WordCamp San Francisco 2013

This year I went to WordCamp San Francisco. I didn’t take any pictures, but here’s one found on the WP Armchair stream where you can sort of make out my bald head.

You can tell it’s me ’cause the water bottle.

This isn’t going to be an exhaustive post. I’m glad I went but (and there’s always a “but”) I expected…I dunno…more.

The good

I loved being able to meet some people IRL that I’ve only known digitally. In some cases it was more of seeing people who I only knew from Twitter avatars and Gravatars across the room, but in a couple cases it was actually going up and saying hi. That was cool.

Mostly I hung out with the Event Espresso guys. On one hand, I feel like I could have done more to reach out to more people, but then I think — no, that’s probably not accurate; if I wasn’t sitting with them, I’d probably just be sitting alone somewhere and hacking on my laptop and not interacting with anyone. Maybe I should volunteer next time if my goal is to meet people…

There were a few presentations that blew my mind apart. I enjoyed Nikolay’s presentation on coding as UX and the idea of adding a hacking.md file to projects is effing brilliant — something that I want to start doing with everything, even my own projects. If there’s something left behind about the thought process that went into the code, it would make it easier to re-enter a project after some time away and figure out what it was that I was trying to do.

Nacin’s talk on user roles and caps is really what blew me away, though, and I’m talking literally when I say “blew my mind apart” — I’m now trying to apply some of those things he talked about that sounded so simple at the time and bumping my head into walls.

And the State of the Word was, and always will be, worth watching — a great way to get pumped about where WordPress has come from and where it’s going.

The bad

I’ll make a confession: part of my attendance at WCSF was self-serving. I made it a goal to go to more WordCamps last year as a way to be “seen” more in the greater WordPress community (you know, the one outside of Salt Lake City). Sadly, WCSF is the only one I ended up making it to. I’m not trying to be a big shot, per se, my thought process goes more like this: if I want to work at Automattic some day — and I do — I should be visible in the community so they already know who I am before I apply. This is largely based on the assumption that most people at Automattic (and any job, really, these days) get a foot in the door because they know someone else working at Automattic. And, you know, I do, now, know a few people at Automattic. And that’s cool. But in that “being seen” thing, I totally and utterly failed. Or I felt like I did anyway. 

Here’s the thing: there’s the WordPress Cool Kids, and there’s everyone else. I’m firmly in the “everyone else” category trying to be a part of the cool kid club and getting lost looking for the door. On the other hand, I don’t want to prostitute myself either. I don’t want to just walk up to someone and say “hey, I’m Chris Reynolds, I read your blog” for the sake of doing it and I don’t believe that would do anything anyway. It’s been said before and it was referenced at WCSF that WordPress is a “do-ocracy” where you are judged by the things you do, not by the stuff (and — at least in theory — the people) you know, so the stuff I do needs to be more public. Or something. And I failed at that, too, because I didn’t go to contribute day — but I made a decision (and I stand by it) to spend that day with my family. This trip wasn’t just about WordCamp, it was about hanging out with my parents — who I only see once or twice a year — and celebrating my son’s 8th birthday and Sunday also happened to coincide with the CONCACAF Gold Cup final and I wanted to be able to share our family’s newfound soccer obsession with my parents. And dammit, if choosing to not spend time with my family becomes a requisite for getting a specific job, well then I don’t want that job. So that’s why I stayed home on Sunday.

But by Saturday night, I was burned by my perceived failure to “accomplish” anything. I didn’t rub shoulders with anyone “important” I didn’t talk to anyone about anything that would land me a potentially lucrative gig, it was just another WordCamp, albeit one that seemed to have a higher percentage of people building products and doing things than people who just go there to learn how to use their blog or WordPress-powered site.

The other thing that was hammered home was that everyone wants to work at Automattic. I am not a unique butterfly. There were 1,000 people there and I’m sure every single one of them would like to get a gig there. Tangentially, I’ve realized that my previous attempts to get a gig at A8c have been marred by desperation. And when you’re desperate, you don’t make good decisions, you don’t sound like a confident candidate during interviews, and you end up not getting the job. If it’s ever going to happen, it needs to be at a time when I don’t need it anymore. In that sense, I’ve got a head start, anyway, because WCSF also commemorated my fourth course for Pluralsight, Internationalization in WordPress, which went live during Day 1 as I was passing emails back and forth with Megan to finalize things. (Side note: I’m really happy with this course and I think that it works because the scope is much more limited — it’s focussed on a specific thing, and that works both to create the content and — I think — to relay the information, so I’m going to try to do more courses like this in the future.)

The ugly

Okay, maybe I’m going to sound like a snob here, but I expected more from the presentations. This is WordCamp San Francisco. Demand to be a speaker for WCSF was so high that they allowed people to nominate folks they wanted to see at the WordCamp and invited people to speak. So you expect in those circumstances something a little…uh…more. And there were some great talks, to be sure. I’m sure if I went down the list over the 2 days, there were just as many good as there were so-so, but some sessions didn’t have anything to add for me, or left me with more questions than answers or didn’t answer the questions I had about whatever the topic was. I did learn stuff, as I always do at WordCamp, but, again, maybe I should volunteer, because there are things that would have been throwaways had I not had the whole day to just pick which of the two options I wanted to attend. On the other hand, a lot of those throwaways end up being some of the really good sessions you wish you went to — I’m told the responsive web design presentation was good (or if not good, at least funny), but I was downstairs watching Mika talk about multisite partially because it didn’t click for me what RWD stood for until later (d’oh).

Next year will be better. Or so I will tell myself. Like all democratic systems, you take the bad with the good because it’s about giving everyone a voice and I really should know better than to have stars in my eyes when it comes to things (and people) surrounding WordPress — we’re not celebrities, we’re coders. Even when we’re celebrities or our celebrities are coders. And though I didn’t go to contribute day, I’m planning on following Ian Stewart’s advice to pull up WordPress core Trac tickets by “Bundled Theme” as a way to get started contributing to WordPress. But until my name is attached to a patch in core, here’s a video for you because apparently 3.6 dropped.