Rants, Raves And Other Thoughts About WordCamp US 2017

This being my 5th WordCamp I have to admit the thrill is not quite what it used to be. Not that you should never go to a WordCamp which are held in many cities around the planet. You should go. You’ll find all kinds of designers, developers, marketers, business owners, bloggers and others who use and mostly love WordPress. All are friendly, helpful and define what the WP Community is about.

It’s just that I find the format tedious. Two days of 3 rooms with speakers that change about every hour. Yes, the lunches are great. The vendors you talk to in the Hallway Track are interesting and informative. And you’ll never attend a confab like this for just 40 bucks!

There is a Happiness Bar that I’ve never been to and at this WordCamp, a Gutenberg user testing table. I skipped that too.

I don’t mean to be a Dougie Downer here but I just have to tell it as I saw it.

State Of The Word 2017
 
Before I do my WordCamp US 2017 Rants And Raves you should know that most, if not all the talks (there were about 50) will be available on wordpress.tv. You can catch the highlight talk – “State Of The Word” – which is delivered every year by WordPress co-founder, Matt Mullenweg.

My Rants

Fat, Happy And Fifty

I have no idea why this talk, presented by Marc Benzakein, was allowed. This would have been appropriate for a self-improvement conferences. I was not interested in how a 49 year old lost 50 lbs in one year to acquire the body of Mr. Clean. Since I let after 25 minutes maybe I missed his big message but what I heard and saw was not for a WordCamp.

The Hallway Track

Vendors at WordCAmp US 2017

 

As mentioned, this is where I spent most of my time. Last year’s vendor’s area was more intimate. This year it was in a large convention room with a high ceiling and long distances to traverse. Not good. Too make it worse, vendors didn’t really have booths. Most had puny tables. The signage was poor and it took some time to figure out who was there.

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The bigs were there alright – Jetpack, GoDaddy, Bluehost, WP Engine and a new one – Google – which had the largest display. A fuss was made about their attendance. Why? I’m not sure.

Where Was Gutenberg?

Sure, there was a a small Gutenberg usability test area where two people at once could give Gutenberg a ride where the were clicks were recorded. Aside from that and the talks by Morten Rand-Hendriksen (a rave) and Matt Mullengweg’s “State Of The Word” talk about Gutenberg was just not there.

Surprising. Or maybe I missed something?

Nashville?

Grand Ole Opry

This is not a knock on Nashville. It’s a city that is undergoing a huge growth spurt for good reasons. But why was it picked for WordCamp US? It’s not easy to get to nor does it have an exceptional tech base. I could not figure out why it was picked over larger cities that have bigger WP communities.

When I think of Nashville, I think of music, don’t you?

My Raves

Gutenberg And The Future Of WordPress

I knew I was in for something special when I found out that Rand-Hendriksen was talking on Gutenberg and the future of WP. Moreten is a visionary and a well known WordPress instructor as a Senior Author on lynda.com. His big message came at the end. Gutenberg is our opportunity to make the changes that have to be made for WordPress. Embrace that change.

Gutenberg will not just be replacing the TinyMCE (WP editor). It will be the tool we will use to customize everything in WordPress in the next few years.

His talk alone was reason enough to be a WordCamp US this year.

The S\wag

WordCamp Swag
 

Why I even packed a bag of T-shirts for WordCamp is beyond me. A WordCamp tradition is how many T-shirts, mugs, portable chargers, stickers, pens and other swag I can stuff into my back pack. The most unusual item? Jetpack had a S’mores kit that captured the camping spirit.

In the Swag Department, this year’s WordCamp was no disappointment. I have a new wardrobe for a year.

Seeing Friends

Bud Kraus and Bob Dunn
 

This might be the real reason why I go to WordCamps. It’s a bit like a high school reunion. You see old buddies. People hug you that you don’t remember. New friends are made. Maybe you meet sometime that you’ve been emailing for a year and never met before.

If you don’t get the sense of community and shared purpose after you go to any WordCamp you probably never will. This WordCamp, like the others I have been to certainly did that.

And You?

Were you there? Or did you miss it and wish you had been? Leave your thoughts on this or any WordCamp below.

