Luke Gedeon has been behind every WordCamp held in Providence. He shares his thoughts on the experiences.
You were the very first Providence WordCamp organizer. What motivated you to start a WordCamp here in RI?
The monthly WordPress meet-ups had been going for a couple of years and we had a lot of people who were looking for classes on WordPress. I, and a few others, suggested that they go to the Boston or NYC WordCamp. They asked: why we didn’t have one here? One person in particular, who was really good with publicity, really wanted one in Providence. So I agreed that if she would help find 100 other people to come, we would do it. A few months later we had an organization team together and shortly after that we had our first WordCamp with nearly 200 people!
What were the obstacles and how did you overcome them?
The biggest obstacle the first year was finding a location. We contacted many local colleges and other organizations and met with quite a few. It was a full-team effort to find the right people and go talk to them.
What surprises (both good and challenging) awaited you?
I honestly didn’t know what to expect most of the time so very little surprised me. I figured, “I guess that’s just the way it is.”
Why do you think so many people volunteer their time: to organize, speak, work the day of WordCamp?
Many of us start using WordPress because it makes it possible to build a complete website all by ourselves. Then we continue to work all by ourselves until we realize all of the sudden that we need help with a particular project. It is at that point, if not earlier, that we start looking around for anyone who can help. WordCamp is an opportunity to meet locals who use WordPress and also meet some of the most active WordPress enthusiasts from around the world.
Speaking and organizing are two great ways to get to know more of the people who can help you most on your next project. It is also a great way to get name recognition and become know as an expert or leader in the community.
Another reason to volunteer is to help support the community that is building the next new feature in WordPress… that feature that you have been wanting for the last six months. WordCamps are where new features get designed and often built.
Where does the Rhode Island WordPress/WordCamp community fit in with the global picture?
Sitting right between Boston and NYC, we have an opportunity to connect with two of the largest WordPress communities in the world. But for WordCamp, the most important community is the local one. Take the time to meet everyone in you local area. Those contacts will prove invaluable over the next year.
Why do you think WordPress is such a popular platform among website owners/bloggers/developers?
Rapid setup. I am not going to say easy, because most platforms are “easy.” You can get started quickly, but the real magic is that you can keep learning and do ever more amazing things the more you learn. Most easy platforms have limited flexibility, and more powerful tools have a huge learning curve before you can even put “Hello World” on a page. WordPress does a great job of scaling to your learning level and has no “known” limits.
What is your favorite part of WordCamp?
My favorite part is the Happiness Bar. It is a great opportunity to give and receive one-on-one help with anything WordPress related.
What is your level of comfort with creating and maintaining websites? What do you do with WordPress?
I am very skilled at backend WordPress development in theme, plugins, and core. On the front-end, I am familiar with js and I can match any design. I am still working on developing a design sense that can detect client tastes and that will communicate client priorities.
How much coding/web development/other will an attendee need to know to get something out of WordCamp?
The more of the basics you can learn prior to WordCamp the more you will benefit from it, but really you can start from anywhere.
What would you say to someone who says: “I know nothing about websites and will be totally overwhelmed.”
Every time there is an opening in your Saturday schedule, visit the Happiness Bar for one-on-one help.
What would you say to someone who says: “I know so much about websites and WordPress there’s nothing I could get out of WordCamp.”
I really doubt it. The people who build WordPress are attending these camps on a regular basis. We use these events as a time to brainstorm ideas for future versions of WordPress and to work on code together.
Any advice for a first-time WordCamp attendee?
Meet people, ask a lot of questions, take notes on who said what, get contact info for follow-up.
Luke Gedeon is a Web and Business Developer specializing in pre-launch businesses, and non-profits. He is currently building several thousand free websites for churches.