I was at the awesome WordPress Orange County all day yesterday and attended remotely via live stream for portions of today.
While I was there, my gut feeling after looking at the rest of this year’s calendar was confirmed. I heard from several people that WordCamp Los Angeles and WordCamp San Diego aren’t being planned for this year as they typically would be. Naturally I’m distraught at the thought, but I’m also wondering if part of the reason is that there are several smaller nearby regional camps that have popped up over the past year? Some of these newer camps include WordCamp Riverside, WordCamp Santa Clarita, and the upcoming WordCamp Long Beach.
This trend can be an interesting one in large part because it means that the community is growing in size and sophistication as well as leadership to be able to sustain these new area camps. It’s good to have been able to have gone to two camps within driving distance in the last two months and also know that there are two more camps within that same distance before the end of the year. Instead of having one or two major camps nearby, I’ve now got twice the amount.
Of course, with all the extra awesomeness that this provides, I also wonder about the ideas of community cohesion, leadership, continuity, and even burnout. Should we have better regional conversations about these camps, their timing, and their content? Are we possibly spreading ourselves too thin? Is there enough leadership and continuity to continue all these individual camps on an annual basis for the next 5 years? Are the benches deep enough that we’re not working toward burning ourselves (and our volunteer base) out? Would it be better to have a little less? Should we alternate having bigger camps in LA and San Diego with the smaller ones in nearby cities? What does that look like? Are we thinking about longer term sustainability?
I’m mulling over the idea of spearheading either a WordCamp Los Angeles, to keep the central continuity, but I’m also wondering about doing something like that with a slightly smaller Pasadena Camp. I also started a discussion yesterday about doing a kids’ WordCamp in the LA area when I found out that there is already some organization and institutional support for these in other cities. And of course this all comes with my pre-existing plans for doing a local area IndieWebCamp sometime within the next calendar year. All of these ideas are appealing to me, but I only have a finite amount of time for planning and executing them.
In the coming weeks, I’d like to reach out and touch base with all of these nearby camps to hear other’s ideas on the topic and their long term plans to see what the best way forward might look like. Has the central organization run across these rapid growth problems in other metropolitan areas in the past? What was were the near-term and longer-term results? Without some additional data, I feel like I’m operating in a bit of a vacuum. Is it possible that as a major market city that the LA area is the first to see potential effects like I’ve described?
This post mostly serves as an informal dump of some preliminary ideas and potential concerns for the future; I’d welcome ideas and additional thoughts.
The camp sold out in just hours a month and change ago, in part because it was limited to about 200 people given the fantastic space provided by UC Irvine’s Advanced Innovation. There aren’t many spaces one could go with such spectacular amenities and support in addition to a huge plethora of screens, recording equipment, and audio/visual supplements. Thanks for hosting us Applied Innovation!
Sadly the limited space meant that some people missed out, and the most unrepresented group was likely new users who may not have heard about it in time to get tickets. However, this didn’t mean that anyone else was underrepresented: there were attendees of every ability, age (10 months to over 90), race, sex and creed. I was honestly astounded by the diversity of people in attendance.
One of the best programming decisions was having food trucks show up to cater lunch, which kept everyone close and socially engaged rather than dispersing everyone to the wind by means of forcing outside food options.
Sadly, even knowing that Sundays are always slower than Saturdays, there were 2-3 empty rooms with no sessions at all on Sunday afternoon. I wish there had been some type of offering to assist in putting together impromptu sessions or BoF sessions in these empty rooms. Alternately doing a beginner build track on Sunday and releasing “Sunday only” tickets might have been interesting and also better utilized the space.
Below are some thoughts on the individual sessions I attended. Most should be on WordPress.TV shortly and nearly everyone was posting slides.
This was a great quick introduction to most of the basics of WP Core and at just about the right time as I’ve been wanting to delve more directly into portions for a few projects. I’d definitely recommend the slide deck once it’s posted. This was one of my favorite sessions of the weekend.
This was one of the more entertaining sessions and had more conversation back and forth than any camp session I’ve ever attended. Sadly it stayed to the basics and in a room which seemed to have some more advanced participants, I wish it had gone further.
This was mostly what I expected, but included some additional tips that I didn’t know existed. In particular, knowing that I can provide formatting for others when they oEmbed my site is something I’ll have to look into.
This was a nice start to some intro information on talking about design patterns, but I would have preferred something at the intermediate or advanced level. In particular, it made me consider some quirky potential new visual grammars for mobile use (particularly in advertising). It also inspired me to think about creating a disorenting experience built on the visual/time grammar of the movie Inception.
Aaron was a fun and very dynamic speaker who obviously truly loves his topic. This was by far the best session I attended over the weekend. I want to try to get Elastic Search and ElasticPress set up on my site soon as it looks like what modern search should be on a website.
I’m somewhat shocked I’d never thought of doing this myself before, but just knowing the concept exists is more than half the battle. The sad part is that it sounds like for half the stuff you get for free, one needs to rebuild or re-engineer something else to get it working.
Andy is a practicing physician and a great WordPress “hobby-ist” who drove in from Palm Springs to give a great overview of the philosophy of Open Source and a broad range of tools used to help further that goal. One can’t help but be affected by his enthusiasm.
For a session meant to be primarily entertainment, I was actually surprised to learn about coding/development by hearing a panel of others critique four plugins. Condensed down, this could have been a session on the intangible things one would want to think about before building a plugin.
Since they’ve already made a Call for Speakers for the LA camp, I’ve already submitted the following talk application which focuses on the IndieWeb:
The IndieWeb is a people-focused alternative to the “corporate web” which has recently been covered in Wired, Fast Company, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Newsweek, and Slate. It encourages everyone to own their own data/content, be better connected to engage with everyone, and provide users with more control of their content and identity online. With the rise of social media silos everyone is seemingly incentivized to split up their online identity to participate in multiple various communities and a variety of platforms which are often bought out, shut down, or simply disappear, very often taking users’ data with them.
Why not allow your own WordPress site to truly be your primary hub online? Post your content on your own site/server so that you not only own it, but then, if you choose, syndicate it out to social media networks in a native and simpler fashion to take advantage of their network effects and engagement. Even better, new web specs like WebMention from the W3C (essentially a universal/internet-wide method of @mention) allow you to easily bring back comments, likes, and similar data back to your original post as native comments. You can now truly own all of the data and subsequent related data (comments) you place on most major social networks.
In this session we’ll briefly cover the basic history and philosophy of the IndieWeb movement before moving into more advanced topics like microformats, WebMention, IndieAuth, micropub, and a growing wealth of related tools which will be of interest to developers and designers alike. While primarily geared at individual users, these philosophies and techniques can be of huge value to writers/authors, bloggers, podcasters, and even businesses for drastically improving their reach and marketing efforts online while simultaneously saving them time and effort.
I spoke to a number of people over the weekend about some IndieWeb concepts and basics, but for those who can’t wait for more details, I’m happy to discuss more of the specifics at anyone’s leisure. If you’re really chomping at the bit, I’ll be at the WordPress Pasadena Meetup tonight and hopefully be setting up a Homebrew Website Club meeting in the LA area sometime in the next few weeks in anticipation of IndieWeb Camp Los Angeles in November.