WCEU 2018

Reflecting on WordCamp Europe 2018

27 JUNE 2018BLOG

WCEU brought the world to Belgrade for its sixth annual event

WordCamp Europe 2018 was something special. It was the sixth edition of the event, and the numbers that were called out during the closing remarks gave a glimpse at the WCEU’s scale and global reach:

–       2085 attendees from 76 countries
–       529 contributors at Contributor Day
–       65 speakers from 17 countries
–       27 sponsors and 44 microsponsors
–       54 organisers across 10 teams and 170 volunteers in total

The theme running through the event was retro-futurism, and although Belgrade usually boasts of wall-to-wall sunshine, global visitors saw the skies stirring up with some storms and bursts of thunder and lightning, an unexpected show that complimented the theme.

WCEU began with Contributor Day on Thursday 14 June and culminated with an out-of-this-world After Party on Saturday 16 June, but the main event took place during the two conference days on Friday and Saturday, which presented a packed and diverse programme. Focussed workshops were a new feature this year, which, along with long and shorter ‘lightning’ talks from a range of WordPress experts, generated five parallel streams of content.

In addition to this, there were a range of other activities like dedicated sessions for networking, ‘Tribe’ meetups across a range of topics, a zone for site ‘health checks’ and a large expo for sponsors, including hosting companies as well as the likes of Google and PayPal.

Richard Hill and Tess Coughlan-Allen from Mind Doodle headed to Belgrade, Serbia for the event. Here’s what they had to say about it:

Tess Coughlan-Allen, Marketing Manager, Mind Doodle:

“This was, by far, my best experience at a WordCamp. Being on the organising team, I had a totally different view of the event and I genuinely loved every second of it. The people I met and the impact that was made by the efforts of more than 50 organisers and a total of 170 volunteers was absolutely epic.

As part of the PR team, I helped to facilitate 68 interviews over two days, so I spent a lot of time in the media room making sure things ran smoothly. I got to catch some of the talks too, because I was taking notes for three press releases that we distributed to WCEU Media Partners across the two conference days.

I loved Paolo Belcastro’s interactive interpretation of a talk. Although he was sharing his experience of working remotely and with distributed teams, he whipped up engagement from the entire audience to share their own experiences using an interactive digital tool. Audience feedback and statistics (for example, percentages of who worked from home, co-working spaces, offices occasionally and offices full time) displayed on the screen in real time with charts and graphs. Paolo also asked for questions to be submitted through the digital tool, which helped him deliver a talk that was relevant to the audience in front of him.

Matt Mullenweg’s keynote address and Q&A was brilliant, I loved his responses to some tricky (and sometimes bizarre) questions from the audience, but he gave everyone the time of day they deserved and answered with integrity as well as humour. As a content creator, I’m very excited for Gutenberg and I was really interested in the summer roadmap Matt presented, although I know this new focus for WordPress poses some more difficult challenges for others, particularly developers, working in this space, so I’m looking forward to seeing how colleagues and contacts will adapt and tackle these challenges head on.

Another interesting talk at WCEU was on Drupal, a CMS that could be seen as a competitor to WordPress. The emphasis on the importance of open-source communities (and not exclusively WordPress communities) was an interesting addition to the programme and it was really well received.

Unsurprisingly, the people are what made WCEU 2018 so special, but I don’t just mean other attendees. I spoke with many speakers and journalists, not to mention local people from Belgrade, and I was blown away by the giving nature and positive spirit from everyone. There wasn’t a moment during the whole trip where I didn’t feel at home, even though I was in a country that I’d never visited before.

Last year, I applied to be an organiser because I was intrigued and enthused to see how I could help make the event better than it already was. The call for organisers for 2019 is already open on the new WCEU site, so if you’d like to help make this annual event a success, my message to you is to go for it.”

Richard Hill, CEO, Mind Doodle:

“I really enjoyed WordCamp Europe, which isn’t a surprise as I usually do. Belgrade is a great city. It’s got a cool vibe, the people are very friendly, lovely food, and is very affordable.

The WordCamp itself was dominated by Gutenberg, which is as it should be. I thought Matt talked very well on the subject. There is some resistance to Gutenberg within the community, which makes sense given that it’s such a big change and people are worried what it might do to their plugins and themes. However, Matt explained this eloquently; WordPress is 15 years old, so it’s based on a design from 15 years ago. It needs to be updated, otherwise at some point it will fade away.

This is no easy task, it’s a bit like changing the engine on a car while driving it. So it will be difficult, but the team behind Gutenberg are doing all they can to ease this transition. They are continually looking to work with the community, to get feedback, and to run workshops.

Next year’s WCEU will be in Berlin. I’ve only been there once before, and it was a lightning visit, but my general impression of Germany is a positive one. I’m really looking forward to next year.”

Next year, WCEU will be hosted in Germany’s capital city, Berlin.

WordCamp Europe moves to a new European city each year, and at the end of WCEU 2018, the lead organisers announced that WCEU 2019 will be held in Berlin.

The venue for 2019 holds up to 12k people and will host the entire event, including Contributor Day and the much loved After Party.

Berlin’s WordPress community has 1,300 members who attend the main WordPress monthly meetup, and there are a number of additional meetups that run too, including dedicated meetups for beginners and for women in WordPress and a specialist meetup for developers.

Did you attend WCEU in Belgrade? Let us know about your experience.

We look forward to joining the WordPress community at next year’s WCEU in Berlin!

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