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WordCamp (And BuddyCamp) Miami 2017: My Thoughts And Plans

WordCamp Miami 2017 dates were announced officially, and it’s happening on March 24th-26th.

This will be my ninth year involved in the organization of WordCamp Miami. WordCamps have been around for more than a decade, but the number of people on an organization team for a decade is rare.

In the past few years i’ve shared my personal thoughts about the upcoming organization, planning, and my general thoughts about the approaching WordCamp. I’m basing some of my thoughts on the past years, but particularly on the feedback we got from WordCamp Miami 2016 – I summarized the event from an organizer’s standpoint and the feedback we got from the event here.

We Don’t Try To Top Ourselves

While we do always wish to improve ourselves, out attitude in the last years hasn’t been to stress trying to “top ourselves” from the previous year. I hear this statement often enough from some people involved in WordCamp organization, but generally speaking it’s shouldn’t be a number one priority. Or even in your Top 5. If you had a great event before, just do another great event this year. For the most part attendees you don’t need to “top yourselves” to bring in attendees or justify your bragging about your event to others.

WordCamp Miami DOES try to do is strive to be unique and not be the exact same camp as the year before – and find a way in our budget to do that. You’ll see below what we are out to accomplish (at least this early in the planning) and if we can accomplish this, we’re happy.

WordCamp Miami 2016 brought our attendee record up to 850. I’m honestly not in a hurry to break that record – i’m expecting similar numbers for 2017

Priority On Networking

Two of top reasons people come to WordCamps are networking and education. Our thoughts that this year, we want to put more effort into making WordCamp Miami enjoyable for those wanting to meet new people.

So you might see this reflected in our schedule – more time for networking and meeting new people. Which might be different that what you’re used to seeing in previous years.

Adjustments To Speakers & Schedule

2016-02-21 10.06.21In previous years I think WCMIA tended to see how many speakers we could cram into 3 days. Last year we had more than 60 speakers. Even for a large three-day WordCamp I find that to be ALOT (and some speakers did technically speak in more than on session).

WordCamp Miami’s schedule is in flux until speaker calls are closed but I wouldn’t be surprised in 2017 we have LESS speakers than 2016 with longer or more deeply focused tracks.

Last year our “Learn JavaScript Deeply Track” was a BIG success, so we will definitely strive to bring this back with new (and old) speakers and a more planned out track that might resemble a workshop.

New Tools For Speakers And Attendees

IMG_4930Speaking of speakers, this year I hope to debut a new kind of speaker feedback tool. To my knowledge this is the first time ANYTHING like this has been offered at WordCamp. You can see an early prototype in action in the animated gif.

BuddyCamp Miami

This will be the 5th year we’ve hosted BuddyCamp Miami. There have been other BuddyCamps but thanks to support from the BuddyPress core team – in particular John James Jacoby – I personally think Miami is considered the un-official home conference for BuddyPress.

Typical track at BuddyCamp has been pretty much the same for the past years – do an intro session in the morning, then spend the rest of the day on various talks about design, development, or application of BuddyPress. There’s usually a “State of BuddyPress” talk in there too.

This coming year though I want to mix things up. It heavily depends on who is involved but here’s a possible approach:

Friday Morning – BuddyCamp “State of the Word”, then get into development talks on how to setup a simple BuddyPress application.

Friday Afternoon – Build a mobile app that communications with that BuddyPress application (via React or other technology).

This would effectively be a BuddyCamp + React (or whatever is ended up being used) Workshop. There could be a block of talks also on the weekend focused on BuddyPress application or other topics which would expose BuddyPress to a larger, weekend crowd. There’s also talk of a contributor day that could also include addressing BuddyPress tickets

If you have thoughts on this or another way BuddyCamp can be done differently please reach out to me.

Outside The WordPress Bubble

WordCamp Miami has been inviting Drupal and Joomla (among others) to our events for some time. That’s not stopping this year as we are actively inviting Drupal and Joomla groups in the Florida area to submit talks that the WordPress audience would appreciate. I would like to know what problems other communities have solved and how the WordPress community can learn from that.

Also outside of the WordPress circle are JavaScript (particularly React, Angular, and other groups) developers which we are reaching out to as well.

Contributor Day

WordCamp Miami has traditionally NOT had a contributor day, for a variety of reasons. There is more talk about it happening this year, so it should be interesting if that comes to pass.

