WordCamp US 2017

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be able to attend WordCamp US 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. I had heard that it was a cool place and I’d been curious to visit, so when I saw that Wordcamp was being held there on the weekend of my birthday, I decided to go.

Wordcamp (for those who haven’t heard of it) is a conference where WordPress developers, users, contributors, designers and business people meet to share ideas and information about the content management system that almost a third of the World Wide Web now uses to organise and display information. It’s pretty incredible to see the market share that WordPress has now. Several years ago I recall having to make a decision about which Content Management System (CMS) I would really delve into and learn (as there was so many options and I couldn’t really expect to use many of them really well). Well, let’s just say I’m glad I picked WordPress.

Back to last weekend… Having attended my first Wordcamp in Toronto in 2014 and discovering that it was a great weekend long event put on at a very reasonable price, I had started thinking about attending Wordcamp US. Unfortunately this year, I was busy moving house the weekend it was on in Toronto (where I currently reside) and so I was unable to attend the local event.

Getting to attend in Nashville turned out to be a great excuse to see the city and sample the big daddy of Word camp events. While there are many smaller Wordcamps around the US (and the world in fact), there is one annual event that is designated as the premier Wordcamp  and it takes place in the US. It’s normally held two years in a row in the same location and this year Nashville was the host city for the firs time.

Over a couple of days at the conference I attended a number of great sessions, the biggest of which was the State of the Word address by Matt Mullenweg (one of the founders of Automattic – which is the company that created WordPress and coordinates it’s development). The talk included a live demo of a new content editor that has been in the works for WordPress (called Gutenberg).

The content editor where WordPress users spend so much time has been ripe for improvement for quite a while and I’m pretty excited to  see how the team working on it has taken on the challenges of improving it. Impressively the new editor includes features that enable a user to not just edit content, but layout content simply and easily in interesting and desirable ways. Currently there are a bunch of editors and plugins that come with different themes/frameworks, etc… which can be quite cumbersome to use and learn, even for a web developer, so simplifying this experience for people is going to make a big difference to how useable the software is. There’s been so much work put into Gutenberg by numerous teams (design, coding, etc…) that I’m really optimistic that it will be a game changer for many WordPress users.

Other sessions I attended touched on the tools and strategies that other WordPress developers and business owners use to be productive and provide a high level of service. I found a lot of similarities with what I do, but also walked away with some great suggestions on how to improve how I do things.

There was also a good session at the start of the conference about how to start contributing to WordPress in one of the many teams that work on the software. As I get more involved in the WordPress community and develop my business (with most clients now using WordPress for their website) I find myself amazed that the platform is created by a community of people all around the world, many of whom are volunteering their own time to improve the software for all of us.