Thoughts on WordCamp Dallas 2008

I’m just back from WordCamp Dallas where I had the pleasure to see the blogging world from a different angle. I credit Mark Hopkins for really clarifying this in his post at Mashable.

See, I’ve been lucky enough to attend a lot of conferences and events and to interact with lots of people along the way. Most of the folks I interact with are early adopter kinds of folks that love jumping all over the newest and greatest social tools, etc. We all travel in the same circles so we always see the same people at conferences and while it’s great, it was really catching to interact with a group that doesn’t necessarily operate in those circles.

The WordCamp Dallas group was different than even WordCamp San Francisco where Om Malik has spoke two years in a row and where folks like Dave Winer, Mike Arrington, Matt Cutts and others have spoken or made some kind of appearance in the past. There were very few of the “internet rock star” types in Dallas, but the demographic that was there made it so much more rich and interesting.

Aaron Brazell and Ronald Huereca
Photo Credit: ronalfy

ContentCamp

It was different, but it was good. I discovered a really telling and exciting thread through the entire weekend as I observed a few this:

  1. Going into the event, I was asked to make my session technical to meet a technical audience. There were some technical people in the audience, but I felt it important to adjust my presentation to be a bit less geeky.
  2. The most well received sessions of the weekend dealt with copyright and licensing, developing a community around your blog and the business blogging panel.
  3. The number of people was notable who simply talked about wanting to write more, and having better insight on writing in general

To me, the common denominator, and the highlighted theme for the entire weekend, was not WordPress. Despite the fact WordPress 2.5 was released and is being well received across the board (I was watching Twitter for about 3 hours after the announcement and saw nothing but good reports). Even though the premise of the event is All Things WordPress the most value seemed to surround content.

Guess what? Content is non-platformic. Easily, this event could have been a general blogging event. Easily, value could have been gained by Movable Type users and Typepad users; by those on Blogger or Textpattern or Drupal.

Why was it that I found myself silently annoyed by WordPress fanboism in much the same way that frustration with Applegasms – the reaction by Apple fanbois whenever the beloved Cupertino company announces something new – caused me to register applegasms.com?

I reckon my annoyance comes from my feeling that WordPress is a tool. It is a wonderfully awesome tool that I support, encourage and use. However, at the end of the day, it is a tool. My friend and colleague Mark Jaquith, who is also one of the core WordPress developers, has a philosophy that I love: get WordPress to the point where the user has no idea that WordPress even exists.

At the end of the day, it’s not about if you use WordPress or Typepad or any other blog platform. Sure, there are things to consider when choosing. However, at the end of the day, it’s about creating engaging content that creates community between author and readers. That’s the important part.

Frisco, Texas
Photo Credit: zizzybaloobah

Frisco, Texas

Although the event is called WordCamp Dallas, it was technically held in Frisco, Texas about 30 minutes north of Dallas. Frisco is an amazing city. In the short few days that I was there, I felt like I was watching the beginnings of a brand new city that in five years would be the hub of activity for miles around.

The city was gracious enough to lend us their City Council chamber which is an amazing, state of the art facility in itself. The acoustics of the domed room were so vibrant that I would love to play my guitar in the center of the room.

The city supported us and went out of their way to help us on a number of fronts. So, thank you, Frisco.

Business Blogging Panel
Photo Credit: ronalfy

Best Panel EVAR

The best panel I’ve ever been on (and no offense to every other panelist I’ve shared the stage with), was the business and blogging panel. It was such an honor to share the stage with Mark Ghosh, Matt Mullenweg and Liz Strauss. I felt like I shouldn’t be up there. Thank you, folks. That panel was the highlight of my weekend.

In summary, the professionalism and agility that this unconference was delivered in was nothing short of amazing. The sponsors were all in. The organizers were quite adept. The WordPress.com folks came in to support and WordPress 2.5 was launched in the heart of Texas. I had a blast.

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Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on WordCamp Dallas 2008”

  1. I too enjoyed the business of blogging panel which attempted to address the questions being bandied about from board room to board room across the country by company execs – How do we as a company participate in this social media thing? What about controlling the outcome? What if negative conversation surfaces? How do we measure ROI on this type of ‘campaign’?

    Well moderated by John P. of Layered Tech from a devil’s advocate standpoint. These are tough questions and objections that I thought were insightfully and elegantly handled by you and Matt and Mark and Liz.

    An interesting outcome and certainly an applied takeaway from WordCamp: We came together as a group to talk about facilitating online social connections through blogging when in fact it was just the other way around…our online connections facilitated live interaction. The shear amount of interaction that came from a group that had largely never met in person was a direct result of online social media – AND this is the real lesson businesses should take to heart – after all, is it not all about real, live, face to face connections?

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