It’s Saturday morning and I’m sitting here sipping the first life-saving coffee of the day. As I savour each precious gram of caffeine, my eyes scan Facebook to see how the world fared without me while I slept. Then out of the blue, the words ‘WordCamp Brisbane 2019’ leap from the screen. Yep! WordCamp Brisbane happened over a week ago and I haven’t written a word about it. So if you are wondering …. “WordCamp Brisbane 2019??? What’s a WordCamp?” …. let me explain.
WordCamp is an event I start looking forward to the minute the previous one ends.Maureen Durney
Let’s unpack WordCamp…
From Pre-Party to Pack-Up
I’ll start with a definition of WordCamp, then I’ll give you the low-down on why it is the highlight of my year.
WordCamp is an event that occurs in cities around the world, usually annually, that focuses on everything to do with using the WordPress open source platform. That’s tech-talk for saying it’s all about building websites with WordPress.
That’s my very simplistic definition and I’m sure the organisers of WordCamps, and WordPress aficionados, could come up with a more sophisticated explanation. But I am neither of these. I am simply a WordPress user.
Brisbane started hosting their WordCamps in 2015 at the University of Technology (QUT) on George Street – and this year was no different.
Remind me to tell you how much WordCamp costs – because that’s the important part!
The Pre-Party kicks it off
It all began with a pre-party for Speakers, Organisers or Volunteers who were in town the night before WordCamp officially began.
The Bar was perched on the rooftop of a local establishment on William Street. Huddled around a patio-heater to ward off the chilly night air, WordCamp-ers gathered – and networked.
When I arrived the bar was open, so I sidled on over, wallet in hand, and ordered a drink.
No money changed hands!
There was no charge – not then – and not hours later. The Sponsors of WordCamp Brisbane 2019 had put a generous amount of cash in the till – and said…
“Drink Up! The Drinks Are On Us!”
And then the food arrived! Lots of fabulous ‘snacky’ food!
With drink in hand I found a comfy bar stool on which to perch to do some serious people-watching. I can talk under water with a mouthful of marbles, but in a big crowd – I need to warm up first. People-watching is what I start with.
Within a few minutes I was joined by Korryn Haines, one of the WordCamp speakers. Korryn and I chatted about all things WordPress and life in general, until two young men from Texas joined us. BlueHost, Sponsor and web-hosting company, had flown Devin and Chris to Brisbane for WordCamp.
The sounds of bubbly conversations echoed around us as we laughed and talked for a couple of hours. Korryn and I did our best to teach our new American friends the quirky language that makes us uniquely Australian.
And that was how WordCamp Brisbane 2019 began…. and continued…..
Day 1 of WordCamp Brisbane 2019
By 9am, we volunteers had scanned or checked our way through the registration of hundreds of Attendees, Speakers and Sponsors. And handed out the same amount of lanyards, badges and swag. Oh, swag is another bit of tech-talk – it means the freebies the generous sponsors provide.
This year the swag included a furry little yellow Wapuu.
A Wapuu is a character that has become the mascot of WordPress WordCamps. At a WordCamp after-party in Japan 2009, a group of WordCamp-ers thought it would be a good idea to have a WordPress mascot.
The idea was taken seriously!
After much deliberation, the Wapuu was unveiled at WordCamp Fukuoka in Japan, two years later. Each WordCamp adds their own cultural flavour to the basic Wapuu.
Once registrations were all done, WordCamp Brisbane 2019 kicked into high gear with two streams of presentations. The hardest thing was to work out which of the two outstanding speakers to listen to, since most of us haven’t worked out how to be in two places at once – (the organisers moved so fast I guarantee they’re the only ones who know how to do this…).
At WordCamps there is no shortage of technology. Each presentation is professionally recorded, with some even being live-streamed. So when you have to choose between two great presentations, you can catch up later on the one you missed via WordPress TV.
And the Speakers?
The organisers of WordCamps are inundated with submissions from great Speakers (click here to read more about the amazing speakers at WCBNE2019).
So how do they choose the Speakers?
With great difficulty!
If they could, they would choose them all, but there just isn’t enough time.
So a lot of agonising-organising hours go into selecting the range of presentations that WordCamps are now famous for. And the decisions reflect all levels of expertise. Some Speakers talk of their emerging journey with WordPress, others speak to high-end developers, and others pitch to the in-between.
With the number of submissions received, you’d be right in thinking WordPress pays a lot of money for Speakers to attend.
Yep! Right in thinking that, but wrong!
The Speakers are all volunteers – even those who need a passport and international flights to get here.
So why do people beat down the door of WordCamp organisers to be selected to speak?
Because that’s what WordPress is about.
It’s all about the community.
WordPress is open source software:
The term “open source” refers to something people can modify and share because its design is publicly accessible.https://opensource.com/resources/what-open-source
The people who use WordPress help and support each other, and give back to the community of WordPress users.
WordPress community members are the most generous individuals and organisations you will ever meet.
