I’ve been using using and developing on WordPress for almost 10 years. In all that time, the single most important (WordPress related) thing to happen to me was WordCamp Gold Coast 2011, which was held 5 years ago today.
And it’s not just because it was the first time I got my name on a shirt either!
For me it was a turning point in my WordPress journey and 5 years on I decided to reflect on it’s importance to me.
Right from the moment I started using WordPress, I was building plugins and bending it to my will. I was far from a great developer, but I had a feeling that I could make WordPress do anything!
I only rarely met people locally who knew what WordPress was and their knowledge of WordPress was pretty limited.
The only people I knew who were good with WordPress were those I’d met online, who were all overseas. I’d heard of Dion Hulse, who’d been given core commit access, but it felt like there weren’t many WordPress developers in Australia.
Not only was I isolated, I had developed what can probably only be called Reverse Imposter Syndrome. I was overconfident in my WordPress skills and to be honest I came into WordCamp Gold Coast thinking I was sort of good. :O
Of course, WordCamp Gold Coast taught me that there were a load of great WordPress developers here, including people much cleverer than me. In fact, the Imposter Syndrome quickly reasserted itself and has steadily been growing worse since then!
While I could probably do without the Imposter Syndrome, it was a turning point for me. WordCamp Gold Coast let me realise that there was a passionate local WordPress community here, that I wasn’t alone, that there were others like me out there. And it was the start of many friendships for me.
I was no longer isolated, I’d found my WordPress family.
WordCamp Gold Coast was not only my first WordCamp, it was also my first time as a WordCamp Speaker, which was to become an important part of my self identity for a few years.
I guess I have that Reverse Imposter Syndrome to thank for giving me enough confidence to apply to talk! However, the people I really need to thanks are the organisors, all of whom were supportive, helpful and encouraging:
- Bronson Quick
- Lachlan McPherson
- Dion Hulse
- Brent Shepherd
I proposed several crazy ideas for talks and they basically said “No, what we really want you to talk about is WordPress and Government”. I’m so glad they did that, because in hindsight, that was an important talk and worked far better than the other topics I had in mind.
So, 5 years on, another shout out to the organisers: Thanks guys! I owe you so much.
Finding My WordPress Family
As well as the organisers, I met a bunch of other great people, all of whom I feel honoured to know: Dee Teal. Anthony Horton. Ryan McCue. Luke Carbis. Troy Dean. Brian Miyaji and AylaView from ThemeBoy. Dan Petrovic. Anthony Cole. Dan Milward (though I only met him that once).
And of course Japh Thomson, who told me a little about this company Envato that he worked for, starting me on the path to joining them myself years later.
I also got to meet John O Nolan, who doesn’t get a lot of love in the WordPress community these days, except from those who’ve actually met him. John gave a talk (sadly not recorded) that still ranks as the best I’ve heard. In return, we made sure John was educated on the dangers of drop bears and Yowies.
And so many others. I love the Australian WordPress community and this is where it all started for me.
A Funny Story
Well, this probably isn’t funny, but it tickles me..
During my talk, I mentioned a problem I’d been having working with the Twitter API. Someone tweeted me a solution while I was still talking. This person had a flying dog as a Twitter avatar and I didn’t immediately match it up to the young guy I met at the speakers dinner.
When I finally worked it out, at the after party I think, I told him he really should change his avatar to a photo so people could recognize him. I believe I may have preached that this was important for personal branding.
Of course he kept the flying dog avatar, which many in the WordPress Community would now recognise instantly, and totally proved me wrong in that regard. So much for my career as a branding expert!
Your First WordCamp Will Always Be Your Favourite
For me anyway! This little WordCamp (maybe 170 attendees) has a place in my heart that none other can replace.
I’ve been lucky enough to go to WordCamp San Francisco (the last one) and WordCamp US (the first one) and a couple of Pressnomics and a bunch of Australian WordCamps – and I’ve loved them all! Yet WordCamp Gold Coast will always be the one that is most special to me.
Of course, it wasn’t really the WordCamp itself that made it so special – it was meeting and becoming part of this WordPress Australia community that I love so much. The second half of my WordPress career has been so much more rewarding than the first half and it all started right there.
So that’s my story. I’m interested in hearing yours! What was your first WordCamp and how did it affect you? If you write about it, please feel free to leave a link in the comments below as I’d love to read it.
If you were hoping to get a reflection of what happened at WordCamp GoldCoast, instead of this sentimental stuff, check out Anthony Horton’s blog post from back in 2011.