8 thoughts on “Rants, Raves And Other Thoughts About WordCamp US 2017”

  1. It may shock you that I’m responding (or maybe it won’t). At first, when I saw that you mentioned my presentation as a rant, I admit that it bugged me, but then I thought back to my presentation that I did years ago about WordCamps for n00bs in which I stated not to be afraid to walk out. Not every presentation is for everyone. And, as this is your forum, I’m not going to get into an argument about whether or not my talk was appropriate for a WordCamp. What concerns me more, though, is that maybe some of my points may have been missed. And if they were missed by you, they might have been missed by others.

    Much of what I talked about was, indeed, how it applied to my physical health, but I tried to present the points in a way that it could be applied to both a life and business philosophy (for instance, goals suck: focus on the process, and “just do better”). Of course, I used myself as an example, but that’s because it’s a subject I know intimately; sort of an important qualification IMO.

    I’d also point out that you might have missed the part where I mentioned that this was a talk that several people at WordCamp Europe specifically suggested I do. To be honest, it would have not occurred to me otherwise. After all, as you pointed out, what does it have to do with WordPress?

    Now, having said that all, I might also say that I sort of agree with you, which is why, after having been to close to 100 WordCamps, I tend to hang out exclusively in the hallway track. While I would not call the format tedious or overdone, what I would say is that it’s always been a sticking point with me that speakers are not given enough time. Many of the high end dev and technical talks should be given far more than 30 to 40 minutes; especially if they’re going to get into live demos.

    The truth is, you and I are probably not all that far apart on our feelings as seasoned veterans, but we have to keep in mind that these events are not exclusively made for us and just as important as it is to give value to those of us a bit long in the tooth (experience-wise) as it is to those new to WordPress and WordCamps. Diversity at every level is the recipe at WordCamps, and that’s why we’re allowed to walk out 25 minutes in. 🙂

    Reply
    • Marc

      I was a little terrified when I first saw your lengthy reply. I figured, “this is not going to be good and I probably deserve what’s coming.”

      Instead, I got a very thoughtful response from you that, among other things, recognized that I did not go after you or your presentation itself (which was good) just the rationale why it was approved for WC.

      One thing you got me thinking about is why isn’t WC more for guys like us. I think you are on to something when you say that some types of talks need to be longer. The one size fits all is not the right approach.

      Let me say good for you in getting into fighting shape. I’m not there yet but I did lose 25 lbs in the past year and have about 15 more to go. I’ll be thinking of you next visit to the gym which I hope is later today.

      Look at it this way. I stayed 25 minutes for your talk which was the longest I hung in there except for Morten’s talk.

      You’re a real mensch. If you don’t know what that means head to the Google machine.

      Thank you Marc!

      Reply
  2. I always try to look for valid points and not take things personally. I have pretty thick skin (and a thick head).

    One of the things you might not be aware of is that many WordCamps have workshops specifically to address the issue of too short of a session. The other thing is that the idea really is to give just an overview, so that you can either do your own research after or talk to the speaker directly. One of the things I really liked about WordCamp US this year was that they asked the speakers to go to the Happiness Bar after their talks for at least 30 minutes to answer questions about their presentation. For me, this was difficult because lunch immediately followed my talk, and after talking about health and diet for 40 minutes or so, I needed to stuff my face. Otherwise, I would have been there and you could have asked me why the heck I was doing a presentation at a WordCamp on health.

    I’d also add that of all the presentations I’ve done, this one was, by far, my favorite. Maybe you’ll go back and watch it again on wordpress.tv when it’s published with a new set of eyes. 🙂

    One last thing which is to say congratulations on your own personal journey. I had so many people come up to me and share their stories and many were truly humbling. I feel honored that I had the chance to get up in front of a bunch of my peers and talk about myself and my experience on one of the biggest WordCamp stages.

    Reply
  3. I was talking yesterday about how dangerous it is to sit at a computer all day. I don’t. I do get up but you hear stories about people sitting down all day, then they go home to watch TV, eat nachos and drink beer. I never did that.

    I know there are desks where you can stand and work all day. What a great idea. These desks can adjust for sitting as well. I’m sure you know about this.

