Why WordCamps Matter

View of the downtown San Antonio skyline from the UTSA downtown campus

This past weekend, I spent time in the Alamo city at WordCamp San Antonio. It was only my second WordCamp, with my first coming at WordCamp DFW last year. And it was definitely a tremendous experience, so shout out to the WordCamp San Antonio organizing team.

If you don’t know, WordCamps are more or less conferences about WordPress that are held in cities and communities all over the world. One-day conferences typically have 15–20 speakers and two–day camps usually have 30–40. And the talks range all the way from beginners to advanced and include development, design, business and more

Texas has three with San Antonio, Austin (Oct. 21-22) and DFW (Nov. 11-12). Slight side note, but I’m the PR/social media organizer for WordCamp DFW, and I highly recommend you attending. Details are at the end of the post.

From the outside, it can seem like WordCamps are developer-heavy conferences. But in my somewhat limited experience, it’s quite the opposite. Attendees range from the advanced developer like myself, to the person using it as a business to the person who was just told they need to learn WordPress.

So when I wasn’t listening to one of the great talks, I spent time thinking about WordCamps and how helpful. And I’ve come to the conclusion that anyone that use WordPress must at least attend one of their local WordCamps.

A chance to get the help you need

First and foremost, WordCamps are the perfect place to find help if you need it. There are always a ton of developers walking around the conference and anyone of them can help you fix whatever problem you have. And if you think your problem is too dumb or below us developers, it’s not. Seriously, we’ve all been there and we’ve seen it all.

Plus, there’s a “Happiness Bar” at every WordCamp where you can go and the “experts” will help you out with your problem. And if there’s a vendor there that you use that’s at the WordCamp, they’ll be able to help you as well. I had a problem with something on WPEngine, what I use for hosting, and asked the WPEngine guys there for help one of the mornings and they helped me resolve the issue super quick.

So if you need help with anything, there’s no better place for one-on-one help than WordCamps.

WordCamps are for networking

At any conference of this size, there are going to be plenty of opportunities to network. As I mentioned earlier, developers, business people and bloggers attend these things and it’s a great opportunity to meet them and to make connections. A business person using WordPress or a blogger might need something done on a website, and that face-to-face connection might land a developer who went to the conference the gig.

At WordCamp DFW last year, I was still a little too new to get into the whole networking thing. But this year, knowing what the general plan was, I found myself talking to more people, making more connections and having a much better time.

You’re going to be with these people for a couple hours for a day or two; the best thing you can do is get to know them and their story. And who knows, you might learn from those connections than the talks at the conference.

A chance to learn about the community

But the absolute best part of WordCamps is the community of people around the WordPress project.

As a web developer, the profession can feel like a lonely thing, especially considering I work from for a lot what I do. And I know for people who use WordPress for business or blogging, it can seem like this monolithic structure just like Squarespace and Wix.

But it’s not. WordPress is an open source project, meaning anyone can help contribute to it. And there is a massive community around it that is willing to help the project and anyone who uses WordPress. From those who patrol the support forms to those who help make WordPress core happen and create plugins and themes, the community is amazing.

And WordCamps are a great reminder of just that. I saw the community in action really for the first time last year at WordCamp DFW. To see that many people excited about WordPress and wanting to teach others about it made it feel more than something I do for a living. And I got more out that than any talk at the conference (not to say the talks were bad because they were really good).

So that feeling of community and being in it together is the top reason why I highly recommend going to your local WordCamp. And to be honest, it should almost be required for anyone who uses WordPress.

Finding WordCamps

The best place to find a local WordCamp is WordCamp Central. This is where all of the information for all of the official WordCamps are located. You’ll find the dates and location for every WordCamp ever on the site.

And if you’re in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, WordCamp DFW will be Nov. 11-12 at the UNT Health Science Center just west of downtown Fort Worth. Tickets are $40 and include attendance and lunch for both days, the afterparty on Saturday, a t-shirt and so much more. You can find more information here.

With the addition of WordPress 4.8, there’s now an events widget on your WordPress dashboard that shows official WordPress events around your area. In fact, that’s how I learned of WordCamp San Antonio.

Plus, that widget also shows WordPress meet ups in your area, which are just fun and important as WordCamps. These meet ups meet at least once a month and are sort of mini WordCamps. You’ll find people who can help you, people you can network with and, once again, a sense of community. I started attending the Fort Worth WordPress meet up this year, and it’s been amazing.

So if you use WordPress as a developer, to run a business or as a blogger, I have a question for you: why aren’t you attending a WordCamp?

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