From Newbie to WordCamp Organizer

From Newbie to WordCamp Organizer

WordPress is a thriving CMS that is trusted by millions of websites around the globe. One of the chief reasons it has been so successful is its incredible open source community.

That community is made up of WordPress users like Arnel Custodio – has been working with WordPress for the better part of two decades.

Arnel has worked in several different roles within WordPress and is an active participant in the WordPress community.

While he has been attending WordPress events for years, Arnel is currently one a WordCamp organizer for WordCamp Virginia Beach, which will be taking place online.

Here’s what a 16-year veteran had to say about his experience with WordPress so far.

Thoughts From a WordCamp Organizer

How long have you been using WordPress and what first attracted you to it?

I have been using WordPress standalone since around 2004 and a little before that. I used to coach my company softball team and I would track my softball team games, and provide schedules and team information in a blog. I wanted something to share with my team that would not require me to code a website from the ground up. I also used WordPress for my community work.

What is your favorite thing about WordPress?

It’s free (mostly)! And it doesn’t take a developer to use it. I work local community events fairly often and I’ve always preached its ease-of-use, flexibility, and management advantages. When you do community projects, the management team may often change as the years pass, and it’s easy to pass along access to a WordPress site without the next administrator having to be a web developer.

What was the first WordPress community event you attended and what was your reaction?

I attended a local WordPress Meetup. It was in one of the local libraries and it was attended by a variety of user levels. I was happy to see a group of individuals willing to make time to share their knowledge and basically “nerd out” for WordPress issues.

How have you seen the WordPress community grow since becoming involved?

Our community unfortunately grew a little stale and has gone through several changes. But the people organizing were well-intentioned and lives change, so it was understandable. Geographically, users in our area are spread out, so eventually, the group split into morning and evening meetups at two different locations. Our meetup group in Virginia Beach eventually became managed by myself and several co-workers. We managed to have a few in-person meetups before the COVID-19 pandemic overtook us. The interesting thing is that the group started attracting attendees from all over the state when our meetups became virtual. While the numbers haven’t risen dramatically, the online conversations have certainly become livelier.

What roles have you filled for WordPress community events like WordCamps? Which role do you prefer (e.g. speaking, organizing, volunteering, etc.)?

I organized and have run the local meetups in addition to creating the posts on the meetup site. I’ve only attended two other WordCamps in person. I’ve worked as a Happyness bar volunteer, and I am one of the WordCamp organizers in our current efforts for WordCamp Virginia Beach 2020. I also attended the WordCamp Europe 2020 online as a volunteer for the Marketing team. I’m no stranger to speaking in front of a crowd, but I do prefer to be a WordCamp organizer.

What was the first WordCamp you helped organize? What did you learn as a first-timer?

We held the first WordCamp in Hampton Roads (Virginia Beach) several years ago and I was a WordCamp organizer then. I learned a couple of things. One, there is definitely an organized process behind the creation of a WordCamp. I have organized festivals and other local events and I recognized the structure and effort used in the creation of the WordCamp. I also learned about the importance of local community outreach. You need a good and locally involved presence (even if you’re well funded) to generate a good crowd for your event.  

What are you most excited for at WordCamp Virginia Beach?

WordCamp Virginia Beach 2020 will be completely online! I am also excited to be a WordCamp Organizer for our local event. I attended WordCamp Europe – which was completely online for the first time and I’m eager to see how our own online event will go.  

With WordCamp Virginia Beach taking place online, how does that change your approach as a WordCamp organizer?

The online option allows us to reach out to a wider audience than you would normally see in a locally-attended event. It changes our approach in that we can reach out to communities who are maybe four hours away by car and would never attend an event in our area.

For someone just getting started in WordPress, what advice would you offer them?

If you are new to using the web, then have patience with WordPress. It will still take a little time to build the website that you want. You should know your goals for creating a website. If you have your goals identified, then it’s easier to plan the creation of your WordPress site to meet your needs. Also, reach out to the local community if you need help. The online WordPress community is astounding with how much information they can provide and most of the time for free!

If you’re a professional web designer, then my advice is the same – have patience with WordPress. I know at least one developer who doesn’t like WordPress. And mainly it has more to do with the structure of WordPress and its variable design format than with its front end through the themes. However, I think that with the right theme and plugins it’s easy to create a great looking website that will meet just about any need. Take some time to learn the framework that makes up WordPress and you may be surprised at how much you can do with it.   

Where do you see WordPress in five years?

WordPress continues to evolve because the community believes in it and uses it. I think that in five years, the Gutenberg editor will become a more robust and problem-free system for adding content to a WordPress site. It’s not quite completely drag-and-drop, but it’s moving in that direction. 

Any final advice?

WordPress is a great tool for sharing your memories, events, information, and products in just about any imaginable way on the internet. With the devastating effects that the COVD-19 pandemic has had on our local, national, and international communities we need to be part of the effort to help create a new normality. Be a part of the movement for positive change in our society. It doesn’t have to be something monumental. It can be as simple as sharing your creations, providing information, or building a new business. Use WordPress as your internet solution and leverage your ideas so that people can see them on their phone, computer, or mobile device. You might be surprised how much you get in return.

Extra: Getting the Most out of Attending a WordCamp (video)

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