It is now four days since I arrived back from my trip to Paris for WordCamp Europe 2017.
The weather was amazing, the drinks were flowing, and I met a lot of great people at the event. How could I not have fun in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Where are all the videos of the event you ask? Well, I was quite lazy in this regard. I went to Paris armed with my new HTC U11 smartphone, a selfie stick tripod, a massive memory card for storing videos, and a plan to record lots of footage in the event.
Since I was mainly focusing on just enjoying myself at the event, I didn’t record any videos at the event. I did, however, manage to record a quick video recap on my last day in Paris.
Keep reading on to find out more about what WordCamp Europe 2017 was like :)
Before the Conference
Paris is only a short flight of one hour and 20 minutes from Scotland. Obviously, the journey takes a little longer as I need to travel 40 minutes to the airport in Glasgow then spend an hour or so waiting around there before flying.
At the other end, it is around an hour on the train from Charles de Gaulle to the heart of Paris. The whole journey remains relatively short so I can’t complain (when you have did 30 hour bus trips in South America, most journeys seem easy).
Paris was scorching throughout my whole time in Paris. It was absolutely beautiful weather and was great to walk around in the sunshine.
I bought a ticket for the subway, but I much preferred to walk in the city centre. It was great to walk around listening to music and look at all the amazing buildings around Paris (it was perhaps a little too hot for doing that though given the hot weather).
After dumping my bags at my hotel at 3pm on the Thursday, I went to meet fellow Rise Forums member Rhys Wynne in a bar close to the Eiffel Tower. The beers went down very easily on account of how warm it was.
Later that day we headed north to a pub in which many other WordCamp attendees were going. The event was organised by ProteusThemes. There I was joined up by Colm and Simon; owners of Create & Code and CommerceGurus. More importantly, Colm and Simon were who I was sharing an apartment with.
It turned out to be a good night, though as someone who doesn’t drink that much anymore, I did sink one too many pints. I’m blaming the sunshine again for the beers going down so easily.
Les Docks de Paris
WordCamp Europe was held at a place called Les Docks de Paris in the Aubervilliers area of Paris. From where we were in the Opera area of the city centre, it was a 25 minute train journey.
The area itself felt like an industrial estate. It was a great location for a conference, but I am glad we did not make the mistake of staying there as many people who did complained the place was dead at night.
On the first day we arrived just in time for 9.15am for the opening remarks, only to find that the website was wrong and the introduction was already held at 8.45am (Colm showed the screenshot he took on his phone to prove he didn’t get the time wrong!).
The conference was split between three different halls. The main hall held all the sponsors and hosted track 1 talks. The other two tracks were held across the road.
As usual, WordCamp had many sponsors who were giving out swag. For the second year running SiteLock won our unofficial best t-shirt award with their comfortable red offering. Jetpack maintained their steady provision of bags and pens and notepads and many others offered t-shirts, pens, and more.
The key attraction in the first and second tracks was the food tables that dispensed coffee and pastries to everyone. Bottles of water were plentiful too.
In Vienna last year, the event was held in a gorgeous historic building, but it just was not practical for a conference in the inside.
In Paris this year, the large industrial unit that was holding the event looked uninspiring, but inside it was much better. Without a doubt, they got it right this year.
The venue had lots of room and was airy. In contrast, last year was frustratingly cramped and hot.
I caught up with a lot of people in the main hall and in the building that had track 2. I met friends I had made from previous WordCamps and was introduced to a lot of new people.
Most of these interactions happened close to the food and drinks table (nothing to do with the hangover…honest).
All in all, I can’t really fault anything about the venue WordCamp Europe was held. It was a practical location and the whole event was run effectively and efficiently. Kudos to the organisers and the volunteers who helped at the event.
The talks take centre stage at WordCamps, but those of you who have read about my previous trips to WordCamps will know that they are not my main focus. Instead, I spend most of my time just hanging out and talking to people.
From a networking point of view, I am not the most active. I don’t actively walk around introducing myself or seek out people to speak to. What I do instead is just hang back and talk to those that I encounter. It is this the core concept of a book I am writing in the future entitled “How Not to Network and Not Influence People”.
We did watch a few talks during the event. In the first day we watched two talks in the main hall. I won’t lie to you. The main reason we went is because it was the only place where there were seats. No other seats could be found around the conference except inside where the talks were being held.
In the afternoon of the second day, Matt Mullenweg took to the stage. He touched upon his thoughts about the future and explained how the upcoming page builder, Gutenberg, would change the way WordPress worked. It will be interesting to see how this new feature works and how developers of drag and drop page builders respond.
