WordCamp Baltimore 2015

 

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Arnel’s Road Trip Selfie

WordCamp Baltimore was my first traveling foray into the world of WordPress enthusiast user groups. I’ve been to many conventions and helped to host user groups, but WordCamps are in a class all their own.  WordCamps are held worldwide and can vary from a small group of people to a large group numbering in the thousands.  This Baltimore trip was more in the size of a smaller group but it was still a great event to attend. It was the first opportunity for the Community Support team to travel together as well.  Our group of six included a member of our sales team (Danny), and most of the Community Support team from Virginia Beach – John Paul, Scott, Tim Sisson (Tim S.), Tim Elsass (Tim L.) and myself.  Our manager, Tim S., was the chauffeur for the trip graciously putting up with a bunch of restless guys in the five hour trip there and back.

 

Once we got our stuff in place and rested up a little, we headed out to a restaurant called Wit and Wisdom. While the service was not the greatest, the views of the Baltimore downtown waterfront were amazing. We got a little bit to eat and planned how we would end the evening.

 

Danny was visiting an old friend in Baltimore so the rest of us were left to decide how to spend the evening. I ended up working on the InMotion Hosting Support Center website as customer questions still needed to be answered. Both Tims ended up going back to attend the WordPress dinner in a place called the James Joyce Pub. John Paul, Scott and I ended up exploring nearby restaurants for some local food for dinner and then settled for a movie or college football games. The first night ended uneventfully as we got some rest in preparation for the busy day ahead.

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InMotion Hosting Sponsor table

The next started early as we were volunteers in registration and helping with the speakers of the WordCamp. We also needed to get the InMotion Hosting sponsor table setup – complete with many goodies to give to any curious visitor. Saturday was a bit gloomy with impending rain, so it was a perfect day to be indoors for the event.

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WordCamp organizer providing directions for parking

The venue for the was the University of Baltimore. I was assigned to help with registration of attendees. The others were helping with the speakers and the InMotion sponsor table. Each attendee who registered in time was given a t-shirt for the event as well as a lanyard with a identification card that also provided the schedule for the different sessions of the event. I ended up alphabetizing a box full of names.

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Attendee Registration table

With the help of several fellow volunteers, we got things quickly sorted out. Registered attendees would get their name badge, a lanyard to hold it, and a t-shirt. Late registrants got blank badges and no t-shirt until after lunch. Surprisingly, out of all the shirt sizes, the small size went quickest. Or maybe it was just good forethought on what sizes should be in plentiful supply.

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Volunteers at the registration table

Manning the registration table was a bit hectic, but I had plenty of help and my only job was basically to find and handout badges and lanyards to incoming attendees. While I was working at the registration table I got to meet one of the organizers – Anthony Paul, as well as a theme programmer named David who works remotely for Automattic. I met several others whose names unfortunately escape my memory, but they were all friendly and helped us greet and direct all of the incoming attendees.

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Station North

The locations in the venue were divided into two main areas – the auditorium (which was on the same level as the registration table),and a room below. These rooms corresponded to locations known as “Downtown” and “Station North.” The schedules for each of these rooms were detailed on the badges. Once we got it sorted out, we ended up giving quirky, but memorable directions for the repeated location questions, “The Downtown is upstairs. If you’re going to Station North, go downstairs, bang a u-turn at the bottom of the steps and it will be on your right.” We quickly became familiar with the area and the important directions including the location of the restrooms.

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Tim S. and Melode Laylor

Once our assigned times for our volunteer slots were over, we were free to attend the speaker sessions. I ended up attending Tim’s session named “Growing your Nonprofit with WordPress” and recorded it. I also attended the “Building Parsec: Return of the Responsive Theme” by Joe Casabona, and “War Room Collaboration Across the Internet Canyon” by Anthony Paul. Each session was well attended and the facilities provided by the University of Baltimore were excellent.

 

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Tim S. speaking about non-profits

Tim’s session was very interesting to me as I am very busy with non-profit community organizations after work. Several questions from the audience also indicated the interest level in the topic. Joe Casbona’s session was also very entertaining with many references to Star Wars. However, the most educational session for me was the collaboration session given by Anthony Paul.

