As announced, my colleague Caspar and I were in London for the WordCamp #wcldn. As expected, it was a form of family reunion for the WordPress community. This was justifiably on an international scale and not predominantly people from the UK.
The special highlight for myself – and surely many others attending – was the Keynote by Mike Little, the “other” co-founder of WordPress.
On Friday Caspar and I travelled to London from different direction. Caspar travelled from Berlin and me from Cologne.
For a country girl like myself, such distances (1.5 hours through a city) is unfamiliar to me. Berlin is pretty big, but London? I was overwhelmed. When I finally arrived in my hostel, it was already dark outside. Caspar and I wanted to discuss a few things. Caspar had already said he would come to my hostel. His accommodation was actually not far from mine but he needed almost 45 minutes.
Inspired by my original idea for WordCamp Europe, where I recorded spontaneous camera interviews with my amateur camera, I now carried high quality camera equipment in my case. In Berlin my colleagues had already tested the camera settings and had recorded a few interviews at the WordPress Camp in Berlin. For the WordCamp, Caspar and I had agreed that he would pose the questions and I would operate the camera.
WordCamp London – Conference Day
The organisers of the WordCamp in London obviously had difficulty in selecting the venue. Right in the centre of Liverpool street station, the participants were welcomed at the Bishopsgate Institute. The organisation team was just about to set up the visitor registration table, when I arrived there just after 8am. Unfortunately the XXL T-Shirts weren’t delivered, so I only got an XL, which was quite tight for me. Looking back, it was acceptable in any case, even thought I didn’t want to squeeze in while there. 😉
After Siobhan McKeown led the opening speech, in which she also thanked the sponsors and announced the organising plans, Caspar stayed in the main hall to witness the Lee Willis session, in which he talked about the lessons he was able to learn in general during the development of WordPress and Open Source. The small room for Sessions was located on the first floor. I wandered in to hear about the experiences of Austin Smith and how he invented strategies for great editorial websites for various editorial systems on WordPress.
Around 10am we changed rooms as I wanted to hear the Session by John Blackbourne. This was on how to develop the new Media Manager, which is setting the new standards since the release of WordPress 3.5. Particularly interesting for me was the presentation on the Media Explorer Plug-in, which is operated in VIP WordPress.com. With it you can search through Media Manager and also Twitter and YouTube and directly integrate the search results using the WordPress oEmbed API. The plug-in can also be found on Github, with the downgraded version.
For the next session, I didn’t need to change rooms, as the WordPress KeyNote speaker and Chief developer Andrew Nacin was scheduled to appear. Andrew spoke about the magic, the sustainability and the growth of WordPress. In particular, his explanation indicated how some of the steps in developing WordPress seemed superfluous at first glance. WordPress should stay downward compatible for as long as possible. The updates shouldn’t damage the old installation and WordPress should also promote its basic version as the most affordable webhosting package. Considering my own experience I found this to be partly incorrect, but I suspected Andrew didn’t yet know our famous Webhosting provider, which drive several WordPress providers mad, when the restrictive file permissions make life difficult. But WordPress can’t do anything for that.
After the official coffee break, I needed time to sort out my thoughts. At 12.00 Mike Little took to the stage in the main hall. He explained how he discovered the Blog software B2/Cafelog and how he met Matt Mullenweg. Both of them had, after the developers of the B2/ Cafelog seemed to disappear from the scene, invested money in the project and WordPress was born. This has now been around for over ten years. Both of them thanked us, that we are building a global community, which has come together based on a piece of software.
Mike, who prefers to remain quietly in the background, sounds quite emotional while reporting on his career and what he is doing today. He now leads a Web and Consulting agency and he also conducts WordPress training sessions.
You learn from mistakes
After lunch the crowds were waiting for the next lecture. Mark Jaquith talked, revealing some internal secrets. He indicated that he was responsible for developing the 3.6 Version. With this release, all that could go wrong did go wrong. Important planned updates were not properly finished or even completely removed from the planning; and the release was publicised later than originally planned. Mark reported on this in an open and quite emotional manner, about how he sweated blood and tears working on it.
The lesson from this story however resulted in an interesting type of project planning. New features such as the Plugin are now being developed. Only when they have gained maturity, each feature can be integrated in the main system. Here, a good example of this was the new design for the administration interface, named MP6. In this way, many more developers can develop a feature together, without being snubbed if it’s not finished by the release deadline, or cannot be implemented for other reasons.
