Wordcamp, Southern Style!
(Page may be slow loading due to the massive number of images.)
I had the pleasure to get to attend Wordcamp Savannah, GA on August 21 and 22nd! They actually had a all-day newbie event on the 20th that I was unable to get tickets to but I heard went really well! (Hopefully I can get involved and help with next years as well as a similar event in Chicago.)
(That’s my furbaby Lemur helping me pack while pretending not to be looking for dinner!)
I had attended Wordcamp Chicago back in June and while both events shared a lot of same core elements and features they were about as different as night and day!
As a quick recap, Chicago was a two day event, with about 500+ attendees, held in a rather posh hotel with dual-conference rooms. There was a lot of sense of formality and while Wordcamps are listed as an “informal” event, that event felt a lot formal in function. Continental breakfast was catered by hotel staff and all in all it had the feel of a “business conference” even though suits, ties and skirts were mostly absent.
The Savannah trip became an entire adventure for me with both a roadtrip and some much valued face-time with friends. You can find out more about my Savannah Wordcamp Trip Itinerary here, or follow along for the journey on my Facebook page here. It also gave me the opportunity to shoot some really cool recordings every hour of the roadtrip itself and I’ll be sharing those with you here and more videos available over the next week!
It was crazy hot this summer and the southern states were no exception. Here you see plenty of people in Savannah enjoying an opportunity to cool off. (Photo by Matt Mullenweg.)
My hotel was the Four Points by Sheraton in Historic Savannah, GA which is only about a block and a half from the venue so even while sunburned and in heels was in easy walking distance. This was fortunate since Historic Savannah is terribly lacking in parking. (I do mean terribly.) Its so bad that the hotels (well at least most I saw) have no public self-park garage and if you don’t use their valet you’re forced to feed the meter every hour to park on the street IF you can find street parking. The room was tiny but more than adequate for my needs and I had no complaining room since the room usually books for $117/night and I got it for $49/night on Priceline.com using their bidding service which Nile clued me onto while we were in Chicago. Staff was great, valets were polite, room service was tasty, but I’ve stayed in nicer places for around that price (but not in historic Savannah which probably makes all the difference in pricing).
I kid you not, my back was IN the bathroom taking this picture. Only smaller hotel room I’ve been in was my cruise ship cabin!
I went down a day early so I could enjoy the nearby Tybee Island Beach and catch some sun. The drive down in the heat however, with no AC in my car had been so brutal that I decided it was time to rush my every-couple-year Locks-for-Love donation with a sizeable haircut!
Here I am feeling about 12 inches (of hair!) lighter! It’s a tad shorter than I anticipated but SO much cooler. It frizzed badly in the humidity right after this picture was taken so going to be a while before I figure out how to style it successfully!
The beach was delightful! Just a wee bit overcast from time to time and a nice ocean breeze! Not too hot, not too cool and if I did get warm the ocean was just steps away!
I was only out there from about noon till 3pm, but I rapidly concluded that was plenty. I thought I’d gotten clear in time, expecting to burn lightly but to have not baked. I even had a grandma that was vacationing check my back and at the time her conclusion was just a little red around the shoulders.
However, by the time I got home, my winter-white skin was about as red as the Gatorade I drank to rehydrate in route.
I’m smiling here – but I wouldn’t be for long. The first night of that burn really wasn’t bad. It was throwing off a lot of heat, but wasn’t particularly painful.
However, I made some mistakes regarding some lotion (since I couldn’t find a Walgreens to get aloe) and aggravated it badly. (Just so you know, all lotion is bad, not just “greasy” kinds that some websites say.) It was very painful by Saturday and on Sunday it was so bad I was actually scared as to how I was going to make the drive (in the heat) up to Jacqui’s on Monday. Fortunately, a whole bunch of my friends came to my rescue on my Facebook Profile in a thread where I asked what else I could do for pain, and gave me some great tips on lotions (avoid), vinegar (try it with caution) and much more! You guys saved my burned ass! LOL
In proper southern style, Savannah Wordcamp (with about 175 in attendance compared to Chicago’s 500) was much more laid back and had more of the elements of a open source community “user group” (that it’s supposed to be) than a business meeting. Dress was about the same, a cross between business casual and nice jeans and button shirts. All the food was either catered by the event team, or from a local business (BBQ!) or the second day was a potluck! I must say though that there was some terrible atrocity that someone brought KFC fried chicken to a function in a state known for superb fried chicken and other comfort foods.
Here, Matt Mullenweg opens the Savannah,GA Wordcamp by blogging the event from his phone! He did this as a demonstration of how far WordPress has come in a measly five years and what technologies are on the horizon for WordPress yet!
The event was held at the SCAD River Club (Savannah Art & Design [Thanks for the correction by Chris Cree). They blessed us with donation of their venue since Matt is a alumni there. It was a two story building and from upstairs you could watch some rather impressive boats go up and down the river!
One INCREDIBLY big boat! It appeared to be from Sweden but I really want to know just what you haul in something that size. It was HUGE! [Chris also identified this ship as a Ro-Ro (roll on – roll off) where vehicles and machinery is driven on and off via a huge ramp at the stern. Thanks Chris!]
Like Chicago, day one was two tracts (sessions running at the same time) with a novice/blogger/user side and a developer/coder/administrator side and you could pick and choose which 30 minute sessions you attended, often switching between the two sides. The developer track was actually much more “developer” (code) based than in Chicago. In Chicago I found many of the developer presentations to be more geared at high level users rather than developers and I was rarely in over my head. Here, I needed some water wings and a life preserver to wade through the code on the developer side!
