This year, WordCamp US 2017 was held in Nashville, Tenn. A couple thousand WordPress users, of all levels, met at Music City Center to learn more about WordPress, and to hear about what the future holds for this content management system. This event was filled with hallway tracks for networking, a community bazaar to feature different parts of the community, a large sponsor area for attendees to seek out handy tools for their website, and much more.
However, to understand WordCamp, it’s important to know what it is and why you should go to one, along with some highlights from WordCamp US 2017 and what most attendees took away from the event this year.
What Is WordCamp?
According to WordCamp Central, WordCamp is:
"WordCamps are casual, locally-organized conferences covering everything related to WordPress, the free and open source personal publishing software that powers over 75 million sites on the web.”
However, even with the official definition of WordCamp, if you ask any WordPress user who has been to a WordCamp about what makes the event, you’d get a few different answers. Here are just a few of the responses:
“Family reunion.” ~ Topher DeRosia of HeroPress
“WordCamp is less about walking around and shaking hands and making deals, because I don't do that. It's more about seeing people I don't know, meeting people I don't know, and being able to see those people time and time again, and see how they grow within the community, as well within the business-end.” ~ Jason Tucker of WPWatercooler.com
“WordCamp is a place to learn about WordPress. it's also the place to get to connect with other people, who have been empowered by how simply WordPress is to use, and thus have been able to do amazing things. There's some education and inspiration in WordCamps.” ~ Daniel J. Lewis of The Audacity to Podcast
“WordCamp US is a dual excitement kind of thing for me. I get to meet up with a bunch of folks, especially those from the company I work for remotely, Human Made. I get to have a great time and build relationships with people.” ~ Katrina Moody of KatrinaMoody.com
“WordCamps are events for people who have any interest in WordPress. The frequent misconception I get is that people think WordCamp is for developers. It's not. It's for all users, and even business owners so they can take tips back home.” ~ David Laietta of Orange Blossom Media
“It's 100 percent the community. The WordCamp community at large is what has built my business, it pays my mortgage, it's what gets me up in the morning. As for this WordCamp, in terms of education, accessibility is something I want to learn. It's super important for my clients, and I've had to change some of my workflow to make my clients' sites more accessible on the internet.” ~ D’nelle Dowis of Berry-Interesting.com
Why go to a WordCamp?
There are a lot of reasons to go to a WordCamp. WordCamps are extremely affordable and local. Some conferences cost a few hundred dollars, where WordCamp fees are typically nominal. If you’re a small business owner who invests frugally, this type of conference gives way more bang for your buck.
That aside, here are some reasons from WordCamp US 2017 attendees for going:
“I wanted to catch up with my people, the people who are my friends, who are my family, who are close to me. I want to mutually help each other accelerate whatever my friends are doing.” ~ Topher DeRosia
“Everything I do, is built on WordPress. I love WordPress as a platform for creating content for running my business and selling things, so I'm a huge fan of WordPress. So, coming to WordCamp US, especially four hours away since I'm from Cincinnati, it's so accessible and there's such an energy around it.” ~ Daniel J. Lewis
“I was here last year, and I just had to come back. This year, we had a Women Who WP booth, and I'm one of the founders of it, so I wanted to be there for that. I also came here to learn a little more about Gutenberg, and finding how that will impact my business workflow.” ~ Jen Miller of NeedSomeonetoBlog.com
“My takeaway was the gender specific roles in WordPress. One of the talks I went to was gender fair WordPress, fixing translation inequalities at the core. Instead of Mr. WordPress, using a generic commenter in the WordPress blog itself. So, now I can go back to my daughter, and say how WordPress is doing this different for her gender, and make this less about Mr. This or Mr. That, or guy this, or guy that, and it's actually about women, transgender, and people of all shapes and sizes.” ~ Jason Tucker of WPWatercooler.com
Event Highlights of WordCamp US 2017
Being the third WordCamp US, the organizers worked hard to put together something unique. WordCamp US 2017 included highlights like:
- A community bazaar to showcase local WordPress communities and WordCamp-related activities (i.e., Wapu.us project)
- A hallway track that included sponsor booths
- A happiness bar for attendees to get help with their WordPress website
- An amazing after party at Adventure Science Center
Rather than talk about it, I’ll let some pictures speak for themselves:
Takeaways of WordCamp US 2017
Some of the biggest takeaway of WordCamp US 2017 can be summarized as:
- Accessibility is important
- In order to grow, you must become more diverse with your business or community
- If you want to contribute to WordPress, join a contributor day or just jump in and contribute where you can
- Gutenberg will bring a more true WYSIWYG to WordPress
- State of the Word
Let’s take a closer look at each one of these points.
Accessibility has been a growing topic throughout WordCamps in 2017, so it wasn’t a surprise to see this well covered. As a website owner, it’s important to make sure your website can be viewed and surfed as easily as possible — for anyone with any type of disability, be it mental or physical.
Diversity is necessary for growth
Some of the talks at WordCamp US 2017 were dealing with diversity, specifically how to include various types of people, regardless of community (such as LGBTQ), gender or race. The takeaway for these talks was that, in taking careful steps to properly communicate and do the work to include all types of people, we take a step forward to growing more as a community.
Contribute to WordPress
WordPress is an open-source community, which has grown because of the willingness of its volunteers — whether it is helping with the support forums, contributing code, designing free themes, helping with WordCamps, and much more. WordCamps are designed to be all inclusive and try to encourage every attendee to consider contributing in some manner. If you’d like to find out how to contribute, visit make.wordpress.org.
Gutenberg has been the biggest talk, and even concern, during WordCamp US 2017 since it will be implemented into WordPress. Gutenberg isn’t designed to replace WordPress, but to improve the WordPress content editor. For most WordPress users, when they started using the CMS, they were always told that the content editor was WYSIWYG. Unfortunately, with experience, that was not true.
Gutenberg is designed to be a true WYSIWYG — in what you see is really what you get.
State of the Word
State of the Word is the yearly talk that WordPress co-founder and CEO, Matt Mullenweg does for WordCamp US. This talk is geared to summarize the growth of WordPress and the community in the past year.
Here are some of the highlights from WordCamp US 2017’s State of the Word:
- The WordPress Foundation website now includes a donation area to collect money.
- Highlights from WordPress version 4.8 and 4.9.
- WordCamp stats were up in 2016, across the board on number of organizers, speakers, and sponsors.
- Attendance to local WordPress meetups were up 33.16 percent.
- WordPress.org landing pages available in 26 languages.
- Live demonstration of Gutenberg, done by Matías Ventura
- WP-Cli became an official project of WordPress.
- No new default theme was created for 2018 due to the focus on Gutenberg.
As for 2018, Matt said that he’d like to focus on the editing, customization, and theming for Gutenberg.
Convinced that a WordCamp is the WordPress event for you? Be sure to attend one in 2018. There are plenty of options, and who knows — you just might learn something new, make new friends, and become a WordPress pro.