I’m a full-time freelancer developer living in South Florida (Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area). I am a WordPress developer and specialize in BuddyPress sites/applications. I also do stand-alone PHP work. I’m also a speaker, meetup organizer, conference organizer, and father of three.
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It’s that season again. In a month, a large number of WordPress folks will migrate to WordCamp US (being held this year in Nashville). and other events (i’ll be attending WordCamp Orlando in early November for example). So I thought it would be a timely reminder of how to ask questions at a WordCamp.
There are two times questions are asked at a WordCamp that i’m particularly focused on: (1) at the end of a talk, before the speaker leaves the scheduled time off stage and (2) During the “State of the Word” at WordCamp US where Matt Mullenweg typically takes questions from the audience. This advice applies to both, might apply to other times, some might not be applicable for other situations.
Keep it short. I think this is the #1 rule, regardless what you do. Most questions do NOT require a complex backstory or history… and if they do, then being live in front of an audience with only a few minutes left for questions isn’t the time to ask perhaps. What i find to be effective many times: Ask a question that might get you close to an answer (or pick something easy to respond to) and THEN you can ask the speaker if you send them a longer version in printed form. Maybe. But keep your question short if nothing else then to be considerate of other people’s time.
Prepare in advance. I think some of the more awkward questions are from people that think of questions on the spot. Which is fine, but not everyone can do this. Put your refined question on a card – that would allow you to be as articulate as possible.
Don’t make it about you. Ask the question in a way others listening can benefit. You’ve heard this before: someone asks a question that there’s no way any other person (at least in the room) would have that same exact problem. Some go as far as basically asking for tech support in their “question”. Stop yourself and ask – can i ask this after the talk or at another time?
I’ve seen people try to fit in as much questions as they can (“my second question is…. my follow up question is….”). Sometimes this is logical, other times it looks selfish to be honest. Speakers and others asking for questions are most times expecting ONE question per speaker. Sometimes that’s all they can focus on honestly.
Allow others to ask a question. If nobody else has questions and there’s time, then perhaps ask your additional one.
I care deeply about audience participation during WordCamps. But there are some respectful and logical boundaries.
I would highly encourage WordCamps to adopt the practice of having the speaker be available in a location (such as the happiness bar or a private room) to answer additional, perhaps more private questions where the person asking has the opportunity to ask a little longer, more personal question.
2018 marks our 10th consecutive WordCamp, so I thought a couple of posts honoring that were in order. My first in this series is something that actually has been requested – for someone that’s been involved in all 10 WordCamp Miami conferences…. what swag stood out most in my mind?
I think out of all swag and items we’ve made to thank our volunteers, speakers, and attendees… shirts is probably the category I take the most pride in. It’s really great to go to other WordCamps and see people wearing WCMIA shirts (we try not to date all of our shirts for this reason). We were among the first to offer women’s sizes standard, and we managed to also produce shirts for kids along the way – some of which became so popular parents wanted to buy them for themselves (someday you might see Wapuu shirts in the swag store!).
These were speaker gifts and very impressed how they came out. We did three versions (fitting in with our 80s theme): Miami Vice, Back To The Future, and Stranger Things. Back To The Future was the most popular, in case you were wondering.
Wappu Uno Cards
This was a surprise hit that year, and looking back it’s easy to see why. We took advantage of the Wapuu designs in Github and each cards represented a unique, colorful Wappu (at the time we covered most that existed in Github). This also happened to coincide with Wapuu’s 5th anniversary, which made it even more cool. The Wapuu cards are open sourced and available on Github. Someone even made a mobile app based on our cards.
Relatively cheap to print, but takes effort to extract information from speakers (some speakers are particularly choosy about their photos) and make the cards. This first appeared during WordCamp Miami 2012 (I think). Literally had people not attending sessions trying to trade with other attendees to get the cards. It was (and still is) a great networking tool. Also we had comments that people liked the cards just so they had speaker’s name and Twitter info. They’ll be back in 2018 for sure.
These speaker gifts were a natural progression from the Wapuu Uno Cards and the box gives off a great Miami/Cuban vibe.
