WordPress Community Summit wrap-up

A few months back I was absolutely humbled when I received an invite to a fairly exclusive event; The WordPress Community Summit. This was to be the first of its kind, invite only meetup/conference with about 100 people from the WordPress community in attendance. People from all over the globe were planning to attend. We were told this wasn’t going to be just another WordCamp event. The plan was to bring a wide range of people crossing all different aspects of the WordPress community in to one location and have discussions about anything/everything to do with the WordPress project.

I’m not going to lie, for as amazing as this sounded, I had some concerns. The event wasn’t going to have any scheduled talks and would be run as an unconference. I’m a fan of the unconference format, but the process of having the crowd write down topics they want to hear/talk about and then getting them in to some sort of schedule can take up a fair amount of time. And since the event was only going to be one day, I was afraid that we’d lose out on some valuable time and that we wouldn’t really have the time necessary to actually get in to any real discussions. Plus, you know how it can be when you get a group of people who are all REALLY passionate about a topic together in one room. It has the possibility of turning in to a bitch-session where people continue to raise their voice to make sure they are heard.

I’m thrilled to say that all of my concerns were put to rest before lunch time.

In the next day or so there will be a series of posts on the community summit site detailing the notes taken from each session, so I’m not going to dig too far in to each. Each session also had an action item or two that came out it. I’ll save those for the CS blog as well. But here’s a list of the sessions I attended.

After a bit of a delayed start, we all met upstairs to pitch session ideas. The overwhelming majority of the people had topic ideas. As expected, it took a bit of time to let each person have their turn on the mic to pitch their topic idea. Once all the pitches were done, the schedule was laid out and we broke out in to groups for the first session of the day.

The first session I attended was “Getting recognition for non-coders”. The idea being, there are tons of people who spend countless hours building WordPress in ways that don’t get the recognition on the credits page like developers do. For example, documentation, help screens, wireframes, etc.

Next I attended the “WordPress Foundation Transparency.” As a WordCamp developer, this was one of the topics that was really important to me. The conversation started by each of us tabling our main issues/concerns. e all had very similar concerns. Money, control, who’s doing what. It was refreshing to hear that many of the concerns we had have more to do with perception and information dissemination.

Before lunch, a rep from each of the discussion groups gave a quick summary of what was talked about and the action items for the group. This was great because after hearing all the topics that were going to de covered, I really wanted to attend almost all of them.

After lunch there were back-to-back sessions to discuss WordCamps and meetups. My plan in the morning was to sit in on both of those. But, my concerns were handled really well in the foundation conversation so I decided to check out a couple other sessions instead.

Next I sat in on the “How WP Businesses can Give Back” discussion which ended up centering more around how business and work closer with the core team to figure out where their efforts could provide the biggest bank for the buck.

And the last session was “The death of a plugin”. We started out talking about how to go about killing of a plugin you’ve released to the repo, but no longer want to maintain. We talked about forking dormant plugins or taking over development of abandoned plugins and all sorts of variations on the theme. We also talked about how we push the related information to the plugin repo pages.

Once the sessions were over, Matt led a quick discussion about what we need to do to make sure WordPress isn’t dead in 5 years. He had some pretty interesting stats around mobile usage and performance. We then had a bit of a group Q&A before we wrapped up for the day.

The things I liked most

  • Action items. Instead of just talking to hear ourselves talk, each session ended with a set of action items. Some pretty damn good ones, too.
  • The format. Even though an unconference format has the possibility to go awry, it really is the best way to let everybody have a say in what gets talked about.
  • Lack of social media. Ok, that’s going to sound like a weird one, but, rather than everybody being head down in their laptop or iphone, people were spending their time being involved and engaged in what was going on in the room. That’s not always how it goes at conferences.
  • The attendees. It was great to meet people in the WP community from all over the world.
  • Renting a house with friends. Rather than each of us renting hotel rooms, a group of us rented a 4 bedroom vacation house. It was great to to spend Saturday evening and most of Sunday at the house hanging out in a comfortable location and talk shop.

The things I would change

  • Locations are so tough. Don’t get me wrong, Tybee is a great place to visit, but it would be great to be near an airport hub which I think would lower the cost for everybody.
  • An planned dev-day. Many Dev days that take place as part of WordCamps end up just being a chat session. I’d love to have spent the final hour of the first day breaking up in to groups of people who planned to meet the next day and get to work on the action items that came out of the conference.

Even the things I’d change are pretty small in comparison to how great the day was and how much I got out of it. If I’m lucky enough to recieve an invite again next year, I’ll definitely make the trip.

High five to the organizers. Also, high five to the attendees who came with open minds and an interest in sharing, talking, listening and learning.