Kim Slater

Thoughts on WordCamp Bristol by Kim Slater

“Everywhere I looked, I was gaining knowledge.”

My first WordCamp started at 8am on Saturday 18 May. Ahead of WordCamp Bristol, I felt a little nervous, but I had done enough research to feel comfortable and prepared. The venue was clearly signposted, so after passing through reception, I found the Mind Doodle stand straight away, caught up with my team and checked out the schedule for the day.

After some fuelling with coffee, I spent the first few hours talking to people about the latest development at Mind Doodle: our WordPress plugin, which allows you to build sitemaps visually and manage projects with tasks in WordPress.

In attendance, there was a diverse mix of people, ranging from those who were regulars in the WordPress community to newbies like me. Everyone was incredibly welcoming, asked lots of interesting questions about our plugin, and a few about me too.

I met freelancers, developers, small business owners and designers. It was great to share all our hard work with people who would get so many different types of use out of it, some of which, I hadn’t even thought of myself!

Mental health in the WordPress community

The first talk I went to was delivered by Dan Maby. He addressed mental health in the WordPress community. Many of the people involved in WordCamps and Meetups are remote or work alone to some extent, which is a high risk category for mental health problems. Add to that the many people who own their own businesses, like Dan and his wife, which brings even more pressure, and it’s no surprise that there is a higher than average rate of people struggling.

Dan reacted to his own challenges by being proactive. He’s set up a charity, WP&UP, that supports the WordPress community specifically, and delivers talks, like this one, on how people can access services and help each other through tough times. Unfortunately, more often than not, people don’t react to problems like this until it’s much too late. Dan is right on the forefront, letting people know that there is always help if you need it.

Working with purpose

From one positive message to the next, the most inspiring moment was Joss Ford’s talk on purpose and how important it is in every facet of our lives. This was my highlight of the weekend. Joss runs a digital communications agency which only works with brands who are socially-conscious and sustainably-minded. His talk suggested that we realign our professional values with our personal ones and say no to clients and companies who have no intention of matching our priorities.

Any business needs to make money and Joss didn’t shy away from that. His talk encouraged people to prioritise their purpose, and eventually their profits will come too. Plus, he has it on good authority since that’s exactly how he built his business, from nothing to where it is now.

Collaboration for success

I ended the day listening to Purplebox Digital’s Richard Franklin talk about collaboration for success. Utilising different skill sets, even if that means teaming up with different agencies, can sometimes be the best way to tackle a big project. WordCamps are a great example of this, with lots of volunteers coming together in different capacities to put on a great event.

After a long day of chatting, laughing and meeting new people, I headed over to the Watershed for the evening social. Away from the exhibition stands, it was a great moment to talk about things other than work and really get to know the lovely folks I had bumped into during the day.

Day two of WordCamp Bristol

WordCamp Bristol was a two-day conference, and the sun was shining on Sunday morning, which helped me bounce up the steep hill back to the venue. There was a much more chilled vibe on the second day of the conference and it gave me the chance to go into a bit more detail with some people who were interested in our plugin, and show off some live demos.

The first talk I saw was about SEO keywords with Jesse van de Hulsbeek from Yoast Academy. He explained how to analyse your search rankings and make the most of your content. SEO is a hot topic at the moment, and Jesse knows it inside out so it was great to get some expert knowledge.

Lightning talks

Next up were the lightning talks, which I have to say, was the part of the weekend I was looking forward to the most, purely for the reason that Tess Coughlan-Allen, our marketing manager, was giving one!

First up, Tess hit the stage to explain how you can use WordPress to make a difference in your local community. Tess helped organise the first do_action hackathon in Europe, where volunteers created new WordPress  websites for 5 charities and non-profits from the local area. She finished the talk with a video on showing how the new websites from do_action day benefited the non-profits after one year. It was heartwarming to see the positive impact the WordPress community can have.

Second up was Richard Copping from Pragmatic, who had some great tips on how to increase your creativity, and third was Luminus Alabi, happiness engineer at Automattic and self-professed equal opportunities hug dispenser, who finished off the session with some invaluable advice on how to work remotely while keeping your sanity intact.

Key takeaways

I took something away from every talk I went to. Some resonated more than others, but they all helped me reframe my thinking to be mindful of my work and my mental health. I had convinced myself that I needed to go to a super techy talk to learn something, but everywhere I looked I felt like I was gaining knowledge. It helped that I was surrounded by people who were so warm and kind.

I can imagine many conferences or exhibitions being so professional that they become cold and unfriendly, but a WordCamp couldn’t be more different. Even coming in from the outside, people were happy to introduce me to their friends and colleagues and took a genuine interest in my life, as well as Mind Doodle.

It was a bonus that I got to share our great product with people who could really benefit from it. I feel incredibly positive about the whole experience, I am really happy I went, and I can’t recommend it enough, not matter what your experience is.

Written by Kim Slater

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