In my first WordCamp event, someone asked Matt a difficult question during the Q & A section. This is perhaps why in the following year in Vienna the Q & A section was only for pre-approved questions; which led to a sequence of “Why are you so amazing” style discussions with Matt.
Thankfully, common sense prevailed in 2017 and we saw Matt take questions from the floor.
One of the first questions to Matt was about how WooCommerce started off as a fork of JigoShop. This is a subject I wrote about several years ago in 2011 and touched upon the subject again in 2013 when other people started offering premium WooCommerce extensions for less money.
For the benefit of those who don’t know the story, here’s a quick summary.
WooThemes approached the owner of JigoShop in 2011 and offered to buy his plugin and business for a really low amount (some say 10% of its value). The owner declined such a ludicrously low valuation so WooThemes hired the two lead developers of the plugin from JigoShop and launched WooCommerce.
WooCommerce became so successful that the company stopped selling themes altogether, however the first version of WooCommerce was nothing more than JigoShop with a WooCommere logo plastered on top of it. From a business point of view, nothing Woothemes did was wrong, but ethically their tactics were disgusting.
The question put forward to Matt was given the way WooCommerce was developed, shouldn’t the developer of JigoShop have been given a small percentage of that sale since he had spent years developing the product only for someone else to make his product more successful using funds and staff he did not have access to.
Matt said that he was not aware of what happened. I am not sure whether that is true or not given his stature in the community, but I do not believe the unethical way WooCommerce was launched has anything to do with him personally either as it happened years before Automattic bought the company.
Still, I think that it was a very important question to ask as if the practice of forking successful plugins became common practice, we could see a lot of companies develop for other platforms instead. Fair play to Matt for responding to the question as it certainly was not an easy one to answer.
During the conference we watched some lightning talks (such as Thabo’s talk). Rather than being 30 minutes long with 10 minutes of questions and answers at the end, these sessions included four 10 minute talks. I enjoyed these talks more as the short time meant that the speaker had to get their point across quickly and not add any filler to space it out to 30 minutes.
The Friday Night
The conference was being held on Friday and Saturday. I arrived on the Thursday and left on the Sunday, so I did not have a huge amount of time to see the sights in Paris.
We did not get back from the conference on the Friday until around 7pm. After a quick shower we all headed out again.
I stopped by the themer’s meetup that Ana and Marko Segota organised and then headed to the night out that was organised by WP Engine. It was held in a nice little pub and had food and drinks put on for everyone.
I joined back up with Simon and Colm at the themer’s meetup and on the way home we stopped and relaxed at a nice little bar.
After having one too many on the Thursday night, I only ended up having two drinks on Friday. It was a more sensible thing to do given how hot Paris was.
A Parisian After Party
The WordCamp after party is always held at the end of the event.
This years party was held at a beautiful place called Le Pavillon d’Armenonville. It was not too far for us to travel since we were in the heart of Paris already. All it took was a 20 minute walk and 5 minute train journey to arrive in the area.
The after party for my first WordCamp Europe in Seville was spectacular. It was held on a boat by the riverside and had an amazing location with a great atmosphere.
In Vienna last year we did not stay long as it was being held inside the main conference hall. It was hot, sweaty, and crowded. We left fairly quickly and found a bar due to it being so bad.
The venue in Paris was really nice. Located within a nice park, the pavillion was divided into two sections with a hall and outside area in each section.
The main problem was that it was too crowded. They used the stupid token system again which meant that you had to stand in a queue to buy tokens and then stand in another queue to actually buy the drink you want. I cannot stress enough how annoying I find it to have to buy tokens in order to buy a beer. Are two queues ever better than one?
A bigger problem was the food.
We had planned on going out for dinner on the Saturday night before the after party, but we were repeatedly told at the conference not to do that as the after party had multiple food trucks that were subsidised.
The mistake we made was that we believed this story.
We arrived at the event around 9pm and the queue for food was more than an hour long. All they had for sale was hot dogs, hamburgers, and crepes. At this point of the day none of us had eaten since 12pm so we were all starving.
This really put a dampener on my night. I stood for 20 minutes in the queue and in that time we moved around 5 feet. We were all starving and it was hot and crowded.
I couldn’t last any longer so I made a 15 minute walk into the nearest district and sat down with a veggy burger and a pint. It cost me 30 euros for the privilege, but it was sheer bliss. All was good in the world again.
During the walk I realised that the surrounding area of the after party was full of prostitutes and pimps (they don’t tell you that on the website).
After eating I was a changed man and was instantly in a better mood. The after party was still very busy when I returned.
We stayed until after 4am. In the last few hours the after party was a little quieter and a little cooler, and as a result of this, I enjoyed it more.
I only had a couple of beers at the after party. Partly due to being full from the burger, partly because it was so hot and I was tired from walking so much.
