We sent Geoff Campbell, a member of the Philadelphia HubSpot UserGroup to report back on WordCamp US a few weeks ago. Here's his report back.
My day job has little to do with coding, or really developing in general, but I had the great opportunity to be at the inaugural WordCamp US in Philadelphia. By day, I work at a small independent school in suburban Philadelphia, mostly making and sharing engaging written, photographic, and video content for the community and contributing to the task of website maintenance.
So far my work has been on the simpler and more limited WordPress.com side. I've been interested for years in learning more, but it seemed too overwhelming to even begin. Attending WordCamp US has convinced me it is possible and exploring the true power of WordPress may be my next endeavor.
What the Heck is WordCamp US?
It brought over two thousand web developers, writers, editors, and marketers to the city for workshops focused on WordPress, the Content Management System (CMS) that powers more than a quarter of all websites on the internet. Local tech news and even 6ABC covered the event as well.
For those who don't know, #WCUS grew out of WordCamp San Francisco by literally having too many attendees for their space. This year they decided the Philadelphia Convention Center (which will also host some of the 2016 Democratic National Convention events) would be the right place.
With sessions ranging from the social "Communities and The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense" to the more technical "React[.js] + WordPress" and "Advanced Topics in WordPress Development", one could easily be overwhelmed with so many good choices.
For a brief recap - check out Cynthia León's story below. Want to get deeper? Read on.
What Sessions Were Available?
Not surprisingly, some of the presenters were very opinionated, including Evan Volgas' suggestion that while there are a number of options, he recommends Varying Vagrant Vagrants (VVV) (to run multiple copies and versions of WordPress), and "If you're building in MAMP, you're doing it wrong."
To be clear, I have no real idea what either of those things actually do, but if I were to ever build a self-hosted WordPress site, I would definitely look into VVV over MAMP.
Sara Cope, another great session, spoke on contributing to Federal Crowdsourcing projects working with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
There was even a WordPress talk that wasn't WordPress-centric by Charlie Reisinger, IT Director Penn Manor School District in Lancaster, PA. Their school is pioneering an approach to using Open Source technology. It was an encouraging talk about how schools are embracing open source and giving kids the skills and trust to take on their own learning.
As I mentioned at the time, this philosophy of encouraging students to view learning as self-empowerment reminded me of my school's MakerSpace.
On the topic of teaching people, Fred Meyer discussed how to communicate technical things in a way humans can understand. His remarks (like "Don't be arrogant and don't pretend that gaps in knowledge don't exist") are broadly applicable in education but even more-so as it relates to technical knowledge, which he defined as being "mostly unrelated to human intuition".
Educational Websites Are Beasts
While those and other sessions were informative and entertaining, the session that was most inspiring (at my beginner level of coding ability), started with "WordPress In Higher Education" by Curtiss Grymala, Senior Web Technologist at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He discussed the various ways in which colleges and universities (in addition to schools at those universities and down to individual student web spaces) use WordPress.
Schools use 40,000 pages to do what we could do in 1,000. This is due to internal politics, silos, and control issues. There were many positive mentions of current practice, like the Fox School’s MIS department. They use it as a community, event manager, reference source, and more. It was great to know that complicated institutions rely on and do great things with such a learnable and always-innovating platform like WordPress.
The Final WordPress Takeaway
The conference proper (not including the Contributor's Day on Sunday), was topped off by news of an official resolution by the City of Philadelphia naming December 5, 2015 as WordPress Day in Philadelphia.
Overall it was an incredible experience to meet so many people so passionate about how they use a product to change their worlds.
Stay tuned, as the Philadelphia HubSpot User Group is working on 2016's new year of events. In the meantime, sign-up to receive updates.