In 2016 I decided to get out more, business-wise, and while Maidstone is more than acceptable a place, adventuring further is a good thing and too-rare for me (there are reasons but won’t bore you…).
To start with I set my sights on WordCamp London, and as I knew few people in real life within the WordPress community (and it is quite a wonderful community, but more on that another time), figured that if I was a volunteer it would be easy to feel more a part of things. That works really well for me, otherwise I feel a bit of a wallflower/babsnomates and find it less easy to chat with people. Not that I needed to worry, there are so many friendly people there – quite astonishing – I thought the weekend would be wall-to-wall tech-types who would look at me with disdain for my lack of tech abilities, but far from it – of course there are a fair number of techies who know about Gits and PHP and stuff that sails over my head, but also plenty of people like me who use WordPress thoroughly, a good peppering of people who use WordPress for their business, and all kinds of everyone in between. And absolutely everyone was friendly – really – everyone! Add to that the insistence in providing a high level of accessibility for all needs – I was gaily wandering about with my rollator (OK, perhaps not gaily, more clumsily – I’ll get the hang of it one day 😉 ) and had few problems doing whatever I needed.
It was a great way to get to know some of the providers (aka sponsors) too – hosting (one of these I will be working with this year), security (though didn’t get a chance to ask more about that but will try to next time, if Sucuri are there), and others – not just for the swag but for being approachable and making me feel like I could ask stuff without feeling stupid. This is incredibly useful, and the swag is nice too – from Timpani mugs to Heart Internet pens, to SiteGround socks, to t-shirts galore – everyone does t-shirts and I do love the geek ones from 34sp, and my favourite from WP Engine (because it fits and cool design).
Limited though I know my knowledge to be I went along to the Contributor day – this is usually a day either side of a WordCamp when all kinds of things are worked on that contributes to WordPress. Because it is an open source project, which means it is free for us to use and open to anyone who wants to, well, contribute to the whole thing. And there are all kinds of ways to help – from deep tech stuff, to translating, to accessibility, to community. I met some wonderful Italians and learned how they had worked hard to build the WordPress community in Italy – it was incredibly tempting to go to WordCamp Milan but I’m not up to that just yet – one day, though… From that day and talking with them Maidstone WordPress Meetups was born – not that this has taken off yet but I will keep at it and work to make it something useful for the people who use WordPress locally.
And then the actual conference weekend was filled with helping out and generally being a part of it all. I caught some useful talks and looked after the timekeeping for some, so got to enjoy those too, and pretty much hovered about being useful (loved that!) or getting in the way (nobody minded that).
And the speakers – a great mix of topics; I learned a thing or two, and I love that anyone can be a speaker, anyone with something useful to say, at any level, that will appeal to WordCamp visitors. I came away thinking that even I could offer something of value so when the call for speakers to WordCamp Brighton came along, I applied and was thrilled to be chosen for a 10 minute (Lightning) talk about keeping clients happy. And I’ll do it again, but not this year – this year I’m taking care of organising the volunteers at WordCamp London! Beyond that – well definitely more, perhaps WordCamp Europe as it is in Paris this year, and I’d love to attend Bristol or even speak, but all this of course has to fit in with work. No doubt I’ll share more on WordCamp adventures with you, and would love to hear of yours…