Here I am at home, near Baltimore, MD, blasting some metal music (Machine Head & Trivium, just in case you were wondering, @jarret) while typing this, and I really can’t get this shit-eating-grin off my face. WordCamp San Francisco 2011 was beyond anything that I could have imagined. I was in a town car going from my hotel to the San Francisco airport on Sunday morning, looking at Twitter, and following the #WCSF hashtag, and I realized that I was going to miss a lot of information on the last day. I’m not going to lie: I wanted to turn the car around and figure out the airline issues later. So much had happened since Thursday night that I realized that I’d be missing out on too much. Unfortunately, I never tapped the driver on the shoulder. This post is a thank you to everyone that made this WordCamp possible, and to the folks that make the WordPress community so damned awesome.
I am on Twitter and follow a good number of WordPress folks, but I was sincerely apprehensive about flying across the country and being with about a thousand folks smarter than me. I tweeted my anxiety about going to the annual WordPress conference, and I received a response from Jane Wells, one of the people involved in setting this whole thing up. While it made me feel a little bit better, I still didn’t know many people, or who I to hang out with during my time in San Francisco. Why was I worried about that? I knew that San Francisco would be teeming with people that I could learn from. I was just too scared to approach anyone. I’ve have what I think is a good online relationship with a ton of WordPress folks, but again, it’s all online. I’m sure you all felt the same apprehension when you attended your first WordCamp, so I hope I’m not alone. With all that said, I would like to now thank a handful of folks that made my first WordCamp San Francisco one of my best experiences, both professionally and personally.
Aaron Brazell – @technosailor
I “met” Aaron via a co-worker when he still lived in Maryland, a few years back. I had no idea that he was writing The WordPress Bible, nor did I know how damned smart he was. I needed a way to prevent all users from changing how permalinks were displayed, and Andrea Baker pointed me in his direction. He posted a comment on my blog, giving me the full code of an Mu-plugin that prevented users from changing the permalink option (or any option, really). Since then, he and I have chatted via Twitter, Facebook, and on the phone about a multitude of things, but we’ve never had the chance to sit down and chat (especially over beer).
This changed on the Thursday I arrived in San Francisco. We had made plans to meet up at The 21st Amendment Brewery and have a few beers. We had beer and chatted WordPress, the Ravens, but mainly had beer. It was awesome. Then the next two folks wandered into the bar…
Ryan Duff – @ryancduff
I knew Ryan on Twitter via Aaron. At first impression, he was a pretty quiet laid back dude that didn’t say much. That changed quickly 🙂 He’s very smart about a lot of WordPress stuff, and has a very quick wit. I had to make sure he wasn’t a Steeler’s fan, though, being from Harrisburg, PA…
Andy Stratton – @theandystratton
I actually didn’t know about Andy until the week of WCSF when I saw a retweet from Ryan Duff about Andy possibly hiring WordPress devs in the Baltimore area. I’m not looking for another job, but I loved the idea that Baltimore had some WordPress developers living here. Andy, Ryan, Aaron and I sat and drank a few while waiting on the next guest…
Melanie Nelson – @sfgirl
Melanie is awesome. I don’t now how else to put it. She arrived about an hour after the four of us were deep into WordPress talk (and beer) and she jumped right into it. She’s also very pretty (don’t beat me Aaron!). The five of us sat around for a couple hours and talked WordPress, WordPress people, and had a grand old time. The kicker? I hadn’t known her for more than two hours, but her and Aaron drove me back to my hotel. It was a cheap taxi fare back to the Hilton on O’Farrell, but the fact she said “Get in the car, Dan” with such authority made me respect her like +100.
Otto – @Otto42
I didn’t know anything about Otto until Saturday morning when I was talking to Aaron before the first session. Now that I’ve learned about him, I feel like a total WordPress newb. Aaron introduced us, and somehow the talk went to beer (shocker!). Now that I’ve talked to Otto in depth about beer, I now need to go find Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap. He says it’s good. Since he’s a homebrewer, I’m going to trust him.
He was also one of my favorite presenters at #WCSF, apparently reprising the Nacin & Otto show from Montreal(?)
Sara Rosso – @rosso
Sara presented the first session on Friday, about the WordPress Ecosystem. She works for Automattic, and introduced me to the VIP options within WordPress. I broke my “ask a question at a WordCamp session” cherry by asking a question that I have completely forgotten now.
