I have been writing regularly about WordPress since 2007 and using the WordPress platform since it launched a few years earlier. Since I moved away from making money online through gambling affiliation, it is fair to say that WordPress has been my bread and butter. It has been at the heart of how I make money online.
So it was surprising to many that it took me so long to decide to attend my first WordPress event. Those people were right. I should have started attending WordCamps years ago. WordCamps are community organised events that focus on the WordPress platform.
A few weeks ago I attended WordCamp Europe in Seville, Spain. It was a fantastic experience.
In this article, I would like to share with you all my experience at the event and talk about what it was like to attend such a large WordPress conference. I have already spoken about my experience there on WPEka and WP Kube, so feel free to check out my recaps there too :)
(Many of the same photos used in the articles on WPEka and WP Kube are also included in this article; which was unavoidable as I did not take a lot of photos at the event)
A Video Recap of WordPress Europe 2015
I recorded footage of the event using my Sony action camera. I did not record as many clips as I had originally envisioned. Firstly, because many people do not enjoy being on camera. And secondly, because I was too busy enjoying myself to focus on recording all the time.
Still, I hope you enjoy this short video of my trip to Seville to attend WordCamp Europe.
I also recorded a video of me sightseeing on my last day in Seville.
Enjoying WordCamp in a Beautiful City
One of the reasons I was encouraged to go to this year's WordCamp Europe event was because it was being held in Seville in Spain. I had visited Seville in 2003 to support Celtic in the Europa Cup Final against Porto and I had a fantastic time there. It's such a beautiful city to walk around.
The Barceló Sevilla Renacimiento caters towards conferences and other large events. It took me around 25 minutes or so to walk there every morning. It was an enjoyable walk in the morning, but when I returned to my hotel around 6pm every day, I had to do so through the unbearable heat of Seville. It was in the mid to late 40s every day and one day the temperature exceeded 53 degrees celsius. That's insane.
The main dining area was held in a large circular area. The bottom floor was used for dining while the upper floors contained hotel rooms.
The hotel also had a large swimming pool just outside the dining area. I had planned on chilling out in the swimming pool area for a while with some beers. Sadly, that never happened.
Seville is an amazing city. Every corner you turn you will see a plaza, a church, a museum, or a little cobbled alleyway that winds around to another cool street.
Seville Cathedral is without doubt one of the most famous attractions in the city. Known as the Cathedral of Saint Mary, the cathedral sits at the heart of the city surrounded by bars, restaurants, and shops. Completed in 1507, the Cathedral of Saint Mary is the third largest cathedral in the world.
That's the great thing about WordCamp Europe. All of the events are held in beautiful cities around Europe; which makes them a great excuse to mix business with pleasure. As you know, I love travelling and visiting new places, so I made sure I had time at the end of the trip to do some sightseeing.
The Journey to Seville
I purchased my ticket to WordCamp at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, I did not book the flights at this time. One reason was because I was not sure where I would be and whether I would be able to spend a little longer in Spain.
I finally got around to purchasing my flights a week before the conference began. Getting to Seville was a tiny bit of a pain as there were no direct flights from Scotland to the city.
One option was to fly direct to Madrid and then take the train down to Seville. Another option was to fly to Malaga and then take the bus. In the end, I purchased flights via Brussels airlines and flew from Edinburgh to Seville via Brussels.
If you have watched my video blog about my trip to WordCamp, you will know that my flight going over was very early. My first flight was at 6am, which meant I had to get up around 2am and then leave for the airport before 3am.
I only slept for an hour the night before because I so many things to organise before I left. I was still uploading video files to YouTube at 12.30am. I would have been more organised if I had booked my flights earlier and planned my schedule ahead, but alas, I was not organised.
Upon arrival, I grabbed a few hours sleep as I was exhausted. After dinner, I met up with Jean Galea from WP Mayor, Pere Hospital from ThemeIsle. It was great sit back in the heat and relax with a few beers.
Three Days of WordPress
Registration began on the first day at 8.15am. I took a relaxing stroll up to the hotel in the morning and got there just after 8.30am. Despite only having a few beers the night before, I was extremely dehydrated in the morning due to the temperatures in Seville. I therefore took advantage of the orange juice and snacks that were available in the main lobby.
