I can’t wait to see that one when it’s all edited and will make sure I add the link in when it’s available.
I also connected with Lilly over at Media Temple and took home some of their amazing swag. Although GoDaddy managed hosting works for 99% of my clients, I will definitely be trying out the Media Temple services and running tests to see how it works for me. I even won some great swag from them, which I quite enjoyed having on the plane ride home!
I met countless web design companies that were eager to share their secrets. Yes, you read that right – they shared their secrets. That’s why I love this community so much. There is enough tide to float all boats, right? We work together for the greater good.
We are in business to make money, there is no doubt about that, but there is enough traffic and business out there for all of us… Why not work together to grow better companies who can all succeed? In fact, one of the companies employs mainly (if not all) US Veterans as a way to give back – how cool is that?
What’s WCUS like? Why should I go?
As mentioned, I was sponsored to attend, so my point of view may be slightly different than others.
I arrived on Thursday, dropped off my stuff at the hotel, and went straight over to the venue to “help” setup. I say “help” because the whole ManageWP crew was there organizing away. If they are this good at organizing swag, I can’t imagine how great their coding organizational skills are.
The sponsor hall was filled with boxes and people running around setting up booths to prepare for the masses that following morning. After the booth was good to go, we all got together and hit up a local bar.
As a rule, you are not allowed to go a night without drinks. That might be a protocol somewhere – or maybe that’s just how I visit the camps. This was a great opportunity to talk to some who I had just met and also catch up with friends made last year. Then it was off to bed with lots of water in an attempt to recover before morning.
Get up – grab swag – meet amazing people.
At around 8 AM, we arrived at the venue to finalize our setup – which consisted of getting out some amazing pins. The pins were designed by Michelle Schulp who also designed the killer coins for GoDaddy at WordCamp US 2015.
These pins were sure to spark some discussion and that they did. As soon as people came in, they began grabbing them, trading them online and discussing the latest products with us. At times I’d sneak away to chat with other vendors and attendees.
This continued for a few hours before I was able to grab lunch. WCUS did it again with a great band playing for our entertainment – I believe it was actually the same local band as last year. The music reminded you of where you were and why Philadelphia was such a great location for the event.
As the day winded down, we refreshed at the hotel and headed over to the GoDaddy after party. Oh my – how many people can you fit into an awesome little two story restaurant? Well, I think we found out.
It was the place to be to kick off the night and did not disappoint. The food was on point, the talk by Mendel and Vladimir showcased why the partnership between ManageWP and GoDaddy would be a perfect fit, and again – the connections! You don’t go to an after party like this without running into the who’s who of this industry.
From there we hopped over and crashed the Media Temple party – another one that tested a restaurant’s maximum capacity.
Go home. Rest. Day Two.
Day two was just as great as day one for WordCamp US. I was able to spend a little more one-on-one time with attendees and discuss the issues some were facing to provide solutions – or at least direct them to the right person.
I approach these issues from a slightly different angle than some because I’ve been there, I’ve encountered the same problems, and in time have overcome them. I wasn’t simply trying to push product on someone, but rather help them find the solution to best fit their needs.
The best part of WCUS is when there was a question I wasn’t able to answer, I simply pointed my finger and said ‘he/she is the person you really want to talk to’. Where else do you get to do that? The day went off without a hitch and closed with another great talk by Matt Mullenweg on the yearly State of the Word.
Matt (yeah, I’m going first name like we’re buds) announced that the WordPress foundation will support HackTheHood, InternetArchive and BlackGirlsCode – which is an awesome direction to head. WordPress and the community is vast and should always be inclusive of everyone.
Positive steps like these make me excited to be part of the WordPress community and its movement! Although I can’t go into every detail of what Matt talked about – there IS a blog post on just this, check out the State of the Word post from Post Status.
Can you say ‘Most amazing after party ever?’ We just did.
The party was to take place at the Academy of Natural Sciences. I think I can speak for everyone in saying it exceeded our expectations.
Normally the after party would be at a large bar or somewhere else to mingle and get a few drinks. This was an experience like no other, however. Sip a drink and munch on apps in the shadow of a reconstructed T-Rex!
Just when you thought you’ve seen everything, you end up in the auditorium – where there is karaoke. Now I’m not sure if you know the sort of people we are dealing with here. If I can generalize for just a moment, the majority of the 1,900 people at WCUS are introverts. We like people, but we’re not an overly social crowd. Watching others get up stage and have a blast was an amazing touch. When else can you sing karaoke… in a museum… with dinosaurs… ? I mean, come on – that’s just one for the books. Huge congrats to all that had the courage to get on stage and have a great time.
Contributor day – giving back to the community.
Many people were able to make it back for Sunday’s contributor day and work on different parts of WordPress to give back.
Since there are so many visiting from other countries, what better time to work on the translation aspects? What happens when this is combined with a ton of high end developers? Work on the code! This was such a great opportunity and good part of the event.
I won’t lie, however – I had to catch a flight so I was only able to pop in for a short period of time. I wanted to see a little bit more of what Philadelphia has to offer – there is so much history here after all. I was able to sneak away to Independence Hall and stand in the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed.
The feeling that rushes over you in that room is just insane. You can practically feel the heritage of our country in the air and it made me wish I could have been a fly on the wall back in the day. I can’t wait to bring my daughter back in a year or two to walk with her through it.
Then – we fly home.
This is the time when the WordCamp high starts to wear off. This is when we reflect on the whirlwind of what happened and the people we met. I know it’s a great opportunity for myself and I’m forever grateful to a few people in particular.
Mendel, Noah, and Isaac – you guys are amazing and without you this trip would not have been possible. You truly believe in what you do and that’s why you are amazing at it. Keep it up and I look forward to hanging out again and again.
There it is folks – my wrap up for WordCamp US 2016. Did you make it? What were your favorite take aways? Did we meet? Will you be at another WordCamp? Fill me in!!