What Else We Might Be Planning

2016-02-20 11.34.14Here’s a few things we’re thinking about:

– We are working out our workshops for this year (what rooms the venue has available plays a key part in the decisions). Every year we have a beginner’s workshop – the biggest part of the conference that’s focused on people that have never used WordPress before. However we have gotten requests for a “WordPress 102” class which would be for people that
– Two things people ask us alot before they get tickets: are you bringing back the BBQ and nitrogen frozen ice cream? I can’t see why we wouldn’t.
– In 2016 for the first time WordCamp Miami expanded it’s Kid Workshop to TWO days. There was coding and STEM/STEAM activities and we got ALOT of positive feedback… so i’m happy to report that plans are already in the works for another full workshop schedule for kids for ages as young as seven up into the teens.
– I would like to see another kids panel and make this an annual thing.
– Personally by now i’m getting bored with swag. There’s alot we did last year that was fun – Happiness Chocolate Bars, Wapuu buttons, coloring books, etc. It’s getting harder to find fun stuff… i mean, how many water bottles can you possibly own? PLUS a WordCamp Miami will happen in 2018 and there’s some ideas we are saving for the big 10th anniversary.
– I keep asking myself every year about the speaker collector cards… are these are going out of style? Should we do something new and interesting with the money spent? We’ve done them for the past five years. Maybe we should make them more like Pokémon cards instead of baseball cards?
– I think we might see the return again of the yellow Wapuu shirts. We only made them for the kids last year, but ALOT of adults were asking about them… we had a few serious offers of people wanting to BUY them. It was crazy. They were so cute – we usually retire shirts after an event, but we might make an exception for this one.

Screenshot 2016-03-06 10.32.00

Moving Forward

WordCamp Miami is just getting started, but we’ve made alot of announcements this week already. Sponsors and potential speakers are already reaching out. Our site will be updated visually in a few days. The first thing we did – even before applying a design to our site – is make the call for speakers. If you are interested please read the information already on the site… and remember EVERYONE has a story and I would love to see new and interesting speakers this year.

More updates to come!

What Would You Like For Me To Talk About Regarding Planning WCMIA?

Please leave a note in the comments!

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Results of My Live “Rate My Talk With Emoji” At WPCampus

IMG_4930This past Saturday I made known a web app (built on WordPress and BuddyPress) that would allow someone (either physically at the conference or viewing livestream) to rate me live as I was giving the talk. The user would be able to click any of four emoji any number of times they want: heart, thumbs up, laugh/smile, and clap.

All of these are pretty much POSITIVE emoji, as I wanted to create an app that would allow people to get positive feedback about their talks. Eventually the app (which is tied into conferencia.io) will allow speakers to select more emoji that might not be so positive – even 💩.

I even purchased a domain name that might serve as a “shortlink” to these screens for speakers in the future: mytalk.rocks

As promised, i’m sharing my results of the scoring (note that for the sake of sharing this data I rounded numbers to nearest 5 minute increments – and keep in mind there was only a few testers). My WPCampus talk isn’t online yet, but you can see how my talk started at 11:15am EST and ended at noon. Apparently I was on a role around 11:35AM and at the end multiple people “clapped”.

So, after my experiment, here’s the question: would you find this tool useful? Would you be willing to help me test and refine this?

(BTW the web app in the future might also hold a simple “ask question” feature and hold links to speaker slides and key links).

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WPCampus Review

I was honored to be part of the inaugural WPCampus event this past weekend. WPCampus is a WordPress event, but not a WordCamp. Similar to a few conferences in the past like Pressnomics (which focuses on business) and LoopConf (which focuses on developers). WPCampus is focused on the higher education sector, and how WordPress can benefit that sector. Speakers (many of them working in the high-education area) share their case studies and stories about how they use WordPress in their colleges, schools, or their own development work.

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 10.13.32 PM

The concept was born from Rachael Carden and (yadda yadda yadda) the first conference became a reality this past weekend in Sarasota Florida. Here are my observations.

Familiar, But Different

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 10.11.18 PM

The conference had around 150 attendees. It’s been quite some time since I have been to a conference that size. If you plan things well, there are certain advantages to events of that number of people. One being is that you have the chance to get to know or at speak to the majority of that crowd if you so desired.