We were all given name tags that also noted our Twitter handles. Inside the name tag was the schedule for the first two days of the conference. I found that many people looked at people's name tags before they even looked at someone's face (something I did myself many times).
I was only there a few minutes when I bumped into Pere Hospital. We shared a few laughs about the night before and about the way we met. When we were first introduced, I misheard him and wrongly assumed he worked for CloudPress, a company I had been speaking with that week, and Pere assumed I was a Kevin from a company he had been dealing with that week. We only realised the mistake the next day.
We soon progressed into the main conference room for the opening remarks at 9.15am.
After a few minutes, we were joined by Colm Troy from CommerceGurus (I must admit I did the embarrassing thing of looking down at his name tag when he sat down haha). Myself, Pere, Colm, and Simon Tomkins from CommerceGurus, hung out together after each day at the conference. We were also joined by Jean Galea and his wife Alyona.
Outside of the main conference rooms there was an experts bar. You could come to this booth and ask any WordPress related questions you had.
A ticket for WordCamp Europe only cost 40 euros. Part of the reason the ticket was so cheap is because of event sponsors. Sponsors had advertising booths outside the main conference rooms and in the area at the entrance of the hotel. They gave out free swag such as t-shirts, stickers, buttons, notepads, yo yos, and bags.
There were two conference rooms. These were referred to as “Track 1” and “Track 2”. Talks were 40 minutes long and held in each room simultaneously. Due to this, there were many times when you had to miss a talk you wanted to attend because it was on the same time as another talk you wanted to hear.
After two talks, there was a break for 30 minutes, with lunch being 90 minutes long.
Everything was well organised. All the talks went ahead at the scheduled times and there were no problems other than the hotel wifi being a little slow for speakers. They even translated talks live for Spanish attendees.
I cannot fault the speakers at all. They were all professional and spoke clearly. However, I did feel that over the two days, the vast majority of the topics were too basic. This was, after all, a WordPress event that was attended by people who work with WordPress every day. Yet most of the topics seemed to be directed towards WordPress users who had been using the platform for just a few weeks or months.
WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg had a 60 minute question and answer session on the first day. I enjoyed listening to Matt. While I do think his company Automattic sometimes abuse their position to promote their own products on WordPress.org, he always comes across as a nice guy. He's a confident speaker and was able to handle the prickly questions that were thrown at him.
One thing that I did notice is that he was not around at the conference. The only time I ever saw him during the whole event was the Q and A session.
I only attended one talk on the second day. Rather than sitting in the conference rooms, I arrived late to the conference and spent most of my day just chatting to people in the relaxing area they had with cushions at the entrance to the hotel.
I had a lot of fun just sitting back and talking. I managed to meet a lot of great people including Timothy Bowers, Raelene Wilson, Vaughan Montgomery, and Tyler Postle, from WPMUDev, Jonathan, Jean-Baptiste, and Lucy Beer, from WP Rocket, and Tom Ewer from Leaving Work Behind.
Due to the number of people at the conference, the talks were incredibly busy. If you did not get into talks on time, you would have to stand at the back of the hall due to the lack of seats.
The last day was contributor day. This was an optional day that you did not need to attend. A series of workshops were held on the day that focused on contributing to WordPress. You could attend these workshops and could assign yourself to teams that you wanted to help with.
I was really disappointed with contributor day. The person leading our team left the table for more than an hour after an hour-long lunch so a lot of us were left hanging in the afternoon. And when I actually was able to help, I was “Summoned” to come around and was then asked to wait; so I was left standing behind the person for minutes like a gooseberry because they were too busy texting their friends. At this point, I just walked back to my desk and made a conscious decision not to do any more work. As someone else in the group pointed out, it felt like anytime you asked for help you were interrupting. Remember, none of us were paid to be there, we were all volunteering our time. The only saving grace was a nice guy from New Zealand who was helping everyone out.
To make matters worse, the lunch was awful that day. Despite advising them that I am vegetarian, the only thing I could eat at lunch that day was a small veggy wrap; therefore, I just went back to the main conference room hungry and started working. Someone who was on a gluten-free diet said during lunch they had been sick the day before due to being told by hotel staff that something they ate was ok for them, when it wasn't.