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Antyony Paul’s session on group collaboration

I often deal with many people in the community where remote collaboration around a central tool would be beneficial in order to help unify our communications, record our actions for future review, and reduce our needs for repeated group meetings. The challenge I face is getting everyone to agree on a collaboration tool. Anthony’s session provided some insight into existing tools that could even benefit our team at InMotion Hosting. These included applications such as Slack (slack.com),Wake.io(https://wake.io/), Google Slides(https://www.google.com/slides/about/) and Trello (https://trello.com/). Slack is one of the messaging apps for group collaboration. It works across multiple platforms, is easy to use, searchable, and best of all – it’s free. Anthony also showed how to use Google Slides for collaborative wire framing and sharing group ideas through video chats. Wake.io was suggested by an attendee as another graphical collaborative tool. Trello is an online project management tool that can be expanded. I suggested using Freedcamp(freedcamp.com) – which is very similar to Trello. All of the suggested tools are free and can be expanded for enterprise- level use with payment.

 

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Danny with Eddie and John Paul at the WordCamp after party

As the sessions started to wrap up, we gathered at the InMotion Sponsor table that had significantly less swag than earlier. We packed up our stuff and then headed back to the hotel to grab a little rest before heading out to dinner and the WordCamp after party. As a group we went to the Riptide restaurant and enjoyed some seafood for dinner. The after party started at 7pm in the Waterfront Hotel bar a few doors down from Riptide. There was an upstairs reserved room with an open bar until 9pm. Here we enjoyed more food – chicken wings and shrimp and also met up with many of the attendees and speakers. We also met Melodie and her husband David Laylor from the Hampton Roads WordPress meetup group. We will be working with Melodie in the WordCamp Hampton Roads event on October 17.  I had a drink and listened to one of the attendees, named Khalid, speak about his European adventures. He then explained how he was using WordPress as an educational solution in his current venture. He was using multisite in a way that I’ve never seen done before.

The rest of the evening slowly died down with the sharing of some good stories with old friends and new ones. The next morning we got up early in order get back home to Virginia Beach in a reasonable time. Scott, Tim S. and I had a nice breakfast in the hotel restaurant and then gathered up the rest of the group so that we could leave the watchful eyes of downtown Baltimore.

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Don’t run that red-light in Baltimore…

 

 

 

 

 

WordCamp Miami: Connections Old & New

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So I just got back from WordCamp Miami, held the past weekend at Florida International University. It was one of the best, most well organized WordCamps I’ve ever attended. Kudos, to a new friend David Bisset for organizing such a good event.

We arrived in town on Thursday. Unfortunately, layovers pushed my flight back enough that I missed the South Florida Meetup social event. I was more than disappointed that I couldn’t make it. If it was anything like the actual WordCamp, I’m sure it was amazing.

Friday night at the speaker/sponsor dinner which was held at BJ’s Brewhouse, we caught up with some old friends like Nikhil. At 15, he’s really a bright up and coming star in the WordPress community. You should watch for big things from this kid.

We also met up with Syed from WPBeginner. While he’s been a friend of InMotion for some time, I’ve never met him until now. He’s a super nice guy. We also caught up with Rami from WebDev Studios. I got introduced to him at WordCamp Lancaster. I was surprised he remembered my name to be honest. It was impressive and speaks to the type of guy he is. I caught up with a dear friend, Michele Butcher. If you haven’t heard, she’s one of our WordPress Evangelists for events like WordCamps.

We called it a night after I grabbed my swag for speaking. As usual, WordCamp Miami didn’t disappoint with a computer tote, a watch (yes! a watch), some snacks, and the coolest deck of playing cards. The playing cards all had WordPress functions on them with an example. Someone spent some time planning those out!

Saturday Morning arrived early. I have to admit South Florida is beautiful in the morning (at least before it becomes sweltering hot and sauna-like). We headed over to the campus and got set up. Mike, Jason, and I spent the day talking to some really great people at our booth. We had some of the coolest swag too. Where else can you get a USB hub and post-it holder? Of course, from us!

Lunch was chicken and ribs with all the sides. It was pretty tasty. The most impressive feat was they fed all the attendees (somewhere around 800) without too many hiccups. I know from years of catering, feeding 800 people is no small task.

