This past weekend nearly 2,000 folks from around the globe gathered in Nashville, Tennessee to attend WordCamp US. #WCUS, as it is known on Twitter, is the largest in-person WordCamp in North America, and it was the first significant event our team attended after the acquisition by WP Engine.
StudioPress was well represented, as I was joined by Nathan Rice, Matt Lawrence, Jen Baumann, Chris Garrett, Bryan Smith, Mike McAlister, and John Parris. (Mike and John have recently joined our team as a result of the Array Themes acquisition.)
As you can see, we’ve been busy this year. With two acquisition events, ongoing development of Gutenberg and WordPress 5.0, and WordCamp US, we have had our hands full. But that’s ok, because the transitions are nearly complete, and we will hit the ground running as the new year turns.
WordCamp US — Thursday, December 6th
Things at WordCamp US unofficially kicked off Thursday evening with an impromptu gathering at the Frothy Monkey in downtown Nashville. Some might be surprised that I didn’t choose to host it at Starbucks, which is across the street, but once in a while, you have to throw your community a curveball. (Not to mention I have grown an affinity for local—and some might say good—coffee.)
While I considered having this meetup at the host hotel, I decided that I wanted to provide a smaller, intimate environment for us to hang out. The food was delicious, as was my hummingbird latte, but most importantly, we enjoyed good conversation.
After our time at Frothy Monkey, we headed back to the hotel, where we spent another meal and more time with folks from our community. And of course, ran into some old friends from the greater WordPress community as well.
WordCamp US — Friday, December 7th
Before we checked into the event and attended opening remarks, a few members of the StudioPress R&D team met at The Diner for an engineering meeting. With the recent release of WordPress 5.0 (and yes, the Gutenberg editor!) we had some things to discuss.
When we decided to sell StudioPress, one of the biggest reasons for it was the desire to push Genesis ahead, and I knew we needed more resources to do that. There were six of us at this breakfast—four more than the usual “Nathan and Brian” call.
While much of our team attended sessions at WordCamp US, I spent the majority of my time in conversations with folks from the Genesis community. I figured that I could watch the sessions on video, and I wanted to take full advantage of the time I had with connecting in-person.
I thoroughly enjoyed hearing success stories from designers and developers and loved being able to communicate some of our upcoming plans with Genesis, themes, and blocks.
After the sessions ended, I had lunch with a few close friends and then prepared for the WordCamp US after party which was held at the Adventure Science Center. This was the same location as it was last year, which I loved—ample space, quiet atmosphere, great food and drink—all primed to set the mood of a “good time.”
Unfortunately, during the event, I fell ill, and couldn’t stay as long as I had hoped. (Dehydration from a trip to the sauna and getting a massage earlier that day was likely at fault, I suppose.)
Before I left, however, I had the pleasure of (finally) meeting Lee Anthony of SEO Themes and his fiancée Jade, who traveled all the way from Perth, Australia, to hang with our team.
Here are some thoughts on the time we spent together.
Speaking of Australia, I also had a chance to meet up with Sridhar Katakam. Sridhar needs no introduction, as his tutorials have helped thousands of Genesis users. What I love about him most is his heart for our community.
One super cool thing on the exhibition floor was the Google booth! We are working with Google to build out AMP integrations within Genesis and at their booth they demoed Genesis + AMP, using our recently released Breakthrough Pro theme.
WordCamp US — Saturday, December 8th
Saturday morning came, and my plans to run the Santa Dash 5K were foiled—let’s say the weather in Nashville was suboptimal while we were there. A quick trip to Starbucks solved #alltheproblems.
WordCamp US sessions kicked back into gear, and sideline conversations in the hallways, as well as the WP Engine sponsor booth, were in full effect. I had the pleasure of speaking with longtime WordPress friend Cory Miller of iThemes for 45 minutes.
We compared notes and shared stories of the acquisitions we both went through this past year. It was refreshing to know that Cory’s experience—as was mine—with the process of turning something over that he built was good. In short, no regrets, with the right partner, and still very much excited to be involved with the project.
After chit-chatting with various folks, a group of core/community members gathered together for lunch to talk about the future of Genesis. This is part of our Shapers initiative which we’ll be providing more details on soon.
One of the things that I value, as does our team, is the contributions of our community. I thoroughly enjoy listening to their feedback, discovering new, innovative ways to press forward, and ultimately doing what I can to help their business succeed.
Speaking of photo ops, we organized a meeting place to take the annual Genesis community photo. This photo typically is displayed at the top of the Genesis Facebook Group. The Genesis community represented well at WordCamp US, and we wanted to capture the essence of who we are.
On Saturday afternoon, a number of us—40 something—gathered at The Flying Saucer to view Matt Mullenweg’s State of the Word. At last year’s WordCamp we did something similar and found that it was a fantastic way to spend time with peers as well as hear what Matt had to say.
As expected, Matt demonstrated Gutenberg, the new block editor that was recently merged into WordPress Core. He also talked fundamentally about the future of WordPress and outlined what they imagine as phases 2, 3, and 4 of this implementation.
Many have opinions about the roadmap, but it’s clear to me that the future of WordPress is going to look a lot different than it does now.
Huge thanks to Amy Masson, Tara Claeys, and Sara Dunn for organizing the event—I had a great time, and appreciate the time they spent putting this together.
A quick congrats to Mike McAlister from our team for the work he has done with Atomic Blocks. Atomic Blocks was a finalist (out of hundreds) for Best Solution in the Automattic Design Awards, which honor the best site, solution, style of 2018.
Last, but certainly not least, the day ended at The Honkey Tonk Central with hundreds of WP Engine/StudioPress community members unwinding from a busy WordCamp. (There may or may not be a video of me, Seth Spears, and a few others singing Friends in Low Places by the legendary Garth Brooks.)
My favorite moment was watching Sridhar facetime his wife from the second-floor balcony, which overlooked flashing lights and thousands of country music fans in (and out of) harmony with the local bands playing at their respective venues.
As a longtime country music fan myself, it was a splendid way to end a wonderful WordCamp. I am grateful for the experiences I had while in Nashville and can say—without question—that this was my favorite WordCamp that I have attended.
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