Looking back on WordCamp Boston 2016

Show up. Tell stories.

Prior to WordCamp Boston 2016, my only knowledge of the city came from “Boston Legal.” And as much as I loved those heartfelt bonding moments between James Spader and William Shatner on the balcony, they didn’t do much to familiarize me with the city of Boston proper. (Alas.)

Thankfully, the WordCamp Boston organizers did a much better job of introducing their hometown to a naive visitor like myself.

WordCamp Boston 2016 Boston University

WordCamp Boston 2016: Stories and serendipity

WordCamp Boston 2016 View

Boston University was a perfect venue in a perfect location. Perched on the shore of the Charles River, it offered a direct view of kayakers and boaters floating along in picturesque weather. (Not that we were envious or anything.)

Attendee check-in was effortless (props to John Eckman and Co. for rocking the registration desk), and the common space — wrapped by sponsors and filled with seating — encouraged mingling and conversation.

We saw more of that mingling during lunch, with attendees grabbing bagged meals and taking a seat at shared tables. And we saw it again at the after party, where there was enough seating for people to gather and chat over food and drink.

Now, I don’t know if this was intentional or not. Maybe the layout and seating, and the conversations and sharing they facilitated, was entirely serendipitous. It’s hard to say. But I do know that I walked away from WordCamp Boston with one word stuck in my head:

Stories.

We all have them. And for many of us — certainly those who are attending an event like #WCBOS — WordPress plays a key role in how our stories get shared.

WordCamps are great for sharing stories.

You meet people face-to-face, ask them questions, answer theirs, and learn how they’re using WordPress. We met artists in need of an online portfolio, crafters and makers looking to sell products to faraway customers, and writers who just wanted to share their work. They were moonlighters, retired, hobbyists, professionals and fresh college graduates (not surprising, considering we were in Boston).

There are a lot of places to hear stories at a WordCamp. They’re often the basis of great presentations. But I’d argue that the single best place to hear stories is in the hallway track.

Take the hallway track. It rocks.

 

And if you’ve never heard of the hallway track you’re probably asking yourself, “what the heck is a hallway track?”

The idea is simple: Instead of sitting in on sessions, you spend your time sitting in common spaces — like hallways, hence the name — chatting with other attendees. You can chat about whatever you want, WordPress or otherwise, and you’ll likely walk away with stronger connections than if you just sat in sessions.

Some say that hallway tracks are the best part of a WordCamp. (Just don’t try to find it on the schedule.)

Booths are boring.

The sponsor experience typically involves sitting behind a swag-covered table. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just a bit boring. So we tried something different this time, choosing instead to create a space that encourages the aforementioned hallway track moments.

GoDaddy WordCamp Boston 2016
Image: Kari Leigh Marucchi, Found Art Photography

We had some very interesting conversations about Pokémon Go, accessible technology, augmented reality, exotic candies, cat’s cradle, the chaos of Boston traffic, and (of course) WordPress.

WordCamp Boston 2016

We weren’t the only ones playing with the status quo, though. The Automattician duo of Konstantin Obenland and Michael Cain brought their pseudo-morning-television program to Boston in suave style. *cue rockin’ music*

The pair have been running this setup since WordCamp Phoenix in 2014, but it was my first time seeing it unfold in person. It was casual. It was fun.

It was everything that a community event like this should have, and frankly I hope we see more sessions like this at future WordCamps.

Getting involved means showing up.

Mel Choyce, the special guest on this installment of Cain & Obenland In The Morning, dropped an insightful line: getting involved is as simple as showing up.

Showing up. That’s all you have to do. You don’t need to speak. You don’t need to volunteer. You don’t need to sponsor. You just need to be there.

And that’s what WordCamps and WordPress meetups are for, right? Showing up.

And if you keep showing up, you may get comfortable enough to volunteer.

And once you start volunteering, you might feel comfortable to tell your story through a presentation.

And once you volunteer for a bit you might feel ready to organize a WordCamp, and help other people tell their stories.

You just gotta show up first.

Where should you show up?

If you’re in the Boston area, check out the local WordPress community. They have a meetup group, a Twitter profile, and a Facebook page to keep you in the loop.

If you’re not in the Boston area, check Meetup.com for a WordPress group near you, or the WordCamp Central website for upcoming WordCamps in your area.


Also published on Medium.