On Saturday January 23, 2010 I attended WordCamp Boston at the New England Research & Development Center in Cambridge.
The whole event was well run and well organized from sign-up through the day the event itself. The WordCamp team did a great job communicating with attendees prior to the event as well as the day of. The NERD center is pretty amazing, really well laid out very comfortable with plenty of nooks and crannies for catching up on email etc (it is an incubator after all) and it proved to be a great spot for the meeting. The NERD center also has some nice views.
The schedule of events was chock-full and well organized. As often happen at things like this there were certain instances when there were a cpuple of talks that looked great but you could only attend one. Such is life and one must choose. The schedule of the day was clear and easy to read/use and the WordCamp team did a great job with collateral. Talks were divided into tracks: Beginner (B), Applied (A), Practical (P), Dev/Design (D/D) and Unconference (informal meetings of folks to talk about things of their own choosing, and not covered in the featured talks). I attended Getting in the Loop (D/D), WP for Big Media (A), Academia in Practice (A), Sell Sh*t on WordPress (A), SEO Analysis (P) and Get Seen: Web Video (P).
Getting into the Loop, presented by Michael Erlewine, was, admittedly, a bit too technical for me — I’m not a hard core code guy, I work with them — but it was interesting to see some of the loop’s flexibility, and it gave me some good ideas for possible functions on future projects. This session was very well attended and the crowd was over-capacity. I don’t have any notes for that because there was no place to really sit and write things down.
WP for big Media was interesting from the perspective that Ned Watson, the presenter, has been in the online publishing space for a while and has a broad range of experience at a number of top-tier publishers. Currently working with ew.com Ned talked at length about how they work with ew.com’s current CMS — Vignette! — and WP and make them talk to one another. That sort of integration, in and of itself is impressive and they are doing some very cool things. What I’d been hoping for though was perhaps a bit broader look at WP and big media, why it’s gaining more acceptance and some of the ways that WP torch bearers can use this acceptance to sell it to our own clients. One of my most interesting take aways from this, and one of the things that I’d wished there was some more insight delivered revolves around Large company’s IT departments, their view of opening up their infrastructure, and how, if at all one can approach that. as a client services organization I think that it would be interesting to have more knowledge of this to help our clients sell it to their IT departments.
Academia in Practice was probably my favorite talk of the day — hey, I do sites for schools. It was an informal panel discussion with 4 very smart folks from area colleges and universities and they did shine light on how and why they chose WordPress, and why academia is actually well suited to WordPress Implementations. At large, decentralized organizations such as Boston University, Harvard, Sloan/MIT publishing the flexibility and ease of deployment of WordPresss are huge factors in its adoption and deployment. At Wheaton, a much smaller, and more centralized school, the same reasons apply, but it suits the framework as well. I made a good connection with Chris Traganos, an organizer of WordCamp, and a developer at Harvard, in charge of the Harvard Gazette, and there was much back and forth and interaction between the panel and audience.
The next talk, Sell Sh*t on WordPress was one I was very much looking forward to. Jonathan Davis from Ingenesis presented their plugin, Shopp, and Shayne Sanderson from Instinct presented their WP e-commerce plugin. They both showed ample examples of their plugins at work on real world sites and which was great to see, as was, seeing the plugin’s interfaces etc. without having to buy (Shopp) and/or install (free, wp-ecommerce). Lots of good links to live sites came out of this talk but again, I was hoping for a bit more. Like my buddy John Haydon said, we were hoping for some ecomm best-practices, especially in relation to ecomm on the WordPress platform.
I attended the ecommerce presentation and the next presentation of the day, SEO Analysis given by Corey Eulas, with an old acquaintance from Mullen, Alice Winthrop. That may be the most fun part of these events, bumping into old friends and making some new ones along the way (hope the trip back to Orlando was uneventful, Bob). Corey’s talk was very helpful, packed with a bunch of practical, sound information. I’ll need to go check out his slides soon, because I think that they’ll be very helpful down the road.
The final talk of the day, Get Seen: Web Video, by Steve Garfield was interesting and chock full of useful information, though I must admit I was somewhat fried by this point. Lots of information was flowing and all day long I felt as if I’d been drinking from a fire hose.I headed home prior to the end of the day and did not attend anything after 4:30 PM.
Here are my notes from the day, very rough, and barely changed (PDF).
WordCamp Boston did a great job on the extras. The shwag bag was great — a really nice bag, filled with tons of cool WP and FireFox stickers and a pin, as well as scarf. The tee-shirt was really cool and the name tags were nicely designed and very groovy. Lunch was great, and supplied by Whole Foods (sandwich, banana, granola bar, Green tea energy drink) and Legal Seafoods (chowdah, baby). Barismo was on hand pouring very nice coffee, first thing, and NERD had ample coffee machines all around (though, I must admit I was a bit flummoxed by them when I went to make my first cup of the day…). Another fun bit of serendipity was sitting next to Mike Susz at the opening remarks (we’d worked together last summer, briefly) and it was total happenstance that we sat next to one another. He presented this cool Ignite talk about using short codes.
Overall, I thought that WordCamp Boston was great, and I look forward to next year’s event. Even if a talk was slightly different than what I’d expected, there were tons of helpful little tidbits throughout each presentation: mentions of well built sites, helpful plugins, useful sites for video hosting, etc. etc.. That, in the end is the great benefit of these events — you are exposed to all of the little things that are said when folks convene and talk. I could certainly go look around and hunt and peck but it’s great to hear experts say “I use this for….” it distills and clarifies, and for that I’m stoked to have gone to WordCamp Boston. Well done!