The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Several years ago, when I was getting back into web design and development, I learned about the word CMS. CMS means Content Management System and there are hundreds of them that perform many of the same basic functions, but also offer an insane amount of customized functions and features. One of these CMS, which has become the most powerful among those who know how to code from those who know next to nothing about coding or even what HTML means, is WordPress.
At first, I failed to understand what WordPress was and what it was capable of, opting to install any and every plugin I saw, only to have WordPress crash and fail. What software was this that it would crash because I was installing every plugin? Did you get that? I installed EVERY SINGLE PLUGIN on the first few pages. Little did I know, there was a whole world behind these plugins and that some were meant to be installed, while others may not work with each other, crashing WordPress.
When the time came to build a website for a company I volunteered for, I needed something that anyone could understand. I turned to WordPress and this time, I took my time learning it, and realized how powerful it was. That was 5 years ago. Since then, I have built over a dozen WordPress websites for clients along with a half dozen more websites that I would call my own. WordPress, when given the right theme, the right content, the right plugins, and the right code could be turned into a masterpiece.
Who was responsible for all this? How could there be so many plugins? Apparently, there was an entire community of millions of contributors working to make WordPress what it would eventually become, and what it is today. Not only is the community online, but the community now meets offline for group discussions, meetings, and entire events. WordPress exists and continues to become a more powerful tool by adapting to its users’ needs. In order for this to happen, Automattic, the company behind WordPress, must understand the community of fans that have grown to love WordPress for its ease of use and functionality.
Automattic decided to start a worldwide conference that focuses on everything WordPress. This conference is known as WordCamp and appears as events throughout the world. It attracts everyone from beginners to the most advanced experts who have been building blogs and websites on WordPress for over a decade.
I recently attended a WordCamp event in Las Vegas to see it for myself. What could I possibly learn from WordPress after having coded in it for 5 years? It was more about what I could learn from those who were using it and what they were doing. The power that WordPress holds is that while it is free, it can be a potential money maker. Anyone’s mother can set up WordPress. Anyone’s children can set up WordPress. Anyone can pretty much set up WordPress. If WordPress could make it even easier, they probably would.
The WordCamp event has several courses to attend, usually two courses offered at once in two separate rooms, and you choose the one you want to attend, the one that you are more interested in learning about. This is an excellent way to organize an event. If only one class was offered and people were not interested, they would probably never attend again. The real issue arises when you want to attend both. I had thought about placing my laptop in one room, having my girlfriend, who was not present at the event, watch the event from home and report back to me, while I sat in the other event and reported back to her.
Before WordCamp, I attended a unique conference called WordPress BootCamp, which was featured by Happy Joe, run by a veteran named James Dalman, who works full-time as a freelancer using WordPress. James mostly focuses on branding and marketing, but he also helps veterans to obtain jobs after their service and help them on a path to a better life, by learning how to build websites, and become freelancers themselves. James focused on an assortment of topics including:
- Discovering The Amazing Opportunities in WordPress
- Starting Off Right with WordPress (Advice, Skills, Products,Training, Resources)
- Focusing On Your Strengths (Designer, Developer, or Other?)
- Building Your Brand or Reputation
- Marketing Your Skills
- Earning More Money and Selling Your Value
- Getting Your Foot in the Door with WordPress Companies
- Succeeding as a Business Owner or Freelancer
- Question and Answer Session
James’ sessions were nothing short of spectacular, as he genuinely wants to help not just veterans, but everyone in need who wants to learn and better their lives. If Happy Joe ever comes to your area, be willing to learn, be willing to listen, and be willing to have your life changed, because James is a great motivational speaker who expects nothing less than the best.
For the next two days, WordCamp was more than just WordPress talks, but a group of amazing people eager to learn, build their own websites, build websites for others, and make money doing it too. WordPress is a community of people who, while they want to make a better life for themselves, also care about others. It seems to be the WordPress philosophy: Care for others and they will care about you. It has worked since the beginning: Free WordPress has generated more revenue for WordPress and everyone involved in WordPress than if WordPress were to cost money.
During some downtime, I got to meet some amazing people including Tim Bowers of WPMUDev.org, Devin Walker of GiveWP, Kari Leigh Marucchi of Found Art Photography, Josh Pollock who is a WordPress genius, Kitty Lusby and her obsession with books and tacos, and Shayda Torabi and the entire wonderful team of WP Engine. If you wanted to know something or had a question for anyone, you could just go up and ask without any problems or judgement. Everyone was there to have a good time, learn, and get to know each other!
The WordCamp 2015 schedule was as follows:
Saturday, September 19th
Sunday, September 20th
From learning about making your dream a reality with WordPress to getting killer publicity for your website, there was much to learn. Not only from the speakers, but speaking to everyone around me was very insightful, understanding what people were doing with their WordPress installs. One of the best features was the Open Discussion about WordPress, in which everyone stated their questions, thoughts, and ideas about WordPress.
One thing we all learned: WordPress is not a mysterious platform. WordPress is open source and welcomes everyone to know the code, understand the code, and develop the code to make it the best platform experience for everyone in the world. WordPress comes in over 40 languages, is used by 40% of the Internet market, and at least 25% of WordPress users have made some money from WordPress.
If you get the chance to attend a WordPress WordCamp, do all in your power to get there! I took off from my job on Friday and drove a total of 15-20 hours and 1600 miles (round trip) to attend WordPress BootCamp and WordCamp for the 3-day event! No regrets! Thank you for the amazing event WordPress WordCamp Las Vegas 2015 organizers! Of course, none of it could have been possible without these sponsors and their free giveaways!