    There is nothing so much as a son’s wedding that focuses a mind to lose weight. Five in the wedding party joined the “Shedding For The Wedding” campaign. We lost over 200 lbs.

    Did I get off topic here or what? Maybe not

    Reply
  4. Hey Bud, thought I would come in and give my .02. And thanks for sharing my pic with you under the raves 🙂

    As friends of both you and Marc, I am glad to see you reached a common bond 😉 But seriously, if you look at this as a local camp, yes, some of the topics seemed off-kilter. But on the other hand, I have attended tons of non-WC’s and saw the same. I do think it gives it enough variety for everyone. Also, talking to someone at Automattic, Matt M. does the final choices for the US. And he looks more for stories and inspiration vs. how to do it. So there’s that.

    When it comes to the same old, same old, well, honestly that is the way all conferences are. At a point you feel the sessions don’t fit you, you are beyond many of them and why are they doing the same old thing. As Marc said, we are not the typical attendee. That is why other conferences are cropping up in the space outside of WordCamps, which are more focused and a good direction.

    Gutenberg? Seriously not enough of it? Now I am being sarcastic. Between the test table, Morten’s talk, the hour long Q&A at the State of the Word that was guten-infested, and the hundreds of conversations, there was more than enough in my opinion. They could have created a Gutenberg hallway which would have probably ended up in more bitching than useful conversations 🙂

    Hallway track, that would have been in my Faves. Ha! I loved the format. Room to move and have conversations without being jammed packed in like sardines such as the two last US long hallway tracks. Conversations could grow and people could join them easily. Not smashed against each other, and the vendors loved it as people who were not interested in a specific booth weren’t forced to stand in front of it to chat with someone or talk to the vendor when having no interest in them. In fact several vendors told me how much they loved it. And yes, signage and placement was dependent on the level of sponsorship. Like a normal conference 🙂

    Nashville was Nashville. I personally don’t go for the city or atmosphere. But I did have some fun in the Johnny Cash museum.

    And yes, my raves are the conversations and people. Heck, look at how much fun we are having in that picture.

    Several people approached me and said this didn’t feel like a WordCamp. I agreed. It’s not a WordCamp, it’s WordCamp US. The pinnacle of WordCamps and it needs to be different and impressive. I loved it. But I also love the fact that you gave you thoughts and Marc, who is so cool, came in and you both had a great conversation here. That’s the WordPress community.

    And the fact is it will be different. Not everyone’s cup of tea. That is the way of the world with conferences, and I can take them or leave them. Cheers!

    Sorry for the long reply 🙂

    Reply
    • Hey Bob

      Thanks for taking your time to leave your reply.

      I guess I came to WC US this year with the wrong attitude. I know this to be the fact. Let’s just say I was in a mood. The wrong mood.

      But that doesn’t negate what I’ve said here. Funny, when I complained about the same old stuff here comes Marc with a different kind of presentation. And I gave the idea of his talk a rant. I guess there’s no pleasing me.

      I still think there was not enough on Gutenberg. It’s not like there was nothing on it but I expected more. I know it will the subject of 2018 and since I’m an organizer of WC NY 2018 I’ll have my chance to make sure we have lots on Mr. G.

      And you guys are right. WordCamps are probably not for us anymore. Strike that. They still are but there purpose for us has change over time.

      OBTW – I am in middle of a WordPress A to Z Webinar Series for members of Editors Canada. Today I discuss the blog and what do you know? Your comment was perfect timing to review how comments work!

      More visibiliyut for the legendary BobWP.

      Reply
  5. I enjoy reading posts like this, as I unfortunately couldn’t be at the event myself. It’s very interesting to see the different takeaways people have, and it is very refreshing to read Marcs and Bobs comments as well!

    While the cost does add up when considering hotels, flights, etc. I agree with you that it’s awesome that the price for an event of 2 days is kept at $40, and I think that shows a lot about the community, and that WordPress is for everyone.

    Hopefully I will see you next time!