The sexy slingbacks I took to the event and ended up wearing both days! A very versatile shoe!
What I ended up wearing the first day with those slingbacks. A navy corduroy skirt, chocolate top and light brown with gold little sequence bits over-top. Not a perfect match but doctoring my burned back made me time short!
This is Matt Thomas a WordPress team member discussing what went into the development of the new TwentyTen theme. I’m pretty sure I didn’t give this theme enough credit and the things being developed on top of it as child themes are definitely causing me to take a second look.
This is me using the camera as a quick mirror! I wanted to see if all the mousse that morning had helped with the frizz and wave definition and it had. I definitely have some ideas now to work with (but am certainly open for more!) and was pleased I didn’t look like I stuck my finger in an electrical outlet!
The first day wrapped up with a great Q&A session led by Jane Wells with some of the WordPress Core Development team including (co-founder) Matt Mullenweg, (core dev) Mark Jaquith and (core dev) Andrew Nacin. Having the chance to ask questions of these guys was INCREDIBLY powerful and really helped build the sense of community. I also managed to get my picture taken with these guys which I was crazy stoked about!
Savannah, GA Wordcamp August 21-22, me with Matt Mullenweg ( co-founder of WordPress, right), Mark Jaquith (center left) and Andrew Nacin (far left). Oh yeah, I’m the one with the boobs in case you cant figure that out ;)
Even though Chicago contained a lot more business marketing types, actively engaged as social media consultants helping businesses get online, I found that I got a lot dirty looks in Chicago for mentioning my involvement in the “four letter word” of internet marketing. Georgia was much more laid back and a lot of the bloggers were interested in basic monetization methods they could use without turning their site into a sales site, which is, as you may or may not know, relatively easy.
The first day I found networking kinda difficult because I knew no one! Kinda happens that way and I was blessed in Chicago to have Nile Flores around to point out interesting people and make a few introductions.
Here though the first day of sessions (coupled with with some severe sunburn I got while enjoying the nearby Tybee Island Beach on the day prior) kept me occupied and entertained enough that the lower level of networking wasn’t so bad. Unlike Chicago where I didn’t do as much networking as I could have, here I made a pretty good use of my opportunities but they were fewer in number than in Chicago.
The second day of the Savannah event was an “unconference” which Wikipedia defines as a facilitated, participant-driven conference centered on a theme or purpose. This let us work in smaller groups for “table topics” and to catch up on some topics that really interested us or to teach on topics we were fluent in. Russel (last name coming as soon as I find it!) lead a great table talk on the “concept” behind WordPress MultiSite (MS, formerly WP MU) and how he uses it extensively in his business.
I got to do some really great networking this day due to the late start and arriving slightly early and the whole feel of the conference being even more laid back than the previous day. Met some great folks that I’m excited to get to know!
Then the second half of the day was a “genius bar” where tech savvy developers and even users comfortable with basic questions such as upgrading made themselves available to anyone that had difficulties they needed help with. All I can say about this is it was brilliant!
Unfortunately, even with not one but THREE geniuses looking into the problem the memory leak issues with my main site (this one) were not solvable. Fortunately though, Nikolay was able to set up some logging (of “top” and memory use) on my vps that I should be able to correlate to downtime and get a better idea of whats going on (once I get home that is!). Much thanks to him and Russel (who’s last name I cant seem to locate at the moment) for the extensive amount of time they put into trying to track this down.
Here was a great picture of a few of the geniuses teaming up to work on some super-complicated (we can only assume) problem!
Left to Right that is Daryl Koopersmith, Beau Lebens, Mark Jaquith and Nikolay. One can only imagine what great wizardry these guys are brewing up!
This is me looking incredibly toasty Sunday night (and also incredibly thankful to be able to be out of a bra rubbing across that burn!). Note the dubious expression on my face concerning how I’m going to not cry in the heat the next day! LOL
I had the opportunity to ask Matt Mullenweg what his big picture dream for WordPress is… perhaps something that the technology is not yet in place for but that he would love to see happen. After some thought he talked about how he would love to see WordPress have more of a market-share, be more easily available to everyone and be even easier to use. He mentioned ease of use ideas such as WordPress.com uses where they auto-push updates and the users do not have to stress over updating their software. It’s great to see that Matt is enough of a visionary to dream big and share the dream – its this kind of heart that keeps communities like this strong and active.
Just for fun, this photo was taken by Otto42 on Sunday, Aug 22nd in Tybee Island, Georgia, where a bunch of the main team went to dinner! Yes, that’s Matt Mullenweg with his head in the stocks!
All in all, I’ve seriously had a blast. It’s been much more low key, personable and – due to my more flexible travel schedule – relaxed than Chicago was for me. I’m giving some serious thought to returning next year!
If you haven’t had a chance to get to a Wordcamp and there’s one in your country you should really look at going! (Heck, this one had people from London, England and Paris, France attend so you really don’t have an excuse even if its NOT in your country!) If no Wordcamps exist for you, start by forming up a WordPress oriented Meetup group and take it from there. The face to face relationships are priceless!
Thanks for letting me share the journey and thanks to the Wordcamp Savannah folks for a great event. I hope you enjoyed this post and if you’re in near Savannah, GA I want to see you there next year!