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WordCamp Manchester from two sides – part 1

Posted on in News

Human Made had a very enjoyable weekend attending, sponsoring and not to forget Jenny organising WordCamp Manchester on 28th and 29th June 2014. With really different experiences of the same event from within the company it’s nice to present both sides. Here is my viewpoint as an attendee with Jenny’s as an organiser to follow.

WCMCR montage

As a relative WordCamp newbie, I seem to have been going from one extreme to another with my choice of events so far. My first ever WordCamp was WCEU last year, a behemoth of three days in Leiden with quite a high level focus, my second WordCamp was the recent WordCamp Manchester, two days, smaller, locally focussed and much closer to home.

The weekend started in style on Friday with Human Made drinks at Jenny’s local favourite, the Sandista Bar. It was a great opportunity to meet up with friends before the conference began and the weekend kicked off very nicely with tapas and cocktails. Note – be very careful when Jenny offers to buy you a cocktail, you could end up with a Zombie!

WCMCR the next day started promptly at 9am after coffee and bacon butties (which are apparently obligatory in Manchester). There was a busy schedule with two tracks and although nominally they were General and Technical there was quite a lot of overlap and often it was tricky to decide between the two. I’m eagerly awaiting the videos on WordCamp TV for the ones that I missed.

WCMCR-Sandista

For anyone starting out or in the early stages of WordPress development there were plenty of talks to choose from. There is no excuse not to be creating your own themes as we were shown three different methods – the child theme in “How to get your first child theme off the ground” from Rhys Wynne, using a framework with “A Journey into Underscores” from Tammie Lister and also developing from scratch with “The Basics of Unique Theme Development” from Samantha Miller. The only question now is which method to choose?

There were also some useful talks for the blogging and content side of the WordPress community including “Easy, Lazy WordPress SEO” from Jessica Rose, “Managing a Multi-Author Blog” from Sam Berson and “Making your website more shareable” from Carolyn Jones. I was really impressed with Sam, who at 15 years old was the youngest speaker (and probably attendee) and was presenting for the first time. Also on the General track one talk that I regretted missing was “A Web Designers Law Update” by Heather Burns.

For the more technical there was a lot your teeth into. In particular there seemed to be a lot of love for Vagrant, which got discussed by both Simon Wheatley in “Synching the team’s development environment” and Simon Owen in “Optimising your Front End Workflow“, but everyone had their own way of doing things. Also a good focus on plugins with three plugin themed talks.

Some of the talks on the technical track where at a quite high level whereas others were quite basic so hopefully everyone found something at the right stage and learnt something new. As someone who is not so technical, the easier talks were pitched just right for me and the harder ones gave me some new things to go away and learn more about. I ended up sitting on both tracks fairly evenly, which is definitely not what I had expected to do. I think more experienced developers would have found a couple of the talks a little too basic, but there was also plenty of interesting stuff on the General track and plenty of networking to be done outside the talks.

WCMCR montage

One of the highlights of the weekend was the Lightning Talks session with attendees signing up on the day to take a 10 minute slot. There were some first time speakers bravely taking to the stage such as Phil Lennon, and Azizur Rahman as well as some veterans including Kimb, Tim Nash and Jenny. Special mention to Tom Nowell who is looking for anyone to help him out with his new community project, creating a Gitbook about ” WordPress The Right Way“.

Sunday was a Contributor day with around 35 people attending the session including many contributing for the first time. Experienced contributors such as Tom and Matt helped the first timers to get set up. There were different sessions going on including theme review, core and support, demonstrating that there is something that everyone can do.

The thing that stood out for me about the event was the general friendliness and inclusion. For people that are new to the community or on the edges, it gave a chance to really get involved, meet people and learn a lot. The word is that there may be another WCMCR in the pipeline and I am certainly looking forward to attending again.