    Reply
  6. Hi Joachim

    Yeah, too bad I didn’t get to meet the inventor of the cool and useful Content Aware Sidebars plugin. Hope you might make it to NY sometime next year. Maybe WordCamp NYC which I’m an organizer. We’re looking to make it something that will be over the top.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

8 thoughts on “Rants, Raves And Other Thoughts About WordCamp US 2017”

  1. It may shock you that I’m responding (or maybe it won’t). At first, when I saw that you mentioned my presentation as a rant, I admit that it bugged me, but then I thought back to my presentation that I did years ago about WordCamps for n00bs in which I stated not to be afraid to walk out. Not every presentation is for everyone. And, as this is your forum, I’m not going to get into an argument about whether or not my talk was appropriate for a WordCamp. What concerns me more, though, is that maybe some of my points may have been missed. And if they were missed by you, they might have been missed by others.

    Much of what I talked about was, indeed, how it applied to my physical health, but I tried to present the points in a way that it could be applied to both a life and business philosophy (for instance, goals suck: focus on the process, and “just do better”). Of course, I used myself as an example, but that’s because it’s a subject I know intimately; sort of an important qualification IMO.

    I’d also point out that you might have missed the part where I mentioned that this was a talk that several people at WordCamp Europe specifically suggested I do. To be honest, it would have not occurred to me otherwise. After all, as you pointed out, what does it have to do with WordPress?

    Now, having said that all, I might also say that I sort of agree with you, which is why, after having been to close to 100 WordCamps, I tend to hang out exclusively in the hallway track. While I would not call the format tedious or overdone, what I would say is that it’s always been a sticking point with me that speakers are not given enough time. Many of the high end dev and technical talks should be given far more than 30 to 40 minutes; especially if they’re going to get into live demos.

    The truth is, you and I are probably not all that far apart on our feelings as seasoned veterans, but we have to keep in mind that these events are not exclusively made for us and just as important as it is to give value to those of us a bit long in the tooth (experience-wise) as it is to those new to WordPress and WordCamps. Diversity at every level is the recipe at WordCamps, and that’s why we’re allowed to walk out 25 minutes in. 🙂

    Reply
    • Marc

      I was a little terrified when I first saw your lengthy reply. I figured, “this is not going to be good and I probably deserve what’s coming.”

      Instead, I got a very thoughtful response from you that, among other things, recognized that I did not go after you or your presentation itself (which was good) just the rationale why it was approved for WC.

      One thing you got me thinking about is why isn’t WC more for guys like us. I think you are on to something when you say that some types of talks need to be longer. The one size fits all is not the right approach.

      Let me say good for you in getting into fighting shape. I’m not there yet but I did lose 25 lbs in the past year and have about 15 more to go. I’ll be thinking of you next visit to the gym which I hope is later today.

      Look at it this way. I stayed 25 minutes for your talk which was the longest I hung in there except for Morten’s talk.

      You’re a real mensch. If you don’t know what that means head to the Google machine.

      Thank you Marc!

      Reply
  2. I always try to look for valid points and not take things personally. I have pretty thick skin (and a thick head).

    One of the things you might not be aware of is that many WordCamps have workshops specifically to address the issue of too short of a session. The other thing is that the idea really is to give just an overview, so that you can either do your own research after or talk to the speaker directly. One of the things I really liked about WordCamp US this year was that they asked the speakers to go to the Happiness Bar after their talks for at least 30 minutes to answer questions about their presentation. For me, this was difficult because lunch immediately followed my talk, and after talking about health and diet for 40 minutes or so, I needed to stuff my face. Otherwise, I would have been there and you could have asked me why the heck I was doing a presentation at a WordCamp on health.

    I’d also add that of all the presentations I’ve done, this one was, by far, my favorite. Maybe you’ll go back and watch it again on wordpress.tv when it’s published with a new set of eyes. 🙂

    One last thing which is to say congratulations on your own personal journey. I had so many people come up to me and share their stories and many were truly humbling. I feel honored that I had the chance to get up in front of a bunch of my peers and talk about myself and my experience on one of the biggest WordCamp stages.

    Reply
  3. I was talking yesterday about how dangerous it is to sit at a computer all day. I don’t. I do get up but you hear stories about people sitting down all day, then they go home to watch TV, eat nachos and drink beer. I never did that.

    I know there are desks where you can stand and work all day. What a great idea. These desks can adjust for sitting as well. I’m sure you know about this.

