There aren’t many things that this girl will wake up for at 5:15 am on a Saturday. Last weekend was an exception, as I headed for the charming campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville for my first ever WordCamp. In the words of WordPress, “WordCamp is a conference that focuses on everything WordPress. WordCamps are informal, community-organized events that are put together by WordPress users like you. Everyone from casual users to core developers participate, share ideas, and get to know each other. WordCamps are open to WordPress.com and WordPress.org users alike.”
Walking up the half mile of stairs to the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Enterprise Development, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Would I understand the classes? Will they speak in ‘code’? Will everyone attending be genius web developers and I barely know the basics? As a lover of learning, my questioning was subdued knowing that value would come from this. Little did I know that I was walking into the best knowledge based conference I have ever attended. (Ok. Ok. I have to confess that it wasn’t quite a half mile of stairs. It just felt that way as I waddled my 7 month pregnant belly up them.)
The atmosphere buzzed with excitement. I was greeted by friendly Arkansas smiles handing me a swag bag complete with water bottle and t-shirt. Coffee and pastries sealed the deal. This was going to be a good day! (Did I mention they were giving away an iPad2 at lunch?)
And so it began. The conference was broken up into 3 tracks: Blogger Track, Business Track and Developer Track. As a Socializer for MyModernWeb, I choose to stay mostly in the Blogger Track. However, I did weave my way into a couple of Business Track sessions.
The morning sessions flew by. I gleaned so much from the speakers, my hand couldn’t write as quickly as I wanted it to. My favorite session of the morning came as a surprise to me. I judged the class solely on the title, wondering what I could learn from a multimedia magazine. I almost missed out, but thankfully I choose to stay. Tom Hapgood and Bret Schulte, assistant professors at the University of Arkansas, presented the student-run multimedia magazine called The Arkansas Angle. I was blown away by the concept of experiential and interactive journalism. The design, creativity and the multimedia approach ignited a slew of ideas and methods that I am excited to start employing.
I could hardly believe it when they said it was time for lunch. Penguin Ed’s catered a delicious lunch of pulled pork sandwiches, baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad and PICKLES! (No ice cream?) I had a delightful time connecting with several of the ladies that were in the same sessions as I. Then it was time to draw for the iPad2. Unfortunately, my prayers went unanswered as I did not win. (Isn’t there a song about that? )
The afternoon began with Jane Wells hosting a WordPress Town Hall. She opened the floor for any WordPress or sea turtle related questions. Seriously, she did. Most people took her up on the WordPress questions. Attendees started firing off questions and she didn’t skip a beat. I was very impressed by Jane. (She did slide in a quick lecture about sea turtles at the end!) The Town Hall was followed by an Online Forum. The forum was made up of 4 local business representatives answering questions about their online publications.
So much great information and the day was only half over. I have a hard time choosing a favorite from the afternoon sessions. Angela Belford’s entertaining and witty presentation made Google Anayltics interesting. (Actually, Google Analytics are very interesting if you know what you are looking for!) Despite technical difficulty, Sara White’s presentation on Writing for the Web was chock-full of great tips and amusing illustrations. (Now I’m feeling very vulnerable to the possibility that Sara will read this blog. I need a refresher course in punctuation, Sara. I apologize for any faux-pas.)
I do have to say that Keith Crawford’s session was my favorite of the entire day. His engaging teaching style and edgy demonstration combined to make a fantastic end to this day. I could have listened to him for 5 more hours. He equipped us with tools to make our writing life easier.
My only regret of the day is that I don’t have the ability to be three places at once. At first, I was torn between the blogger track and the business track. By the end of the day, I knew I would have learned from the developer track as well.
I expected to leave exhausted from the traveling and the long day of classes. Instead, I left fueled and excited for the things to come. There are many other ways I could have spent last Saturday, but I am glad that I chose to spend it at WordCamp Fayetteville! I want to commend Christopher Spencer for organizing a fantastic WordCamp. I am looking forward to next year.