It has been three years since I was last at WordCamp Europe, and so I was excited and a little nervous as to how I would handle seeing my WordPress people again. Suffice it to say, my fears were unfounded, as I spent 4 and a half glorious days catching up with old friends, making new ones, and generally immersing myself in all things WordPress. As I write this, my body is still recovering from the travel, the conference, and the side events (oh my, the side events!) but my heart is full, and I’m inspired to keep doing everything I can to support and sustain WordPress for many years to come.
For the first time in my life, I struggled with something I call “WordPress fame”. I’ve been contributing to the project since 2015, but now that I’m sponsored full-time to work with the training team on Learn WordPress content, I’m becoming someone who is known in the community. It was quite something to have folks coming up to me, and thanking them for this tutorial or that online workshop.
I also was amazed at how many folks had good things to say about my voice and the pace of my speaking on my Learn WordPress tutorials. Apparently, I have a good voice for what I do, which was a pleasant surprise! I’ve never been a fan of my Cape Town/South African accent, but apparently, it’s good for learning content. Who knew?
After arriving in Athens late on Wednesday, catching a taxi to the hotel, and checking in, I attended the Codeable dinner in the evening. As an ex-Codeable expert, I always enjoy attending these dinners, as it gives me a chance to catch up with old friends and making new ones. The Boliver Beach Bar is an amazing venue, and I spent the night chatting with WordPress friends and developers from all over Europe. The photographer Kostas Fryganiotis even managed to capture my first Codeable hug of the evening, with my friend Nemanja Cimbaljevic.
Day 2 – Contributor day
I started my contributor day by having breakfast with Angela Jin and Josepha Hayden, which was a lovely way to start my WordCamp experience. I’ve known Josepha since my earliest days in the project, and I had the pleasure to share the “Get Involved” table with Angela at WCEU 2019 in Berlin. It was pleasant to just sit and share a meal with them, as we all discussed our plans for contributor day. I then shared a taxi with Angela and Chloe Bringmann as we all headed out to the venue.
Contributor day itself went really well, with one slight hiccup. While the main contributor room was great, the locations of the additional rooms were not. It was also not clear a) that these additional rooms existed, b) where they were, and c) which teams were set up there. If I’m ever a table lead again, I will make sure to get to the venue early enough to scout things out, make sure I know where my tables are, and then include that information in my introductions.
Once I found the training team tables and got set up, I spent most of the rest of contributor day focused on the folks that arrived, making sure they were set up with what they needed, helped guide them to where best they could contribute, and make myself available for questions. Overall I think it was a successful day, with 6 new contributors onboarded, and everyone having completed at least one task on the day.
I also had the opportunity to sit down with training team contributor and my fellow table lead Courtney Robertson and Core Dev Blog lead Birgit Pauli-Haack as we finalised some GitHub organisation changes to allow for better code example hosting for the training team, the core dev blog, and any other WordPress team who needs a place to host code examples.
After contributor day I shared a beer at my hotel restaurant with Craig Hewitt, my old boss at Castos. He invited me to join him for his team dinner, and I got to meet Sergey, Jimmy, Kelly, Jesse, and Jesse’s wife. It was pretty awesome to share a meal with the new team at Castos, and hear how well the business is growing.
After that, it was onto some of the official WCEU side events, namely the Yoast/Codeable/Bluehost Pride event, followed by the Siteground GoGreek rooftop party. I chose these for their proximity to my hotel, and so I could get a walk in between each event.
The site of the Acroplis lit up at night from the Siteground rooftop party was truly spectacular.
Photos courtesy Nilo Vélez
Surprisingly, only a few developers admitted during the Q&A part of worshop that they were still hesitant to go all in on developing blocks using JSX. However, there were a couple of questions from those who still use other methods, which I was able to answer.
The main concerns that were raised were:
- Cross-browser compatibility concerns, which I explained were not actually an issue (and was able to confirm this with Ryan Welcher afterward)
- It’s faster to use ACF’s block support, especially when needing to access complex data from the WP database.
That last item was one I could not fully answer, but I asked the attendee to give me his name, and that I would follow up and find out. This also gives me some ideas for a future set of workshops and or tutorials about this subject.
I spent the rest of the day chatting with various folks across the hallway track, meeting sponsors and folks from the community who I only knew online, meeting more Automattic colleagues, and just generally hanging out.
That evening I attended the volunteer/speaker/organiser dinner, along with some of my Automattic colleagues, which took place at the Boliver Beach Bar again. I was also able to connect with some Delicious Brains folks I worked with during my time there, and it was fun to catch up with them.
I started day 4 late, having spent the morning recovering from the last two days of the conference and evening events resting in my hotel room, and traveled through to the venue at around midday. Over lunch, I chatted with various speakers including James Giroux, Miriam Schwab, Adam Silverstein, Petya Raykovska, Laura Elizabeth, and Jonathan Wold.
I was also able to meet with Jamie Marsden and we chatted about getting some more of his Rapid Recreation videos into Learn WordPress, which is super exciting.
I attended the final keynote with Matt Mullenweg, Josepha Haden Chomphosy, and Matías Ventura, and even managed to squeeze in a question about developer best practices during the Q&A session.
I really appreciated Matías response to this question, because I agree with him. While it would be cool to have such a document, we need to be careful to not make it too prescriptive and should strike that balance between encouraging best practices yet not stifling innovation. It’s something I want to work on as I work through all the developer content I’m creating at the moment for Learn WordPress.
Finally, I attended my first WordCamp Europe official after-party, which was a fun way to wrap up the event. We even managed to gather 4 out of the 6 known WordPress Jonathans for a group photo, which we hope to improve upon next year.
On the last day, I spent the morning over a lengthy breakfast (lengthy in that I didn’t have to be anywhere) and had chats with a number of different folks. One topic that came up a bit was multilingual support for WordPress, as this was a topic that came up in the final Q&A and is important for our European community.
Finally, I was able to do some sightseeing, took a walk to the Acropolis, and back to the hotel, and wrapped up my final day in Athens enjoying lunch and conversations with other Automattic colleagues leaving later that day.
I had a wonderful time at WCEU 2023, meeting old friends, making new ones, and meeting LOADS of colleagues for the first time. I was going to list them all here by name, but the list is too long, and I’m sure I will forget someone. Suffice it to say, I left Athens tired but with a happy and full heart, inspired to continue building the best developer-focused content for Learn WordPress and the project as a whole.
Not even the 9-hour delay in my travel home due to weather issues over Charles de Gaulle airport could stifle my spirits.