Wordcamp Lancaster

Wordcamp Lancaster 2019

I wanted to take a moment and reflect on my first Wordcamp experience, as well as pass along some insights I learned. This was my first Wordcamp event, an experience I looked forward to. Excited both to learn, as well as interact & meet other like minded individuals. Or at least, other WordPress users.

I had wanted to attend a WC for a few years now, however the Philly dates seemed to fall on days I had previous engagements, ie.weddings. With the start of the new year I made a commitment to expanding my knowledge and learning all I can about each avenue I pursue, as I feel I’m a jack-of-all-trades. As a result, almost serendipitously, I came across info for Lancasters own Wordcamp and yes my schedule was open to attend.

Ok, I wanna get this outta the way, and that is that I was glad there was no indoctrination or initiations for first timers, not sure why that notion crossed my mind, but I was expecting it, although it didn’t happen. Personally, I find that’s a way of separating & labeling attendee’s, rather than bringing them together, which is what events like this should be about. There was an informal polling, by raising of the hands, of whose first time it was attending. I would ballpark maybe 1/3rd of hands went up. While that may surprise most of us, truth be told, I did a bit of research into WC’s and one of the posts I’d read about was how surprised someone else had been at the diversity and makeup of attendee’s experience levels, from hardcore theme coders, to people who’ve never used WordPress at all. I was surprised when I’d read that, but it gave me good insight & a pretty good grasp on what to expect.

Onto the speakers.

It started off with Tara Claeys, who is active in the WP & WC community. She’s based out of the DC Metro, and helps to run the DC Wordcamp. She gave a detailed presentation, informative, giving a broad overview on plugins as a whole (plugins are add-ons to help out your website, such as a video gallery, e-commerce addon, or Mailchimp signup), which she feels are the must-have’s (Yoast SEO) and which she’s recommend (Elementor). I felt comfortable already as I’d heard of nearly all that she mentioned, and used nearly all at one time or another.

Next up was Susan Walker, offering advice to new users and startups. Initially I felt it would be geared to me, it seemed to meander a bit at times, venturing into hyper-specific topics and technical things that seemed beyond the scope of alot of new users and some attendee’s. Some valuable info was given on taking over anothers site, and checking out the backend/server side, something in which I have experience on.

Seth Alling gave a solid presentation on SEO. Insightful explanations on it’s history, and where it stands today, including rich snippets and meta-data. A sample was provided for a ‘Rhubarb Cookie Recipe’ and showing a results page. A question was asked ‘How would one get to Page 1 for something like ‘Chocolate Chip Cookie’ recipe. A nice way to put it was given, and that is, the honest SEO person’s answer ‘Good Luck’, or something along those lines would suffice. Some things, you just cannot do anymore with SEO & the web, as you’re now over a decade behind as a startup. Google gives preference to experience in alot of popular cases. It was a throwback to my days at a pretty bad web hosting company, one that nearly assured potential customers of ‘Great SEO results’ to startups in major metro areas (think Electrician in Miami), just for signing up for a lowest priced website design service.

Lunch was provided and held in the facilities cafeteria, a bit of a mixer as well. I sat & spoke with a seemingly well rounded coder. I find something about them and the languages they know (Javascript & Ruby, not like German & Spanish) I get a hunch when they know what they’re talking about. We spoke a bit about WP, work, continuous learning via Lynda & Treehouse, and exchanged advice and encouragement in our journeys.

The afternoon session saw me juking & jiving between intro & advanced tracks. Notsomuch that I found my comfort level, but moreso that some courses were specific to a niche (ie. Non-Profit, Information Management) that I found a better fit with the advanced tracks. One of note, was by Joe Casabona who demonstrated how he created a paid service online learning course using WooCommerce & LearnDash. Food for thought, although it’s a tough market given sites like Udemy, Treehouse, and even free Youtube tutorial videos.

Having said that, the day came to a conclusion with a Q&A session with 4 of the speakers from the day. Questions asked about client/customer service situations, work/life balance, and insights into operating a small business. A good majority of the crowd stayed until the end, soaking in each nugget & thought there is to learn. With that, as time passed on, my first Wordcamp concluded. It was a worthwhile trip, one that I’m glad I invested both my time and money into. If anything, I learned that WordPress is a rabbits hole waiting to be dug into, and with it, the more you learn, the more you realize there is to learn.