Last Friday and Saturday I got a chance to attend the first ever WordCamp U.S. in Philadelphia.And it was all possible because of a generous sponsorship from GoDaddy. If you know me, you know that I am not one to use the word awesome.
But this experience, was, well, awesome.
When I got to my hotel that first day, I had exactly 5 minutes to catch the GoDaddy Party Bus to the Plugin Developers dinner. More about the Party Bus later.
So back to the dinner. You are probably asking why was a dinner for plugin developers. (Unless I have secretly been creating plugins — which is never going to happen.) But Mendel from GoDaddy invited me and I figured If anyone wondered why I was there —which no one did— I would reply that, with 55 plugins on my site, I am a role model for plugins.
The dinner was incredible. (And the food was pretty good, too.) It was a who’s who of plugin devs. I knew many of them from online and had built relationships via social, but here they were IRL, all in one room. It was damn fun and I learned a lot.
Another party followed, this one open to all WordCamp attendees, and the fun continued.
Let me set the scene.
Imagine going to a conference, knowing that there are going to be 1,801 people (yes that was the official count of ticket sales). A majority of them will be people you know— some you have met in person before, but a lot more you’ve only known on social.
And you walk in.
All I can say is it was freakin’ amazing. And throughout it all, in catching up with old friends and making new ones, people I didn’t know were coming up to me and asking, “Aren’t you BobWP”? It was massive WordPress peeps overload.
And I loved it.
There were a lot of excellent sessions, but I spent more of my time just talking to people. In fact, as I write this on the plane going home, my throat is sore. I am not sure if that is from a cold coming on, or from overused vocal cords.
There are two mainstays with WordCamp sponsors: There are the friendly, experienced, people they put in their booths. And then there is the cool swag. In fact, I don’t believe I have bought a new t-shirt since I started going to WordCamps.
So, on day two, I did it all again.
The GoDaddy Team
Before I talk about them, let me just say that all the sponsors that had booths were amazing. There were continuous crowds around each booth with people asking questions about the products and services, collecting cool swag, and basically having a good time. This sponsors are the engine that make WordCamps happen. Without their support, you wouldn’t get a two-day conference—including lunches— for only $40.
Let me swing back around to GoDaddy. While my initial reason for calling them out was that they sponsored me to go to WordCamp US—and I can never thank them enough for that—I was even more impressed by their assembled WordCamp team at WordCamp. Led by my good friends Mendel and Christopher, they were smart, professional, and flat-out cool peeps. I was able to spend quite a bit of time with them and out of it came some new friendships.
The Party Bus
The Party Bus lived up to its name. Remember that. It transported us back and forth in style, taking us to events like the after parties.
On the first day, Mendel from GoDaddy rounded up a few of us and said let’s go do some interviews on the Party Bus. There were six of us and it turned into a great discussion with all of us around WordPress and WordCamps. And yes, we had a beer or cocktail while we talked. It was also videotaped (GoPro style) and Periscoped. If I can snag the recording, I will. But just let me say, sitting there with old and new friends, well, this took WordCamp to a whole new level.
Yes, There Were Other Parties
On the evening of the last day was the official WordCamp after party. A place called the Lucky Strike had two floors awaiting us with food, bowling, pool, shuffleboard and a ton of other stuff. After shooting one game of pool, I quickly realized that having been a damn good pool player 25 years ago doesn’t count for anything. By this time, I was beat and just could keep up with the young un’s.
State of the Word
For six years, the flagship WordCamp was in San Francisco and this year was the debut of WordCamp US. Each time, the event is closed with Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress, and his State of the Word. In a cool first, it opened with a greeting from the mayor of Philadelphia, who read a proclamation that Dec. 5th was officially in WordPress Day in Philly.
Matt delivered his State of the Word and it was thought-provoking as usual. In case you are interested, here is the video.
The Common Denominator Here
Did you notice something? I mentioned only briefly that I went to a few sessions. Education is key to successful WordCamps. It is what brings us together. I love the people who donate their time and share their skills and knowledge with us. If you have ever attended, you know there is a bounty of WordPress goodness.
But, for me, WordCamp was about the people. I wish I could list everyone I saw and talked to. But I would likely leave someone out. This is the main reason I go to WordCamp or any conference. The people.
It’s always been the people.
And for all you of reading this, whether we talked for 1 minute or 30 minutes, know that I am sending you a virtual hug. I wish I would have pictures of everyone I talked to, but I will share a few.
And You Thought I Was Done
I do have to mention one more thing that GoDaddy was doing. They gave everyone a chance to draw one of these cool Challenge Coins. Now there is a story behind these that you should read… it’s pretty cool and you can learn more that here.
But I was lucky enough to pull out the Black One (see the first one) and as a result, I won this.
I’ll leave you with this — Hug A Dev. (Watch what happens behind me. That was not staged.)