In the span of seven days, I went from presenting design concepts to a room of Managuans to talking about distributed teams to a room of Winnipeggers. In my younger days I often wondered where my career would take me, but it was generally in metaphorical terms. Design, code and WordPress literally took me 3700 miles across the globe in a short week.
WordCamp Winnipeg kicked off Friday night at an Argentinian pizza joint. In the spirit of globe trotting, I was delighted to have Argentinian pizza in Canada. The food and beer were fantastic, but the company was really what made the evening special. Matt Wiebe, one of our near and dear former Triberians who is now an Automattician, was there as one of the hosts and organizers. In the early days of my freelancing career, Matt and I worked on many projects together – he often tasked with fixing my bad code and managing to make my designs coime to life somewhere near budget. In addition to Matt, Joey Kudish another favorite former Triberian cum Automattician had made the trip from his home in Vancouver. You know you’re in the right place when work trips = meeting old friends for beer.
WordCamp Winnipeg kicked off with a delightfully friendly introduction from organizer Don Betts. Traditionally, WordCamps have tended to focus on implementation strategies – whether they’re design, dev or business focused – they’ve generally got a how-to or a best-practices bent to them. WordCamp Winnipeg definitely continued that vibe with Peter’s Profiling WordPress Talk, Joey Kudish rocking Plugins 101, and Matt W’s Themeing 101 – but most interesting to me were the talks that differed from that model. Ian Stewart, someone whom I’ve always admired, opened the day with a personal story recounting his journey getting into web design and development. He hit on a mantra that is very near and dear to me, “Work Really Hard.” He spent all his free time reading, studying, and trying things. He shared all his work, and from that found more success. It was a wonderful way to open a conference, full of hope, optimism, and promise.
This was the second opportunity for me to see Peter’s Profiling WordPress talk, and I gotta say it gets better every time. The crowd was cracking up as he managed to find a way to talk about cacheing that not only kept me awake, but got laugh after laugh. If you haven’t seen it, it’s full of tips for improving the performance of your site and it’s got stuff for all skill levels.
Andrea Tetrault of Winnipeg Cycle Chick, and Tetro Design gave a fantastic talk on WordPress from the publishers point of view. She highlighted the impetus of, growth, and opportunities that have sprung from writing her personal biking blog. It’s easy to lose site of the publisher’s role in this ecosystem as we focus on technology, interface, and business models. The value of writing, and the role of blogging were well represented here in Winnipeg, echoing themes that were well presented by Chris Ames and John Saddington at WordCamp Atlanta earlier this year (Chris’ talk in particular is one of my favorite conference talks of all time – Watch It).
Dave Pensato closed the day with a talk about where he sees the future of blogging. He asked incredibly big questions, and followed with some unique and interesting proposals. He also came back to this examination of the value of blogging. His ideas about how to approach social media, how to own your content, and how to build a true home on the web are really fascinating and I’m totally jazzed to see where he pushes them. This is a smart guy that I am going to be paying attention to.
All in all, a successful event. To future WordCamp organizers, the bookends – injecting some personal stories, and some bigger philosophical questions makes for a well rounded event. Love to see more of that.