November 28’th 11 pm once we land after 30 hours trip, two days before WordCamp US, next 5 days we will be spending in Nashville, Tennessee. This is our review of visiting WCUS for the first time ever.
The city seems to be empty, no surprise, with 700,000 inhabitants and the fact that it is Wednesday night. We decided to come a bit early to make sure to get rid of the jetlag and have some spare time to explore the city. We checked into the hotel and went to rest.
Nashville is so-called music city so you know what to expect, to my surprise, these guys play live music starting at 9am all around the Broadway (the central street with all the pubs and restaurants). The street itself is really short, with Tennessee Titans stadium located on one side and Bridgestone Arena (home of the Nashville Predators) on the other. In average pace, you can easily make it in 5 minutes. The City Music Hall, venue of WordCamp US, is just a minute away from the arena. Everything seems to be close so you don’t have to wander around.
Before WordCamp US
WordCamp US starts on December 1st, but just like us, people are arriving earlier so we are sure to meet old and new friends before the event. It’s midday when Messenger alerts me that Vova Feldman is in town. Vova is running Freemius, a service that allows plugin authors to convert customers from freemium to premium directly from WP Dashboard. We first met Vova in WordCamp Europe this summer and catch up later on in Press4Word in Israel. He is a nice guy who has been close to the WordPress community for the last 3 years and offers his help to arrange few meetings. As he said, he would be happy to have someone like him around once he started to come out from the den those 3 years ago. In fact, we met with Vova less than a week ago in WordCamp Riga which I was organizing and invited him as a speaker.
Vova comes to the WordCamp US together with Luca from Addendio, a service that collects and categorize WordPress plugins from various sources. It seems that these both compliment each other where Addendio categorizes things and Freemius help to monetize it.
So we have plans for our first night in Nashville with me, Michael, Vova, and Luca hanging around the Broadway while having few beers and listening to some country music. By the way, most of the bars have awesome rooftops to spend the night with the city lights.
Just one day left until WordCamp with registration starting in the afternoon at Renaissance Hotel, the official hotel of WordCamp US. For us, it was a last minute decision to visit WCUS so the hotel was fully booked. If you have a chance, make sure to book recommended hotel so everyone is literally next doors to you. Anyway, we had some work to do in the first time of the day and then joined Vova and Luca for a lunch. Vova is volunteering at WCUS so he has to go to some volunteer party in the evening while we are heading to Renaissance to pick up our badges. On the side, we meet BobWP and few GoDaddy guys at the pub and decide to catch up later on during the event.
Few people are already at the Renaissance with Joost arriving, he is a bit tired after a long trip so we exchange a quick ‘Hi’ before he slips away. As a CEO of the most popular WordPress plugin Yoast SEO, no wonder he is surrounded by lots of people almost all the time. The same time, Kobi and his brother Matan comes around, the guys who are organizing the Press4Word conference in Israel. They are lots of fun and we got really close during my trip to Israel so we decide to visit ice hockey game and have few beers afterward. Yes, we are lucky, the Nashville Predators have a home game against Vancouver Canucks and there are rumors that nothing stands close to the crowd at Bridgestone Arena.
Day One: WordPress Hostings
The first day of the WordCamp, we arrive at the venue around 9:30 am (yes, we did miss the opening remarks but that’s not the point why we are here). The venue is big and hard to get around in the first few minutes. After a bit of struggle we make it to the Sponsors Area where all the interesting stuff is going on, also it is the place to grab some morning coffee, and it begins.
It’s about time to meet our friends so we are heading straight to WPEngine and Plesk. We haven’t met Steven from WPEngine in person before, yet had lots of e-mail exchanges so it is cool to finally meet him. Unfortunately, David could not make it this year, but we are happy for the reason and decide to have bottles up at the evening for him. Last couple month, we have been working hand in hand with WPEngine to make sure that Visual Composer Website Builder is a perfect fit for their customers so some quick bizz talks help to build further plans.
Next, we go straight to the Plesk to meet Joerg and see what’s next for the #ElvisPlesky. Plesk is presenting their WordPress Toolkit which takes hosting platforms by storm and eases the way how to manage plugins. A comprehensive catalog helps to choose from various options. Of course, we aim to be there and discuss few other opportunities we have in mind.
We understand that having compatibility between hosting and plugins is a huge thing that affects quality and speed of your site. For us WCUS is a lot about meeting various hosting companies to ensure compatibility, including proper caching – we run from booth to booth to meet guys from BlueHost, Dreamhost, Pressable, Nestify and so on. Quick meetings set things to move forward really fast.
To wrap the conference day one, we have a talk with Omar and Taco from Yoast SEO on how to offer a better experience for our users – the plan is set. It’s time to get back to the hotel for a quick rest as there is WPEngine party on the horizon.
There are plenty of parties going on every night during WCUS, but none can compare to what guys at WPEngine comes up with. We have visited plenty of WPEngine parties recently and trust me – each and every one of them has been super awesome. A great way to end the day one!
Day Two: WordPress Community
With thousands of attendees it’s hard to miss someone in the crowd, nevertheless, I was lucky enough to spot Birgit Pauli-Haack who we met in Paris. These days she’s volunteering for the WCUS. This is one of the things I love about WordPress, people do their best to give back to the community and Birgit is one of them.
During the day we are able to catch up with Brandi and D’nelle who are long-time users of the Visual Composer. It’s probably one of the best things that happened during the WordCamp US as we are all excited to meet in person and have a quick chat. They are also very interested in trying out our new website builder – so we can’t wish more.
It seems that this day is all about the community.
No wonder, as the main event is the speech of Matt Mullenweg. I haven’t seen such a crowd after Black Friday eager to take their seat closer to the stage before the speech. A quick intro words with a few rap elements on the stage and here comes Matt.
He is all about the new editor, the editor that has to ease the life of end users, but seems to create a lot of noise within the community. It seems that plugin authors will have tough times adopting their solutions to fit in.
During my few days in Nashville, I heard a lot of people talking about rushing things with the editor which seems to be true. None knows how the things will actually blend together. We are excited about the idea of modules that will finally gather all content together. A lot of people in the community think that would be enough as the first step towards transition. The real life seems to turn out differently within the next few month.
After an hour-long speech, lots of opinions flying around the room. We hear random remarks and frustration caused by the idea of a basic theme that may hit theme authors. A lot of people are asking our opinion, yet it is probably too early to say anything.
It’s time for the official WordPress afterparty. It takes place in the Adventure Science Center which is an exciting place – you can try moonwalk simulation or visit planetarium. With so many things around the party seems to end so fast so we gather a group of friends and continue to have some party in the Downtown area.
Oh yes, during the day I had another chance to pose in front of the camera while giving interview to the Plesk.
Day Three: Takeaways
A lot of people are already gone or leaving soon, even this is Contributor Day of the WCUS. We wake up a bit late (we did party until 3 am) and heading straight to the Music Hall. Everyone seems to be doing a great job – Vova is helping with plugin reviews while Joerg develops best hosting practices. We are signed for the marketing team – the day is busy.
At the same time, we do look back on these days of WordCamp US. There are so many awesome people in the community giving their best, so many great products and ideas. After these few days, our Instagram account has received tons of selfies and my Facebook friends list gone up.
The WordCamp US is over, it’s time to hit the road, but we’ll surely be back in Nashville next year.