WordCampUK 2009

This is my first WordCamp, OK there have only been 2 UK ones to date so its not the worst strike rate in the world. More so it was my first real exposure to the people of WordPress.

For those of you who don’t know what WordPress is, some background. WordPress is a free and open source blog publishing application and Content Management System. If you’re less technically minded than the attendees then you’ll need a little more help.

Open Source: Bruce Perens describes a broad general type of software license that makes source code available to the general public with relaxed or non-existent copyright restrictions. The principles, as stated, say absolutely nothing about trademark or patent use and require absolutely no cooperation to ensure that any common audit or release regime applies to any derived works. It is an explicit “feature” of open source that it may put no restrictions on the use or distribution by any organization or user. It forbids this in principle to guarantee continued access to derived works even by the major original contributors. Linux is a more widely known example of an open source project.

wordpress

Content Management System: this is an application used to manage work flow needed to collaboratively create, edit, review, index, search, publish and archive various kinds of digital media and electronic text.  The content managed may include computer files, image media, audio files, video files, electronic documents, and Web content.  The bottom line for these systems is managing content and publishing, with a workflow if required.

WordPress is the technology behind a lot of blogs, when I say a lot I mean millions. Here are some stats: There are over 15 million WordPress publishers: 6 million blogs hosted on WordPress.com plus 9 million active installations of the WordPress.org software.

It’s what Richard Branson, Stephen Fry, Andy Roddick, Lance Armstrong, Martha Stewart and Perez Hilton use. It’s more than just a personal blogging tool, it’s used by Number 10, The New York Times, Reuters, several UK government departments, the CIA, Le Monde, Ben & Jerry, MIT, Samsung and CNN. You get the idea that its a serious item of free software and it’s used by people who really count, and ones that can’t and won’t tolerate stuff that doesn’t work for them.

They use both the blogging aspect as well as its ability to organise assets – pictures etc. It has a relatively simple interface and though you do need a bit of technical nous to set it up, once done it’s easy to get stuck in and blogging.

wordcampuk-logo by laura kalbagSo that’s the background. The event was organised by enthusiasts, not a large corporate or a software house looking to push boxes, because there just simply aren’t any. In the same way the software is shared they just want to share experiences, tips, tricks, news and know how, casestudies and sneak previews of what the next generation of WordPress will bring.

Cardiff was this year’s venue and blessed us with sunshine and showers in equal parts. The Bay area is fantastic (think Torchwood) redeveloped, vibrant and polished. The Millennium Centre and the Assembly dominate the neighbourhood, palettes of slate, bronze, glass and chrome against the moody blues of the Bristol Channel.

It was a mix of hobbists, entrepreneurs, business focused moguls, designers and developers. There was a slightly technical (dare I whisper ‘geeky’) flavour to the weekend, but not so much as to exclude or intimidate. As many know I’m not at the most technical end of the spectrum myself but was able to hang in there with most of the sessions. As the growth of WordPress continues apace future WordCamps may reflect the greater diversity of attendees.

I learnt a lot, I made some great contacts and friends. The WordPressers are a gifted and amiable bunch and like their Brains as much as their bytes. There was debate, disagreement and growth for everyone that attended. It shouldn’t be compared to larger conferences at Olympia, The Business Design Centre or the NEC and it would very foolish to do so. This was self funded, well organised and concise.

The presenters were varied, sincere and insightful. There was even a star Q&A by Mr WordPress himself Matt Mullenweg a modest and charming chap, far too young to be this successful!

Kudos go to Tony Scott and Hayley Marsden for all the sterling work behind the scenes pulling it together. Also a nod to Simon Dickson (WordPress maestro) of Puffbox for pointing me in the WordCamp direction.

Needless to say I’m going to get involved sooner next year and will be awaiting the planning announcements eagerly.

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