Off to the afterparty at Dave and Busters. We didn’t stay long, and after some great conversation and a few games of pool we called it a night. After all, my team mates were flying out in the morning and I had to still wrap up some preparations for my talk “Growing your Non-Profit with WordPress”. If you want the slides for my talk they’re here.

WordCamp Miami “Growing your Non-Profit with WordPress”

Part of my talk is about Give, a donation plugin. I use it and actually really like it. It’s easy to use and the developers who built it, Matt and Devin are easily accessible. I got to meet both of them on Saturday. I’m glad too. I was able to use them as an example when I speak. Where else could you have access to the developers of a plugin so easily?

After my talk wrapped up, I was quite surprised by the amount of questions I received. I’m hoping I was able to help some of the non-profit community with my 30 minute talk. It’s awesome to know I am a part of the WordPress community which is one of the most close knit groups I’ve ever encountered within techonology.

Oh did I mention, I have my own trading card too! How freaking cool is that?! It’s uber nerd status as quoting my friend Scott.

WCMIA Trading Card

I have to say, thanks to the WordCamp Miami organizers for putting on another amazing event. Thanks to all the new people I met and the old ones I got to catch up with. This won’t be an event I soon forget!

WordCamp Lancaster just got Real

This was my first WordCamp. I’ve been to plenty of business development conferences over the years and really expected this to be much of the same. Let me go on record… I was wrong! WordPress and WordCamp in particular is about community. Thats what makes WordPress so great! The vibe was informal and inviting. It was literally for everyone, whether you were a core contributor or a brand new user. I was lucky enough to spend my friday night hanging out at the Speaker Sponsor Dinner. Typically, its for, well, speakers and sponsors and I was neither, however my travel companion was a speaker.

This was informal and allowed me to chat it up with not only the organizers but speakers as well. It’s all industry people and everyone was incredibly approachable. Well, except for #NickfromAlbania but thats another story.

I arrived around 8am to check in at WordCamp Lancaster the following morning. The check in process was simple and after getting a badge I was invited to grab some Swag. Who doesn’t like free stuff?

After registering, everyone headed into a main room where conversations were abound. A cup of joe and a pastry rounded out a successful morning thus far. I spoke with a few people, probably in their mid twenties from a local marketing company. They seemed nice, and eager to learn. I suggested a few topics I thought they may enjoy off both speaker tracks. Most WordCamps seem to have multiple tracks for speakers. This is important since let’s face it designers and developers are vastly different people.

After the opening remarks from George Stephanis (@daljo628) (a nice fellow I met the night before and one of the organizers), I listened to Joe Casabona deliver a captivating lecture on responsive design. If I got anything from him speaking it was to follow best practices and take your time. Well, and he likes star wars. I may even grab his book.

I heard a great presentation on the nueroscience of conversions by Tom Shapiro (@TomShapiro). It made sense and it was great advice for anyone serious about improving their website conversion rates. Once it shows up on WordPress TV, I’d suggest watching it.
I took a break, decided to head back to the refreshments area where I struck up a conversation with Michael from LiteSpeed. Considering I work for a hosting company, any product that can reduce the resources needed to serve a website, is appealing. I look forward to learning more about their product.

Michael was speaking too, about hosting nonetheless. I wanted to see what others would present on the topic since, I’m sort of biased. He did an awesome job, really digging into what to look for in a host. He was spot on and it was refreshing to hear someone present on the topic so well.

After lunch and more chatting with other folks from Parallels and Lite Speed Technologies. Then off to hear Jeff Matson (@thejeffMatson) talk about documentation and the benefits of doing it right. This is something we know something about. Have you seen our Support Center ? Most people don’t realize how having great documentation can help drive revenue and Jeff did an awesome job explaining it. I’m sure plenty of attendees will be heading home to write how to guides on their plugins because of it.

The afternoon wrapped up and we caught some rest before heading to the after party. That’s right, if you’ve never been to a WordCamp there’s an after party where the organizers, sponsors, speakers, and attendees all get to mingle over some libations.

This after party was no different. Great conversations were had about all kinds of off-topic stuff as we all decompressed from a day filled with learning about WordPress. We talked about eCommerce, Amazon, Google, and Project Tango to name a few.

In the end, I’m excited to make some new friends, see the huge impact WordPress has had in people’s lives, and that there’s tons of people just like me who love WordPress and want to give back to the community.