    There is nothing so much as a son’s wedding that focuses a mind to lose weight. Five in the wedding party joined the “Shedding For The Wedding” campaign. We lost over 200 lbs.

    Did I get off topic here or what? Maybe not

    Reply
  4. Hey Bud, thought I would come in and give my .02. And thanks for sharing my pic with you under the raves 🙂

    As friends of both you and Marc, I am glad to see you reached a common bond 😉 But seriously, if you look at this as a local camp, yes, some of the topics seemed off-kilter. But on the other hand, I have attended tons of non-WC’s and saw the same. I do think it gives it enough variety for everyone. Also, talking to someone at Automattic, Matt M. does the final choices for the US. And he looks more for stories and inspiration vs. how to do it. So there’s that.

    When it comes to the same old, same old, well, honestly that is the way all conferences are. At a point you feel the sessions don’t fit you, you are beyond many of them and why are they doing the same old thing. As Marc said, we are not the typical attendee. That is why other conferences are cropping up in the space outside of WordCamps, which are more focused and a good direction.

    Gutenberg? Seriously not enough of it? Now I am being sarcastic. Between the test table, Morten’s talk, the hour long Q&A at the State of the Word that was guten-infested, and the hundreds of conversations, there was more than enough in my opinion. They could have created a Gutenberg hallway which would have probably ended up in more bitching than useful conversations 🙂

    Hallway track, that would have been in my Faves. Ha! I loved the format. Room to move and have conversations without being jammed packed in like sardines such as the two last US long hallway tracks. Conversations could grow and people could join them easily. Not smashed against each other, and the vendors loved it as people who were not interested in a specific booth weren’t forced to stand in front of it to chat with someone or talk to the vendor when having no interest in them. In fact several vendors told me how much they loved it. And yes, signage and placement was dependent on the level of sponsorship. Like a normal conference 🙂

    Nashville was Nashville. I personally don’t go for the city or atmosphere. But I did have some fun in the Johnny Cash museum.

    And yes, my raves are the conversations and people. Heck, look at how much fun we are having in that picture.

    Several people approached me and said this didn’t feel like a WordCamp. I agreed. It’s not a WordCamp, it’s WordCamp US. The pinnacle of WordCamps and it needs to be different and impressive. I loved it. But I also love the fact that you gave you thoughts and Marc, who is so cool, came in and you both had a great conversation here. That’s the WordPress community.

    And the fact is it will be different. Not everyone’s cup of tea. That is the way of the world with conferences, and I can take them or leave them. Cheers!

    Sorry for the long reply 🙂

    Reply
    • Hey Bob

      Thanks for taking your time to leave your reply.

      I guess I came to WC US this year with the wrong attitude. I know this to be the fact. Let’s just say I was in a mood. The wrong mood.

      But that doesn’t negate what I’ve said here. Funny, when I complained about the same old stuff here comes Marc with a different kind of presentation. And I gave the idea of his talk a rant. I guess there’s no pleasing me.

      I still think there was not enough on Gutenberg. It’s not like there was nothing on it but I expected more. I know it will the subject of 2018 and since I’m an organizer of WC NY 2018 I’ll have my chance to make sure we have lots on Mr. G.

      And you guys are right. WordCamps are probably not for us anymore. Strike that. They still are but there purpose for us has change over time.

      OBTW – I am in middle of a WordPress A to Z Webinar Series for members of Editors Canada. Today I discuss the blog and what do you know? Your comment was perfect timing to review how comments work!

      More visibiliyut for the legendary BobWP.

      Reply
  5. I enjoy reading posts like this, as I unfortunately couldn’t be at the event myself. It’s very interesting to see the different takeaways people have, and it is very refreshing to read Marcs and Bobs comments as well!

    While the cost does add up when considering hotels, flights, etc. I agree with you that it’s awesome that the price for an event of 2 days is kept at $40, and I think that shows a lot about the community, and that WordPress is for everyone.

    Hopefully I will see you next time!

    Reply
  6. Hi Joachim

    Yeah, too bad I didn’t get to meet the inventor of the cool and useful Content Aware Sidebars plugin. Hope you might make it to NY sometime next year. Maybe WordCamp NYC which I’m an organizer. We’re looking to make it something that will be over the top.

    Reply

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