For WPCampus, there was also the fact that the attendees were all coming from the same group – higher education. But still everyone had a different story and a different reason for them coming to WPCampus (although i’m not personally involved in the education sector, I would imagine that this is because many universities have different IT setups, among other reasons). I certainly met a number of people that I probably wouldn’t have bumped into at a WordCamp.

Behind The Scenes

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 10.16.05 PMAlthough I wasn’t involved in everything, I can tell you as an organizer that there wasn’t really problems that came up at the conference. I got alot of feedback from attendees (once they saw the “organizer” label on my badge) and I’m proud to say that the top comment I heard was that the event was very organized. I’m sure we’ll hear more feedback as the post-event is sent.

If I had to point out things that didn’t go as smoothly, I would say the tech setup for speakers at the venue throw alot of speakers a curveball. I won’t go into specifics – simply some information would have been great to know ahead of time (I had my talk on Day 2, so I time to prepare) but nothing was in WPCampus control. The venue had technical people there and they were a pleasure to work with.

There were also some hicups with the livestream, but nothing really out of the ordinary (WordCamp Miami has had it’s share of livesteam issues and we’ve been doing it for a number of years).

The Venue

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 10.16.21 PM

The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus was a good first choice for WPCampus. Our attendance was around 150 but it seemed larger than that with way with the room layouts. There was no wasted space nor was anyone crowded. The size of the rooms and venue was perfect. Helpful staff. The catered food was excellent. This was my first time in Sarasota and I had the chance to dine at a few nice restaurants.


The sponsors deserve a round of applause for supporting a first-time event like this. I got some excellent feedback from some of the sponsors as well. Sucuri, Modern Tribe, CampusPress, Flexi DB, and Pantheon had booths at the event.


Since I was part of the organization team, I didn’t have the chance to go to as many talks as I usually do. The once I did attend, I enjoyed.

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 10.17.59 PM

I did get the chance to hear from speakers that I wouldn’t normally get to see at a WordCamp, and I did learn alot about how many educational institutions used WordPress to solve their various problems or to feel a particular need. I was a speaker myself (talked about BuddyPress) and I was happy I got to try out a web app during my talk.

I’ll say it once, and I’ll say it again: if you go to WordCamps (and conferences in general) don’t just go to the talks from the people you know or the subjects you are already familar with. Yes, the “hallway track” at WPCampus was wonderful, if not even more intimate than most WordCamps… but especially with niche conferences I highly recommend expanding your knowledge and listening to speakers that you haven’t had the chance to hear before. Expand your world a little.

In conclusion…

I’ve been to alot of “first years” (Pressnomics, LoopConf, a bunch of WordCamps) and WPCampus was one of the smoothest conferences I’ve been to. And yes i’m biased a little but as someone who was on the organization team, I would have seen things that attendees might not have noticed. The first year of a conference is just the warmup to the SECOND year… and I have no doubt that WPCampus will have a long and healthfully life.

If you are involved in higher education, watch for WPCampus in 2017. Even if you aren’t (like many in attendance this year), consider going anyway. You’ll definitely meet new people and expand your understanding of the overall WordPress community.

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Rate My WPCampus Talk – Live!

IMG_4713 Update: My slides for this talk are located here: http://www.slideshare.net/dimensionmedia/buddypress-higher-education

Today i’m giving a presentation on BuddyPress and Higher Education at the inaugural WPCampus event in Sarasota, Florida. In addition to seeing me in the flesh, WPCampus has a live stream available today as well.

To make things more interesting (at least for me), I built a web app using WordPress that allows people to “rate” my talk as I give it using emojis. Regardless if you are physically at the event or watching the livestream.

My talk starts at 11:15am EST. Here’s the link to the one-page “app” (which is just an extension of conferencia.io):

http://mytalk.rocks/9 (Yes, I bought the domain name. Never thought I would buy a domain name with an extension like .rocks)

Rating is easy: whenever you want, click on the heart, thumbs up, laughing, or clap emoji. I record these in real time and sometime after my talk i’ll put together a timeline and see what parts of my talk people rated me the most (and how they rated).

If you actually use this app, make sure you refresh the page right before my talk just in case i add any last minute coding tweaks.

As with many things that I do, this was built with WordPress, BuddyPress, and various other plugins (mostly custom written by yours truly).


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