WordCamp Europe

WordCamp Europe (WCEU) 2017 was hosted by the wonderful city of Paris from the 15-17th June. I was one of over 3000 attendees, making it one of the biggest WordCamps globally.

Having recently been a little disappointed in The Next Web (TNW) conference in Amsterdam I was excited to see how another international conference stacked up against it.

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If you’re not sure what a WordCamp is, here is a snippet from WordCamp Central:

WordCamps are casual, locally-organized conferences covering everything related to WordPress, the free and open source personal publishing software that powers over 75 million sites on the web.

After 2 days of keynotes, learning, sharing and mingling with the WordPress community here are my main takeaways:

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Bang for your buck

After having recently felt robbed at TNW 2017, I left WCEU feeling quite the opposite.

The tickets were at least a 10th of the price at €50 and it included:

  • Two days of quality keynotes and content
  • Free refreshments (snacks, coffee etc.) and lunch both days
  • Loads of sponsor swag
  • A quality (and fun!) after-party

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The sponsor booths packed with swag

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It’s a community, not a company

Conferences are an industry and a potentially lucrative one at that. This does have its benefits including quality and sustainability, however, it sometimes means you’ve just been sold another spot at a conference you didn’t need to attend.

WordCamps are different in that they are community driven. The people working there are volunteers and the speakers have chosen to be there.

This creates a very warm and welcoming atmosphere, sponsorship funding is spent on improving the event, and you don’t feel like you are being taken advantage of. This is a breath of fresh air, and I really enjoyed it!

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Talk to your users

A number of speakers shared stories about investing in, and developing, new features and/or products that their teams were passionate about and were going to add huge value to their users. However, once launched, these new releases were not received well.

Either users just didn’t want or need the new feature, or it was not functional for the users.

They all made a fundamental mistake, they did not ask the users for their input. The users are the ones who are going to be using it, so whether it’s feature requests, or asking for feedback on a proposed solution let them shape the solution!

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Measure everything

Speed and performance is becoming increasingly important in the tech world as we juggle for people’s attention. There is no shortage of tips on how to achieve this, but how effective are they? Without measuring and validating you will never know if your optimizations had any (especially the desired) effect.

Measure, optimize, validate, rinse & repeat

Otto Kekäläinen gave some useful tips in his keynote “Improving WordPress Performance with Xdebug and PHP profiling” – Slides here

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Computational design

John Maeda gave my favourite keynote of the conference. He is a design guru currently focused into design and inclusion in the tech industry. He identifies 3 kinds of design:

  • Classic design – design things to look good (UI)
  • Design thinking – design things to function well (UX)
  • Computational design – design for everyone, design for scale, design to evolve.

He also launched the Design in Tech Report, which is described as:

Design trends revolutionizing the entrepreneurial and corporate ecosystems in tech. Related M&A activity, new patterns in creativity × business, and the rise of computational design.

Now in it’s third year, I encourage you to give it a skim through. Link.

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Gutenberg

Matt Mullenwig’s session is often seen as the highlight at any WordCamp he attends. WCEU was no different, and he did a Q&A in-front of a full house. The main item of interest from this session was the official announcement of Gurtenberg.

Gutenberg is dubbed to be a block editor making adding rich content to WordPress simple and enjoyable. It is essentially trying to make the addition of content more intuitive, and easier. Especially for new users (the WordPress learning curve is steeper than many newcomers in the market).

While this is potentially exciting it has received a lot of initial backlash from the community, but worth checking out nonetheless.

The whole session can  be viewed here.

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Apart from the few mentions above there were many keynotes on a variety of topics. The video recordings of these sessions can be found here.

As with most conferences, the keynotes just form a portion of what is on offer. I connected with new and old friends, got insight into various companies and products at sponsor booths, and enjoyed exploring the city of paris outside of the conference.

The whole event was topped off with an epic after-party, hosted in one of Paris’ many parks. The turnout was impressive and everyone seemed to enjoy letting their hair down and tearing up the dance floor!

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Sightseeing a major benefit of travelling to a conference

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My overall experience with WCEU 2017 was a great one, and I would definitely make the effort to attend WCEU again!

The 2018 edition will take place from the 14-16th June 2018 in Belgrade, Serbia. You can follow updates via their site here.

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Author: Chris Muller

Chris Muller is a self-starter who is passionate about tech, travel, learning and going off the beaten track. Co-founding Pango (a tech-focussed business accelerator) and his role as CTO for AdvantageLearn.com (an online education company) fuel these passions. Otherwise you’ll find him running in the mountains, practicing yoga or sharing a beer with friends.

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