WordCamp Jackson

When I found out that my friend Kyle Maurer was planning a first time  WordCamp in his hometown of Jackson, Michigan I knew I had to make the trip. I have attended WordCamp Ann Arbor the last three or four years but chose to forego that event in favor of Jackson.

I asked my son Michael if he would like to go with me, knowing full well what his answer would be. I registered both of us on the WordCamp Jackson when tickets became available and signed Michael up as a volunteer.

For people who may no be aware, Michael is 35 years old, works full time at our local Walmart and is mentally challenged.

This is a video I created after our trip to WordCamp Ann Arbor last year.

I can’t really say enough about the people in the WordPress Community, who have accepted Michael and have included him in activities like the WordCamp Jackson Speaker Dinner puzzle games.

As far as the actual WordCamp, everything went very well. We arrived in time to catch a couple of sessions Friday afternoon and attend the speaker dinner. BTW, stuffed crust pizza rocks!

Saturday was a fairly early start, arriving at the venue a little before 8:00. I was assigned the duty of doorman at the front door for the building had to remain locked. This was something that I was well suited for and I have plans to continue in this capacity when I retire in a couple of years!

I was able to attend the sessions that were of interest to me and I gave a lightning talk about the WordPress Community at 2:45. My presentation was well received and I had several questions.

One of my goals for this WordCamp was to try to video interview someone for the WordPress Community Interview Series. This is something that I have been doing for almost a year as part of my volunteer efforts with WordPress TV. I got very lucky and spent about 20 minutes interviewing Cate DeRosia, who is in the process of planning WordCamp Grand Rapids.

The after party had a burrito bar and a Jazz trio! It was really cool!

All in all, WordCamp Jackson was a great experience for Michael and I. Well worth the 6 hour dive from Eastern Ohio. Well done Kyle Maurer and the rest of the organizers and volunteers!

Thanks for all of your hard work!

 

What Do You Get Out of It?

“What do you get out of it?”

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It was Sunday afternoon at WordCamp Columbus. During one of the sessions someone ask how many people had to pay their own way to WordCamps. I was one of a few that raised my hand. Afterward I was standing outside when I was  asked this question by a well respected member of the WordPress community.

My quick answer was this: to meet people and learn more about WordPress. Now, I am not the sharpest tack in the box. I probably could have given a much better answer if I had taken a moment to think about it.

As we all know, WordCamps are low cost conferences that can be 1, 2 or even 3 day events. To me, the cost of a hotel room and a tank of gas make these a very attractive learning opportunity. I am lucky that there are 3 WordCamps in Ohio and I can actually make this a one day trip.

I read this post written by Marina Pape on the WooThemes website after WordCamp Norway and these 2 sentences caught my attention:

“It’s not only for the content. Slide decks are up before talks are over and WordPress TV shares everything if you wait long enough. Business leads and sponsorship opportunities? Maybe for some. But my suspicion is most people do it for the unlikely friendships that form.

Everyone’s heard it, but the best thing you can do at WordCamps is talk to people, because you will definitely learn some things and might just meet a kindred spirit to add to your collection.”

In one way of thinking WordCamps “could” be viewed as a live Knowledge Base. Several sessions are offered, most have a Happiness Bar and you always approach someone with a question.

The Community is mentioned often and is a vital part of WordPress. I really haven’t found anything else that compares. Where else can a WordPress user like myself sit at the same table as some of the top experts in the world and feel comfortable & welcome.

So, when I answered that question with “To meet people and learn more about WordPress” , it may not have been the best answer but  it was good enough.