It is disappointing for someone like myself who has used WordPress since 2003 to feel like this, but I was very annoyed at the time. I gave up a full day of my time to help out, even though I had a ton of work of my own to complete for clients of mine. I am certainly not bitter about the experience, though it is also unlikely I am going to help out at contributor day next year because of what happened. Nor am I keen on contributing to WordPress, something which I had been planning to do.
The contributor day was a waste of time and the majority of talks at the event were too basic; yet I still had a great time.
I had went to WordCamp Europe with an open mind. I had no plans on what talks to attend, what people to meet, or any ideas of spending all my time networking. All I promised myself was to have a good time.
It soon became clear to me what WordCamps are all about. They are about meeting people. They are about meeting other people who are also passionate about WordPress.
Meeting Great People
Whilst attending WordCamp during the daytime was fun, hanging out at night with friends was what I enjoyed most. As I have said a million times, Seville is a beautiful city. Hanging out at night and chatting over a meal and some beers was fantastic. I had a blast.
Pere had a friend who used to live in Seville so had lots of recommendations about what restaurants to go to. Apart from the bizarre Garlochi bar being closed, all of his recommendations were great.
I was lucky enough to meet a lot of great people at WordCamp, but part of the reason I did so was because I had existing connections with people through this blog and through my freelance writing. I think the organisers could have did more to accommodate people who went to the conference without knowing anyone.
On the Friday night they had a private VIP party that only select individuals were invited to. We were already out in Seville having a great time when we heard about this party, but I am of the opinion that they should not have held parties which exclude people.
Anyone who was alone should have been active on Twitter. Twitter was the service where everyone posted updates during the event. In fact, during the talks, there were more people using Twitter than actually listening to the speaker…and that is not an exaggeration. More than 50% of the crowd had their faces buried in their phones (including myself). It's funny that so many people were sitting in talks saying how great the conference was on Twitter rather than just enjoying the whole experience.
So how could Twitter help those who were alone?
Well, many attendees would tweet using the WordCamp Europe hashtag that anyone who was alone could join them. I myself sent a tweet welcoming anyone to join us. If you ever go to WordCamp Europe and find yourself sitting alone at night, get on Twitter, check the event hashtag and send a tweet asking to tag along to a night out. I am sure someone will respond.
WordPress threw an after party on the Saturday night. We had about an hour after the conference to get showered and get ready for going out. I quickly got ready and headed out. A few minutes later, I started to question why I had even bothered to take a shower as the intense Seville sun had soaked me in sweat within a few minutes (gross, but fairly accurate).
The after party was held at a cool bar across from the Torre Del Oro. It was a fantastic venue. Everything was held outside next to the river.
If I had been organised, I would have taken more pictures of the after party. But no…I was not organised. All I have is a couple of selfies we took whilst filling our bellies with rum.
The music at the after party was really good. Everyone was up dancing and drinking and having a great time.
Bizarrely, they had organised a tiny little VIP party for “Important” WordPress people to hang out. The whole thing was comical to me as it was right next to the main area. It felt too much like the organisers and sponsors just patting themselves on the back.
I am the wrong person to comment on this issue as I have always been of the opinion that VIP areas are awful. I have been in two or three VIP areas in my life and I was always met with pretentious people who want to pay higher prices for alcohol in order to feel important. I always have more fun mixing it up in the normal area of a pub or club.
As you can see from the photo below, we were situated close to the bar most of the night. It was right next to an impromptu dance floor, next to the bar, and close to the toilets. If Carling did nights out :)
I had been asked whether I would be attending WordCamp events many times over the years, however I never gave it any serious consideration. I am glad that I finally got off my ass and attended a WordPress event.
Next year's WordCamp Europe event is being held at the same time next year in Vienna, Austria. It's going to be great hanging out with all the friends I made this year, and meeting up with Rise Forums members such as Rhys Wynne. Rhys is also organising a WordCamp in Manchester, England, later this year. I am going to attend this event too.
If you work with WordPress and have never attended a WordCamp, I highly recommend you make the effort to attend one. You won't be disappointed.
I hope you have enjoyed this look back at WordCamp Europe. If so, I encourage you to subscribe to my newsletter.
Thanks for reading.