Last weekend I had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco for my third WordCamp of 2013, WordCamp San Francisco. For those of you who are unfamiliar WordCamps are regional WordPress conferences held in cities throughout the world. As part of the WordPress Foundation they’re cheap (usually only $20), are packed with great speakers and can be one of the best places to network and discuss all things WordPress.
Of all the WordCamps held throughout the year WordCamp San Francisco is the king. This is the largest and seemingly most well-funded WordCamp there is. As it is located at the home of Automattic (the company behind WordPress.com) it attracts folks from all over the world as attendees, sponsors and speakers providing a depth of knowledge and experience that simply isn’t available anywhere else.
For any of you who attend conferences regularly you know these events can be hit or miss. Sessions can be shallow, speakers can be horrible and the crowd can be about as exciting as that in the local morgue. Fortunately WordCamp San Francisco is not like that.
For two days (four if you count travel days) I learned from the best and brightest in the WordPress world. Speakers included Mark Jaquith who’s talk, Confident Commits, Delightful Deploys, has already left me reworking my own development environment by dropping AMPPS in favor of a virtual machine. Later Mike Adams taught me a thing or two about front-end security (something I rarely find in a conference anymore) and Carrie Dils reminded me that collaboration is often preferable to competition in a community like WordPress.
Unlike other conferences where the learning stops with the sessions, at WordCamp San Francisco the sessions were just the beginning. When the sessions were over I spent the weekend hanging out with Bob Dunn who, along with splitting a cab, introduced me to some incredible folks from all over the WordPress community. I tend to lose track of what is going on outside of code and Bob, a trainer himself, introduced me to a number of folks in the training and content arena that are doing some incredibly awesome things.
Of course WordPress wasn’t the only exciting item on my agenda for the weekend. I wound up meeting a long lost cousin of my father’s who filled me in on a whole side of the family neither myself nor even my father really knows anything about. Among other things it turns out my great-grandparents were members of a religious cult right here in Texas about 100 years ago and my great-grandmother is even burried only a couple of hours from me in Tyler, TX. Considering I never knew I had any relatives outside of Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin that was quite a surprise in itself.
Finally, as with all good communities I got the chance to sit back and relax with a number of new friends and old who make their living around WordPress. While learning the next greatest technique might be pretty awesome (and WordCamp San Francisco was chocked full of such awesomeness) it is the community and friends you make that will be there when you get stuck. These are the folks we can turn to for help or just a good laugh when the time is right and there is no replacement for that most important of WordPress attributes, the people.