These were an “easter egg” in WordCamp Miami 2016. Cheap to print. If there was a candy bar of WordPress then “Happiness Bars” would be it. The covers are open sourced and available on Github (wrap them around a Hershey bar and you’re good to go). Of course, please the Happiness Bars in your WordCamp’s Happiness Bar… mind blown.
Simply a deck of playing cards but each card had a different WordPress function and a description of that function. Anyone who was a coder loved these.
Pins have been a trend recently, especially among those who visit multiple WordCamps. WordCamp Miami tries to come out with one or two unique ones each year and gives people a chance to try to collect them all. Kids especially loved the Wapuu ones – although we produced numerous pins over the past 10 years.
For a WordCamp organizer, drinking containers might be like children… you publicly state you love them all… but there’s always a favorite. Ok, scratch that… my kids might read this someday. In any case over almost a decade I think we pretty much touched on almost any kind of drinking container in our limited price range.
For the past 3 years, we’ve been using pretty cool custom badges – kinda have to see one in person. Water proof, very well printed. Highly customized – they are as much a swag item as a button or pin. For 2018 we are upping the customization with a new design.
I haven’t heard alot of talk about this particular anniversary in the community or on social. My theory is after a certain point you start celebrating 5 and 10 year milestones like crazy and let the single milestones get the “that’s great, but next year is 15!” treatment. Evidence: last time we REALLY celebrated WordPress was on it’s 10th anniversary. I’ll have to admit – i’ve been married for 15 years and our 14th anniversary was basically “let’s go out to dinner today but do a cruise next year”. In any case, i think it’s worth a brief mention now and we’ll save our big party for 2018.
Personally, I’ve been involved with WordPress since 1.5. My first CMS was Movable Type but honestly that was really just well suited for my personal blog – it wasn’t for most client sites I was working on at the time. I did try Joomla and Drupal at the time (along with PHPNuke). I found them ok, but simply not in conditions where you can hand them off to non-developer clients after you were done. WordPress has it’s faults too – it was still mainly for blogs back then – but seemed better suited for my client base. Plus the ease of setting it up you couldn’t beat.
WordPress is Barely Out of Diapers
14 years is forever in Internet years. By one measure WordPress should be getting it’s AARP membership and get a senior discount at the movie theater. But on many respects, WordPress is barely into it’s teenage years. My daughter turns into a teenager next month, so I can relate to what that means. Teenage years are filled with wonder but also it’s a time to start determining your direction in life, work on self-control and patience, and suffer through all the mistakes you’ll be making. It’s a great, but awkward time.
Minimum PHP versions, focus of goals and leadership, coding issues – just a few of the things WordPress still needs to tackle. Not to mention it’s perception to some outside of the WordPress community. Like a teenager, it will try to wrestle with these issues – sometimes well, other times perhaps not so well. But it’s still growing, and will get more mature.
What I Would Like To See In The Next Year
My opinions don’t mean jack and maybe i’ll go into them more in future posts, but if someone asked me what i’d like to see this is what’s off the top of my head:
1. I would love to see more examples of the REST API being used to inspire others.
2. More awesome work with accessibility, multi-language, and the overall admin experience (writing experience in particular).
3. I would love to make more WordCamps accessible to smaller sponsors with smaller-than-hosting-company budgets.
4. I wouldn’t be a WordCamp Organizer if i didn’t put out an invitation to everyone – from Matt M to Mike L to that young person learning WordPress for the first time – to come down to WordCamp Miami in 2018 for our 10th anniversary. We’ll show you a good warm time when the rest of the country is cold. 🙂
You’ve Got A Friend In Me
Congrats to WordPress for 14 years. You’ve provided a means to support myself and my family, a means to provide my local community with education via meetups and WordCamps (WordCamp Miami will soon be celebrating 10 non-stop years!), and a means to develop relationships with wonderful and interesting people in a community is among the best in tech. Thank you Mike Little and Matt Mullenweg for starting something wonderful 14+ years ago – something that now covers 28% of the web.
Here’s a list of posts that are celebrating 14 years of WordPress. Ping me on twitter or leave a comment and i’ll keep the list updated: