Like many other blog pages, ours is powered by WordPress software. While we are no strangers to the world of online media, we like keeping up with things and learning new ways to make use of communication technologies. So when we found out about WordCamp Dallas ’09, we wasted no time in registering for it.
Now I will admit that at first I wasn’t too keen on the idea of giving up my weekend to get up early and spend two days in a room full of techie types, listening to someone drone on about things I’m not even sure I understand. Thankfully, WordCamp Dallas ’09 was not like that at all, except for the unfortunate getting up early part.
There are WordCamp events all over the world, happening all the time. They are user-organized gatherings that have a wide range in size and scope, from a few people getting together for an afternoon to a few hundred people spending a weekend in seminars. WordCamp Dallas ’09, held on the University of Texas at Dallas campus and attended by about 300 people, was on the larger end of the spectrum.
And since it was such a large event, we had a little bit of everything there. Some of it was technical, like Dave Curlee’s session on adding video to pages. Some was creative, like Liz Strauss’ discussion on the visual elements of page design. Some of it was straight-up hilarious, like getting Rickrolled live by Scott Kingsley Clark and his baritone ukulele, Elvis. There was even a session by WordPress creator, Matt Mullenweg.
Besides being entertained, we did pick up a few things that will help us keep our blog page fresh. The breadth of information presented was more than I could take in at the time. But what impressed me most was the way everybody pitched in to make this conference a success. This is not merely a gaggle of people who happen to use the same software; it is a community.
Attendees were encouraged to participate in the discussions, and in several instances a question posed by one audience member would be answered by another. The environment was more akin to an open forum than a college lecture.
I could tell that the event’s organizers, headed by Woopra founder John Pozadzides, had put a lot of effort into getting everything together. They found sponsors to pitch in, both with monetary support and items to raffle off, which kept ticket costs low for attendees while also affording such niceties as catered lunches and free t-shirts. And they arranged for a diverse range of guest speakers, many of whom flew in from out of town.
The speakers also made an effort to be a part of the event. Much like the organizers, they were volunteers donating their time and experience. Some of them, when not speaking, offered advice and solutions at a genius bar outside the conference room.
When the event wrapped up Sunday evening, I went home knowing more than I had Saturday morning about how to use WordPress. I also left impressed with the spirit of cooperation that marked WordCamp. I look forward to going next year.