Speaking of generosity, the Sponsors have it in bucket-loads.
Click here to read about the amazing Sponsors who helped make WordCamp Brisbane 2019 the biggest WordCamp in Australia so far!
And it was the Sponsors who paid for the venue, Pre-Party, After-Party, recording of presentations, food, coffee and swag – and subsidise tickets for attendees (more about that later).
Speaking of food….
The coffee wagon was primed up and ready to go, and the caterers delivered enough food to feed the masses – all four-hundred and forty of us.
Morning Tea, Lunch, Afternoon Tea, were provided each day. Dietary differences were catered for. And the coffee continued to flow.
By the end of Day 1 we were all feeling a little overwhelmed by the amount of information we had absorbed. But luckily we mustered enough energy to make our weary way to the Botanic Bar at the back of the University, just in time for the After-Party that kicked off at 6pm.
The bar was open – the food arrived – and there was even a Photo Booth at the back of the room. With no shortage of props, individuals and groups outdid each other in vying for the best ‘photo-booth-selfie’.
The party was in full swing.
Drinks, including Mocktails for non-drinkers like me, were plentiful. And just as at the pre-party the night before, no money changed hands in the process. WP Engine sponsored the After-Party. And we thank them, as we do all sponsors, from the bottom of our hearts (and stomachs!).
Day 2 WordCamp Brisbane 2019
With most of the registrations processed on Day 1, there wasn’t as much for volunteers to do on Day 2. We knew the process: answer questions; give directions; run microphones; time Speakers; clear up after meal-breaks; work out which presentations to listen to; eat; drink coffee; etc., etc., etc.,; and network.
If you want to know why networking is important, ask Sally. She has enough information to write a book about it!
Oh wait – she did write a book about it.
Sunday’s Line-Up of Amazing Speakers
I will forever be indebted to:
- Luke Carbis – for teaching me that building your own Block in Gutenberg is a lot easier than I would have thought.
- Robert Li from WP Engine – for his presentation on Lead Generation. Robert stepped up without much warning to replace a Speaker who was unable to get there.
- Paul Luxford – for enlightening me about the 10 things my WordPress website can do that I didn’t know it could do.
- Cameron Jones – for showing us how easy it is to develop our own plugin for a WordPress website. Despite his young age, Cameron is an absolute Guru – having built his first website in Primary School.
Sadly, I didn’t get to listen to Korryn’s talk because I was timing the Speakers in the other room, but I’ll certainly be tuning in to WordPress TV to catch up on it.
At the end of the two days, the Organisers summed up the successful weekend.
Should I have been surprised by these stats?
- 440 registrations – making it Australia’s Biggest Wordcamp (well done Brisbane!!!)
- An astonishing 1050 coffees consumed in two days! – I hope the Sponsors are aware of how many lives they may have saved – mine included.
Everyone I spoke to as I helped with the packing up, whether they were first-time attendees or old masters, agreed that the weekend had been amazing!
And the outcome of two fabulous days of WordCamp Brisbane?
- took care of the sustenance and hydration of all who attended WCBNE2019
- cemented relationships with current and new clients
- answered technical questions
- took care of the recording of each session
- taught us how to pick a lock – yep! – and I now have the hardware to do it
- shared their knowledge, thereby creating a lot of ‘ah ha!’ moments
- provided shortcuts for WordPress users and website developers
- answered a lot of questions
- Organisers breathed a heavy sigh of relief in the knowledge that the countless hours of preparation had paid off
- Volunteers hung up their high-viz vests and promised their tired feet a restful night
- Old and new friends:
- shared tech stories
- vowed to meet again at another WordCamp
- Attendees gathered up their swag, said their goodbyes, and wondered how such an amazing weekend could cost so little.
And each one of us gave thanks for the overwhelming amount of knowledge we had acquired over the two full days of presentations
Okay – so how much did it cost?
Right at the outset I promised to tell you the important bit – The Cost! – and here it is.
I’ve described the:
- morning teas (times 2)
- lunches (times 2)
- afternoon teas (times 2)
- coffees (1050 served over 2 days)
- high-calibre speakers, both national and international
- hire of venue
- tech-gurus on hand to answer questions
- tech-gurus recording the sessions for catch-up on WordPress TV after the event
And the cost of all this?
And you wonder why WordCamp is the highlight of my year?
I buy my ticket as soon as they go on sale!
I’ve volunteered in other years and had to tell people that we can’t sell them a ticket at the door because tickets sold out weeks before.
I’ll keep you posted on when WordCamp Brisbane 2020 is happening so you can jump in and get your ticket.
If you live anywhere else in the world, check out a city near you for a forthcoming WordCamp.
But get your ticket early!
And so for another year, another successful WordCamp Brisbane has signed off.
And it wouldn’t have happened without the combined effort of the Organisers, Sponsors, Volunteers, Caterers, Coffee Wagon and especially – Attendees.
I am already looking forward to WordCamp Brisbane 2020!