Recently, I attended WordCamp Baltimore. It provided me with a chance to get out of the house and spend some time in the big city. More importantly, I had the opportunity to learn from and connect with an incredibly diverse group of people.
It’s refreshing in a couple of ways. First, it just feels good to get out of my own personal bubble. I spend many hours alone, sitting at this desk with a couple of needy (but loveable) pets as my main source of company. In that way, just walking amongst the masses is good therapy.
Secondly, the state of the world sometimes makes it feel like it’s impossible for different people to come together for just about any reason. For me, the experience was sort of a reaffirmation of humanity.
Not only is this good for everyone who attended the event, it’s also an amazing asset for the WordPress community as a whole.
Exchanging Ideas, Creating New Solutions
One of the fascinating aspects of WordPress is that there are usually several paths you can take to achieve any particular goal. For better or worse, nobody has to do things any one way. In an environment like a WordCamp, that means you may learn to approach things with a whole other perspective.
For example, this event hosted attendees who represented designers and developers at just about every level of the industry. Some were solo freelancers (like me), while others used WordPress in enterprise applications. Those are two very different groups with unique needs. But by having a means to share information, each group can benefit from the other’s knowledge and experience.
But then there were also those in attendance who weren’t in the “industry” at all. There were professional and hobbyist bloggers, those responsible for managing their company’s website content and business owners looking to see how using WordPress might benefit them. They each brought their own unique needs and perspectives.
It’s this kind of interaction that spurs innovation. Knowing how different people use WordPress and finding out their points of frustration can lead to new ideas. That could take the form of a great new plugin, changes to an existing product or finding better ways to serve our own clients. And, you’ll often find some core contributors to WordPress among the crowd. If the right person hears something – that could even mean a change to WordPress itself.
Seeing the Reach of WordPress
WordCamps are held all over the world. That alone gives us an indication of how many people WordPress has impacted (and vice-versa). But it was also evident in Baltimore. People of different genders, ethnicities and age groups were gathered together at the Inner Harbor to learn and interact.
In an age where so many things have been broken down into smaller niches, we’ve lost a lot of shared experiences. Now, we don’t all dance to that same hit song. We don’t all watch the same TV shows. The very facts on which we base our opinions are often in question.
But WordPress as a tool and a community seems to transcend this. Because it is so flexible, it can appeal to the masses. Even if it’s not necessarily on the same mainstream level as The Beatles were back in the day, it is something that brings an awful lot of people together.
That’s not to say the community doesn’t have its dark moments or that isn’t affected by society as a whole. No one tool or community is perfect. There will always be arguments and debates that may cause hard feelings. But it does reflect the desire of people to freely publish information (even if it’s for profit). It’s about the ability to create and publish what we want, the way we want. Maybe that’s the new shared experience?
Diversity May Ensure Longevity
Because so many people work with and use WordPress, it would seem to be a good sign for its continued long term success. And events like WordCamps are a great way to build community and encourage people to contribute in various ways.
One thing I’ve found is that, in going to a few different camps within my region, you often see familiar faces at each one. But it was also heartening to see, by a show of hands, the sheer number of attendees who were at their very first WordCamp that Saturday in Baltimore. On one hand you have those same folks who regularly attend and on the other you have a large group of newcomers. It’s a very healthy mix.
It also shows that there is great interest in future development of the platform. That helps to ensure that WordPress itself and the surrounding marketplace will stay fresh as time moves on.
Something to Be a Part Of
Being a part of the WordPress community is a pretty unique experience. There aren’t many things we as individuals can do on a local level that also comes together with what others are doing all around the world.
If you’re interested in seeing what it’s all about, there are plenty of ways to join in the fun. It could be through a WordCamp, a local Meetup or just participating in online discussions. You’ll learn, you’ll laugh and you’ll meet lots of interesting people who use WordPress. That can lead to anything from self improvement to even a bit of renewed faith in humanity!