Being a WordCamp fangirl, I often find myself in a city I'd never visited previously, and this past weekend it was one in Wisconsin, for WordCamp Milwaukee 2016. There's no denying that part of what attracts people to attend multiple WordCamps each year is the pull to travel and take in new locales, as well as to make new friends and, of course, learn new things that propel us forward in business.
WordCamp Milwaukee took place in a beautiful old building in downtown Milwaukee that's being renovated and refashioned for mixed use space. It includes a continuing education university that held the WordCamp. Campers could relax here without needing to leave the controlled climate interior. We had a large room for gathering everyone for opening remarks, three adjacent speaking rooms for concurrent sessions, and lots of ideal sponsor table space alongside a great deal of seating for a comfortable Hallway Track.
WordCamp Milwaukee: ‘The Fun Camp’
Known to be on the smaller side as far as WordCamp attendance goes, WordCamp Milwaukee is also known to its alumni as “the fun Camp” (clearly both totally true and at the same time said with tongue-in-cheek). It seems to be that WordCamp Milwaukee’s fun quotient is somewhat tied to its ease, and I’m reminded of the advantage of smaller Camps — less overwhelming means more connecting.
This year's veteran organizer, Marc Benzakein, called out the importance of the Hallway Track in the opening remarks. He reminded attendees that stepping outside one's comfort zone at Camps is what built the relationships that have forged the incredible partnerships we hear about in the WordPress space — not to mention some of our most wonderful friendships.
First-timers, friends and speakers
I love that this Camp attracted first-time attendees like local businesswoman, Muslim community member and cause champion, Jill Ochoa, and Davo Hynds and Tonya Mork, who both spoke in sessions while jumping headfirst into their first WordCamp ever. And it’s so good to see great speakers and friends like Michelle Schulp, Josh Broton, Aaron Holbrook, Dan Beil and Tracy Apps tread the boards again.
There was a healthy mix of female speakers (I’m proud to report), also including Julie Kuehl, Kiera Howe, Shanta R. Nathawani and Erica Conway. In addition, #WCMKE theme designer Jamie Schmid led a four-session-long immersion into Site Development for beginners on Sunday.
In one of my favorite meet-agains, GoDaddy Scrum Master and friend Matthew Clancy was on site speaking about “Shifting the Mindset of Customer Support for WordPress.” We got to catch up after almost a year missing him from Camps after he switched roles to spend a good deal of 2016 setting up customer service hubs for GoDaddy excellence in Asia.
As WordCamp Milwaukee came to a close, I enjoyed asking attendees if they were able to take away any gems. I found faces lighting up with excitement about what they're looking forward to implementing, a bit of exhaustion with mental overload, and reports of fun had with the Bacon Bar, the cornhole games-infused after party at the old Pabst factory, the “Happy Days” theme replete with hula hoops and a pompadoured Wapuu, and dress-up moments at the photo booth.
For me, I walked away with cards full of photos I can't wait to share, moments precious to the WP Photo Project. Thanks so much to GoDaddy for sponsoring my presence at WordCamp Milwaukee 2016, now documented as a vital piece of WordCamp culture history and the ongoing growth of both the WordPress project and its community.