Hi all and thanks for everyone who attended this years WordCamp UK in Manchester. BIG thanks have to go out to Tony Scott for whipping everyone into shape and getting the event organised and the wonderful Chi-chi Ekweozor who worked tirelessly during the event to ensure things ran as smoothly as they possibly could.
What did I do?
This year I was called up to do 2 presentations. The opening keynote ‘How WordPress Themes Changed the World’ (link) and a presentation on the 2nd day about cool and interesting plugins I named ‘WOW Plugins‘.
Intentions for this years event
Although I had nothing set in stone I did lay out a few of achievements for this years event. They were, in no particular order:
- To help educate my audience on WordPress themes and theme marketplaces.
- Develop a face-to-face relationship with Jonny Allbut and Pete Innes after working with them remotely for the past 4 months.
- Announce the launch of the Wonderflux/WonderThemes project.
- To meet with new friends, lovers and potential collaborators from the WP-o-sphere.
- Learn more about the BuddyPress platform.
Out of the 5 listed here. I pretty much nailed them all. The only one which I kept low-key was the WonderThemes marketplace project which I kept to just 1/2 a slide during my themes presentation. This was done intentionally as the project is still in the early phase with the Wonderflux theme framework only just being released as an invite-only BETA.
Regarding number 5 I feel I must send out a special mention to Paul Gibbs who’s excellent sessions on BuddyPress really set the room alight (almost literally at one point, it must have been about 200 degrees in that room). I left the weekend with a real passion to learn more about the BuddyPress platform and a better understanding of just how far it has come over the past 12 months.
What did I see?
I really enjoyed the Jane and Peter show at the end of the first day. I have huge respect for what Jane did to the WordPress dashboard after v2.5 and find the whole area of usability quite fascinating. Peter Westwood needs no introduction to anyone who knows anything about WordPress, he really is a code genius.
Dave Coveney did a couple of great talks on WordPress in Big Media and a follow up to his WordPress in the Enterprise from last years event. These are both very telling as they each show WordPress out of its core comfort-zone and how it can easily become a powerhouse-publishing platform.
Most of the other sessions I attended were technical-led as I really wanted to make the effort to learn some new techniques this year. This led me first of all to Jeffry Ghazally and his excellent ‘Extending WP e-Commerce’ session which was then followed up by lots of BuddyPress love from Paul Gibbs.
My Presentations & Feedback
I was first up Saturday with ‘How WordPress Themes Changed the World’ – which is a bit of a sexed-up title. The actual content of the talk was more of a themes-evolution history lesson and a look at how the commercial market has grown over the past couple of years.
I used a few popular theme vendors as examples and tried to explain how people have started to make a living from themes by either developing and selling products on their own sites or using existing marketplaces.
I also threw in some theme-love based on my own experience with WordPress themeing and why I fell in love with it.
By day 2 I had been drafted in to do another presentation ‘WOW Plugins’ . Thankfully plugins are a popular area of WordPress and I was comfortable enough not putting together any slides for this, I just went commando and picked out around 20 cool and interesting plugins that I’ve used over the years – you can find the full list here.
This session was more of a 2-way exchange with plenty of audience participation – in fact, I ran over by almost 20 minutes because of all the questions/conversations that were thrown into the mix.
General feedback was good for both talks. With a lot of newcomers appreciating my ‘themes’ talk and good mixture of noobs/gurus commenting on the ‘plugins’ one.
Overall I was very pleased with how both of my talks went. I was particularly proud of how my ‘themes’ talk was accepted as it had been worked on and sculpted down to exactly what I wanted it to be – an easy to digest opener that I hoped everyone could enjoy and relate to. Over the weekend I received thanks and personal praise for the ‘themes’ talk and was left embarrassingly proud by some of the comments put my way at the Saturday social event. Thanks to everyone for their kind words on this one, I’m glad you enjoyed it.
The ‘UK’ Controversy
By the end of the Sunday everyone in the main room were pretty wasted and running on adrenaline and caffeine. This wasn’t the best time to begin a controversial subject of forcing the a re-name of ‘WordCampUK’ to a city-based naming convention. This topic led to what can only be described as a vicious backlash directed towards Jane who had brought the matter to the groups attention.
Although I’m just scratching the surface here I tried my best to remain diplomatic as I personally believe that UK-based-WordCampers have missed a bit of a trick by not splitting these events down into specific country-based gatherings in the first place.
For example last year in Cardiff could have quite easily been ‘WordCampWales‘ with this year being ‘WordCampEng‘. In fact, Jane herself did comment that someone in Edinburgh had been in touch with her directly giving us a ‘WordCampScot‘ right there.
Of course, its not quite that simple and Dave Coveney has laid out a very convincing counter argument with some valid points but everyone at this years event needs to have an eye to the future and the growth of this nascent community otherwise we will end up with a 1000 people at one event which isn’t really the WordCamp way.
The only other thing I want to say on this matter is that I would LOVE to see more than 1 WordCamp in the UK every year. Currently I don’t see a large enough community to support this but over time we would be foolish to ignore the growing demand for this.
Ideas for the next one…
Education seems to be the key for the next UK-based-WordCamp. We had a good mix of WP-newbies (I lost count on how many times I was asked ‘how do you make a theme…’) and WP-gurus so splitting the tracks down into ‘technical’ and ‘beginner’ rooms would be a logical step.
I’d also like more speakers to come forward, please, don’t be shy. I will of course be handing in my ideas to speak next year but I feel as if we need some fresh blood – so if you have the gumption to join us then get over to the Wiki and fire off some ideas.
That’s all for now, peace out – see you all soon and some of you sooner 🙂