WordCamp San Francisco

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WordCamp Haiku (photo courtesy ramiabraham)

It’s fitting that the very first post about a WordCamp on get_transient is a post about WordCamp San Francisco. It is the biggest WordCamp in the world and it’s pretty much like being beamed aboard the mothership. Erick, Hanni, and I all attended, and it was during that trip that we got together for lunch (Osha Thai), talked about setting this blog up, and it was in one of the conference rooms at the Automattic offices that we doodled on the board trying to come up with a name for the blog (tramp, vagrant, and hobo were all discussed before we settled on transient).

The event was two days, two tracks, and two tracks was the perfect size. Having attended a lot of WordCamps over the past few years, my preference is always a two track conference. After all, it follows the WordPress credo of “decisions, not options.” Trying to decide between thirteen or even five different presentations at once is way too hard! I want the organisers to make that choice for me. Two tracks also makes for a better experience for speakers as it means they won’t end up speaking to a large, empty, room.

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That’s me looking shocked by something Dave Martin has said

Not only was it my first WordCamp San Francisco, but I was also speaking. The speaking experience was great: I was able to do a rehearsal the day before (thanks Amy, Tammie, Carrie, Ryan, & Kirk!), everyone was friendly and helpful, and it was a lovely audience to speak to. When I broke my microphone a few minutes before the event started the sound guy didn’t even get annoyed with me. My presentation seemed to go down well, but then how could it not when I had so many pictures of lego? (yay for gimmicks!)

After I had spoken, I went upstairs and had fun introducing the rest of the speakers. It’s a privilege to introduce on stage people whose work you admire. It also meant that I was flitting around much less than usual. Usually I get lured away by conversations in the hallway but this time I stayed in one place throughout. Focusing on the speakers rather than the chats in the hallway changes your overall experience of the event. Your mind is very much on the speaker, concentrating and reflecting on what they’re saying (as opposed to the usual frenzy of networking).

By the end of the day I was exhausted so I slinked off with some of the girls for some Eritrean food on the other side of San Francisco. This was a good time to decompress – less talk about WordPress and more enjoyment of beef kitfo and beer. I thought that I would go home, have an early night, and get up bright and breezy the next day, but somehow my colleague Scott Reilly and I ended up back in the Automattic offices, helping to write the WordPress 3.6 about page until 5am. This was my first experience of writing by committee and luckily I had a large glass of gin on hand. After discussions of various minutiae (such as the merits of the word “motif”), we got through the few paragraphs and it was committed (yay!).

The next morning was a write-off. I rolled into the conference late, and after Matt’s State of the Word (read Brian’s excellent write-up of it), disappeared to interview Toni Schneider (CEO of Automattic) for the book that I’m working on about WordPress. We sat in one of the storage rooms, serenaded by the jazz music outside, and talked for hours about WordPress. Toni has quite different insights to many of the people I’ve talked to so far; A lot of what I’ve been focused on has been the early days of WordPress – this was much more concerned with Automattic and the relationship between the community and the company.

But back to the WordCamp. After I finished with Toni I ate lunch, wrote a haiku, ate dinner, and went to the Saturday party. Lots of whiskey was drunk. There was tequila. Not much more needs to be said.

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Alison Barrett playing guitar hero

The Contributor Day was a huge success. Last year, this part of the conference was called the “developer hack day” and some of the phrasing on the website was off-putting to people who weren’t developers. This year, however, it was clear that everyone was welcome. The Automattic offices were taken over by WordPress contributors. Docs and support had nearly as many contributors as core, which was so great to see. For docs, we split people up into people working on the theme developer handbook, and people working on user docs. There was also a group of people working on transcriptions of videos for WordPress.tv. We did a lot of work and I’m still trying to catch up on processing everything. A big thank you to everyone who came along. I hope that it’s replicated at other WordCamps across the world.

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Mika Epstein helping out contributors answer support queries

I stuck around after WordCamp for a few days to work with some people in San Francisco and to carry out some more interviews for the book. Also, there are always a few people to hang out with after WordCamp (eat dinner, chill out, and socialise in a non-WordPressy way). My next post will cover some of the more practical things that I learned about being in San Francisco (particularly in that very small area around the Automattic offices). When I left San Francisco at the end of the week I was very sad to go. I’ve loved that city even longer than I’ve used WordPress, and it was wonderful to be able to experience it in a totally new way. Looking forward to next year!

You can follow what happened at WCSF on the WP Armchair page and check out all of the videos on WordCamp.tv.

Thanks to Kevin Conboy and Sheri Bigelow for the photos.

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