I had fun at the after party, but rest assured at future events I will be making sure I eat before I go!
Wandering Around on My Last Day
After checking out of my hotel on the Sunday morning I had around three hours before I had to head to the airport.
Rather than take the subway, I decided to walk. It was only around a 30 minute walk to the Rodin Museum. I had seen lots of Rodin sculptures in other museums in my first trip to Paris and was keen to see more.
The Rodin Museum is beautiful. The main museum hosts a lot of his work, however behind the main museum are gardens with many of his bronze sculptures.
I only had an hour and a half left after visiting the Rodin Museum so I didn’t have time to go up the Eiffel Tower or take in any more attractions (I’ve did it before so it wouldn’t have been top of my list anyway). Therefore I just walked to the Eiffel Tower and sat there for a while before walking back to my hotel to pick up my bag.
It was a relaxing final day for me.
In hindsight, it would have been good to have stayed in Paris for an extra day or two to see a little more and relax for a few days. WordCamps are good, but you don’t get a lot of time to stop and smell the roses.
Meeting People From the WordPress Community
I attended very few talks at WordCamp Europe. For me these events are all about meeting fellow WordPress enthusiasts.
I shared an apartment with Simon and Colm from Create & Code, but I also met many other themers. This includes Ionut Neagu from ThemeIsle, Mohammed from WP Engine, Primož from ProteusThemes, Vova and Jobe from Freemius, and Dusan, Marko, and Bojan, from Meks.
I talked to many developers too. This includes Akshat from BlogVault, Rodolfo Melogli from Business Bloomer, Amos from Pixel Rockstar, Shadi Manna from Progressus Marketing and Codeable, and Katie from Barn2Media.
I caught up with Tobias, David, and Stefan from Admin Columns too. I’ve worked with them over the last few months so it was great to meet them again.
I apologise to those who I have missed out, but you meet so many people at the event that it is hard to keep track of everyone.
The above list does illustrate how many influential WordPress people you can meet at a WordCamp. It is amazing that so many talented people are together in one place.
What Did I Learn From WordCamp Europe 2017?
I do not attend WordCamp events with big plans on who I am going to meet and what I am going to do. As much as WordCamps are a way to connect with people in the industry, they are also a way to meet great people and have a lot of fun.
Being surrounded with so many great people, it is hard not to be inspired when you attend a WordCamp. You are mixing with many successful entrepreneurs and you pick up a lot of great tips you wouldn’t find anywhere else. I shared one such tip yesterday in my article “Becoming Successful with Those on the Same Journey“.
I did notice one general pattern about the people I met.
Those who have been very successful in WordPress are very modest about the success they have and are more inclined to just shoot the breeze, be silly, and have fun.
Those who have just been in the industry a short space of time are more likely to bore the ears off you. I met many people who spent over 30 minutes talking about their company’s product without even asking my name or what I do online. I am not one to talk about myself unless anyone asks and don’t care whether they find out what I do or not; but it does come across as rude when the whole discussion is just someone giving you a presentation.
The irony is that the people who did nothing but talk about their company were people who had only been working with the company a few months and were relatively new to WordPress. It is good that an employee enjoys their job and is proud of what they do, but I couldn’t help but feel that because their trip was paid by their employer, they were being asked to give everyone sales speeches.
I do not believe that is a good way to connect to people.
I am more likely to want to help someone and work with someone after we have spent time getting to know each other as people first. Getting blasted with sales talks for 30 minutes the second I meet someone just bores me to tears.
Thankfully, the vast majority of people I met at the event were amazing and were not on a constant sales pitch.
So I guess if I had to take anything away from the event, is that if you want to network with people, just be yourself and get to know the person first. It is human nature to want to work with others you like.
Take from that what you will as I am the first to admit that networking is not my forte.
WordCamp Europe in Paris was an absolute blast.
Apart from the food fiasco at the after party, the organisers got everything right. The whole event ran smoothly and the venue was perfect.
I was not actively taking photos or videos during the conference, but I am not disheartened by that as I was just busy enjoying myself and chatting to people.
There were a lot of people I had hoped to meet and didn’t so hopefully I will get to meet them at another WordCamp.
Next year the event is being held in Belgrade in Serbia. I am really excited about going to the event as I have never been to Serbia before. Belgrade is a beautiful city that is steeped in history and it is also significanty cheaper than Paris where 10 euros for a beer was common.
My next event will probably be WordCamp Edinburgh; which is behind held one month today. It is only an hour’s drive from me so I should make an effort and go and meet people who work with WordPress close to me. I will be sure to let you guys know if I do go.
I hope you have enjoyed this recap of WordCamp Europe 2017.
Thanks for reading.