WordCamps are the official WordPress conferences held throughout the world many times a year. Each WordCamp is organized by a group of volunteers that are interested in helping to better the community by putting together an event where users of all levels can come get together and learn more about the software they all love: WordPress. This past year, I have attended six different WordCamps and every one of them has been awesome. Some of them had better presentations than others, some of them I was personally speaking at, and some of them had attendees I was more interested in meeting than others, but each was near equally valuable.
A typical WordCamp is setup into “tracks”, of which there are usually 3: designers, publishers, developers. As a developer, I tend to migrate towards the developer’s track at most camps, but there are always talks that fit the interest of all attendees.
Some people attend WordCamps to learn about WordPress (perhaps they are just starting); some people attend to learn new development techniques (such as caching); and some attend to learn how to gain a better reach with their WordPress site.
I attend for the reasons (and many more) listed above as well, but there is a much larger reason I attend WordCamps. Even though there are nearly always presentations that have significant value to me, the topics presented on are nearly always something I can educate myself on by reading tutorials posted around the net, or by asking another developer to assist me in learning, so is it worth flying or driving around the country (or even international)? Well maybe, but probably not if the only reason you’re going is to learn from presentations.
The number one reason why I attend WordCamps is to network with other members of the WordPress community.
If you haven’t realized it yet, it is the community that makes WordPress such a phenomenal piece of software. Sure the software itself is great, but it is truly great because of the large, international group of people that help to make it better and better every day.
From plugin developers to theme designers; from theme and plugin reviewers to documentation / handbook contributors; from core contributors to bloggers. It is all of these people that make working in the WordPress ecosystem awesome, and it’s meeting these people that I am most interested in when I attend a WordCamp.
By attending WordCamps around the United States (and soon internationally) I have had the opportunity to meet some of the most influential people in the WordPress community. I’ve also had the chance to meet dozens of less well known but just as valuable members of the community too.
It’s these connections with real people that is absolutely invaluable to me. As my business revolves around the internet, most of my acquaintances in the community are in a different part of the world than I am, so most of my interaction with them is all virtual. Getting the chance to put real faces to the people I’ve known (at least by name) for months or even years is invaluable.
I’ve meant clients, users of my plugins, developers of plugins I use and love, designers of themes I’ve worked with, subscribers to my site, core contributors and developers, friends, and even the Matt himself.
I have heard a lot of people say the reason they go to WordCamps is to find people for a job or to find work for themselves. The single best way of doing this that I know of is by networking with other members of this vibrant community. One of my good friends is a perfect example of this: he was standing in line at a WordCamp and decided to say hello to guy in front of him. This guy ended up being his primary employer for the rest of the year and they still work together on a very, very popular plugin project.
Have you attended WordCamps? Do you feel the same way about them as I do? Are you on the edge about attending one?