Next were the so-called ‘Lightning talks’. Short contributions that were a maximum of five minutes in length. The speaker had to present their topic and had at the most five minutes to present the content in an inspiring and enlightening way to the audience. My colleague had also prepared a Lightning Talk. His talk was superficially about the thinking and the expectations of the “free software = free support” society. Open Source can be obtained for free but people who develop the software or develop extensions such as Plugins and themes, put a lot of time and energy into this. In my opinion also, these efforts should be rewarded. However we still seem to live in a ‘greed is cool’ mentality, where plug-in developers are badly offended, only because this doesn’t reach the level the users would like.
The following day Caspar and I spoke briefly with Mike Little and asked him if he would be interested in putting together a video interview. He agreed and we could use the time before the last session to conduct a very inspiring interview in the speaker’s room. This was a great honour for us and Mike gave us plenty of time and answered in great detail. We will soon post the video here on the blog. Following the Wordcamp, we were led on to the after show party in a nearby pub. The party food was very tasty and the Guinness too of course. Exhausted after the eventful day, I returned to my hotel quite early. On the next day there was still some work to do on the programme, as I had volunteered for the contributors’ day.
WordCamp London – Contributor day
For the Contributors’ day the organisers of WordCamp London came up with something special. In the Mozilla Spaces near Convent gardens in London, we were able to enjoy the hospitality of the London Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird office the whole day. It is normal practice for the participants to divide into themed groups. Caspar and I chose the group with the theme ‘localisation of WordPress’.
For some time I have had the honour of translating for the German WordPress community. In the meantime we have formed quite a great team in the German WordPress community and therefore it is my main duty to release the translations and assemble the new German versions. However this is no easy process…so far. So I worked with my Dutch “colleagues”, Remkus de Fries and Bulgarian colleague Petya Raykovska, as well as GlotPress co-developer Marko Heijnen and also Andrew Nacin – and agreed that now the future internationalisation will be easier on the hand and that the community can collaborate quicker. We should be excited.
The lovely thing about the Contributors’ day for me is the Community feeling. We all work – each group for itself – on a piece of software, which has significantly changed the world in recent years. Meanwhile the culinary highlight was very tasty pizza! Life can be so great!
The day went in much too quickly. Many wonderful talks, goals achieved and new friendships all enriched my experience. Next a small group gathered, led by Jenny Wong, who purposefully led us to London’s China town. In the basement of a Chinese restaurant we rounded off the day at a cosy table. After the meal part of our cosy group had to leave unfortunately. The remaining steadfast members then went to the well-known pub, the Salisbury. London is great fun.
On Monday I had an interview date in the morning (whith whom, I didn’t want to tell yet) and next I met with Remkus de Fries and Mario Peshev for a coffee. Caspar even joined us just before his departure. It was very interesting to meet these people in the context of WordPress.
On Tuesday morning I finally had some time to visit some of the sights in London. The last time I was in London was 25 years ago.
For me it was a really breathtaking weekend. Met many new people, deepened acquaintances and above all, realising that WordPress unites us. WordPress enables people to raise their voice. Each person can use the opportunity and share their thoughts with the whole world. It gives me great delight at making my contribution. WordPress is Open Source, which also means a wide ranging responsibility. I have already been able to enjoy so many things, by the application of WordPress, so for me it’s natural to give back something to WordPress and the community. This is true to the motto: give and take in equal measure.
I found Mike Little’s talk very inspiring. His courage, his dedication but especially his humility made a real impression on me. He insists on, above all, high standards in Web development and promotes “the right thing to do”.
I met a further acquaintance at the conference: It shows a human side too under the Chief developer, as we learnt from Mark Jaquith. Success comes to the person who stands up once more, when he falls.
The catering was performed on the second floor in a corner of the second session room. Located there also were several sponsors. Unfortunately, I found this catering solution insufficient as the exchange at the end of the sessions did not occur smoothly; compared to, for example, Leiden in the Netherlands or in Berlin. In particular the conversations with people during breaks and also during sessions are the most worthwhile in my opinion.
Networking / Sightseeing
About the Author Birgit Olzem
WordPress ist meine Leidenschaft. Als Coach & Trainerin ist es mir wichtig, dass das vermittelte Wissen nachhaltig auch in der Praxis angewendet werden kann. Individuelle Anwenderschulungen für WordPress & Social Media sind meine Spezialität. Sprechen Sie mich an, wenn Sie wissen möchten, wie man das Beste aus WordPress für Ihre Projekte holen kann.
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