After the session, I did meet up with her and ask about government contracts and whether WordPress.com has any current contracts. They do, but not in my realm of the government. I will be emailing her soon about possibly getting a WordPress brainiac on contract 🙂
Andrew Nacin – @nacin
This dude is not human. He’s a robot. Hence @nacinbot. Seriously, Nacin (that’s how I know him) is a machine when it comes to WordPress code. He and I connected via Twitter after last year’s WordCamp Baltimore, and also because we’re both fans of the Washington Capitals. He’s been trying to get me to go to the WordPress DC Meetup, and after #WCSF, I finally rogered up to going. I can’t wait to sit there and pick his brain about WordPress (and feed him beer).
Mark Jaquith – @markjaquith
Mark is another WordPress developer that I can’t talk enough about (without sounding like a stalker). I use his Subscribe to Comments plugin at work, and I thank him for it daily (in my head). When I realized he’d be hosting a session at #WCSF, I knew I had to be there. Then I read what it was about: Scaling WordPress in the Enterprise. With over 12 thousand blogs on one server, I felt the need to attend his session. I took literally four pages of notes. One of the best lines from his session: “VCS or GTFO”. Just that on a slide. Sadly, I’m going to be hard pressed to get the government to go along with all of the great ideas I brought back.
Also, Mark is like six foot twenty, and his hair is epically awesome.
Jane Wells – @Janeforshort
As I said above, Jane helped to calm me before my trip. While I was not able to bake cookies, I was somewhat calmed. From what I could tell, being my first WCSF, she did one hell of a job coordinating a conference for about a thousand web dorks. On top of that, she was part of sessions, and made it out to the happy hours. It’s the COMMUNITY of WordPress that makes me happy, more than the software. Folks like Jane, and anyone that coordinates the WordCamps need to be praised more than they are. Jane? Please let me buy you booze the next time we meet at a WordCamp?
Brian Gardner – @bgardner
I only met Brian in passing while I was smoking a cig outside Pedro’s, but he’s pretty much the man at Studiopress.com with the Genesis Framework. I had tweeted him about a month ago, asking if I could use Genesis on *any* website I admin’d and he said yes. To me, coming from a Microsoft background, that sounded too good to be true. I asked him if it was ok to use the themes on my clients site, and he said “Oh, I thought I responded to your tweet?” To which I responded: “Yeah, but that sounded too good to be true.” He just smiled and said “Go ahead, man” with a bigger smile than what’s in his Twitter profile pic. Again, coming from a Microsoft background, this blew my mind.
Jarret – @Jarret
I’ve only known Jarret via Twitter, and I knew of him via @andrea_r and @ipstenu in our tweets about WordPress Multi-site. He’s a really cool dude, metal-head, and sadly, I only had about 10 minutes to chat with him outside the 21st Amendment. I can’t wait to get back out to the west coast and have a few beers with him, and pick his brain too.
Matt Mullenweg – @photomatt
There’s really no better way to explain this. I was drinking with Aaron and Melanie, and as I got drunker, I saw some other WordPress folks on the other side of the bar. One of them was Mr Mullenweg (that’s how I thought of him, since his code pretty much affords me a living, and we’d never met) and a slew of core contributors. I took the picture up top later in the evening. Without those folks, WordPress wouldn’t be where it is today. From left to right: Matt Mullenweg, Mark Jaquith, (someone I need to meet next WordCamp), Jane Wells, Daryl Koopersmith, and Nacin.
I remember walking over to where Matt was hanging out, and there was a bar stool open next to him. I sat down, and while a couple of other folks recognized me and nodded their heads, Matt was talking to somebody about a particular part of the WordPress code, and I didn’t want to interrupt. Once there was a break in the conversation, I offered him my hand and introduced myself. The only way I can describe the meeting to non-WordPress folks is this: Imagine meeting someone that helped create something that you now make your living on. That’s what I was feeling. This guy, younger then me by 10 years, created something that I am now using to support my living.
I explained to Matt how I used WordPress: I run WordPress on three different closed networks for the Intelligence Community, but sadly it’s not up to the latest version (We’re using WPMu 2.8.6…don’t hate, it’s the gov’t). Matt said something to the effect of “The IC is using WordPress? COOL!”
All in all, WordCamp San Francisco changed my life. I know that sounds like some emo/hipster cliche, but it’s true. I had no idea there were so many people out there that had such a passion for a little web app like this. I met so many cool and smart people. I realized that they devote a large part of their life to this open source codebase. They make it their mission to make WordPress a better product.
I’ve been inspired and motivated. I want to contribute to the core code. I want to make WordPress better. How am I going to do that? I have no idea. I’m going to try and make a plugin first. I contribute to the WordPress.org forums and help where I can. I’m going to continue to communicate with the WordPress community, because honestly, there’s no better software community out there.
Thank you, WordPress Community, for welcoming little old me into your arms. I can’t wait to contribute more.