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Sun, Fun, and WordCamp Orange County

Do you ever have so many things to say about a subject that you find it nearly impossible to get started? Where do I tell this story from? How far back do I go? Welcome to my brain right now.

It’s still early in the week, and I’m back at my desk after a weekend spent at WordCamp Orange County (WCOC). My brain is currently doing that thing where it fights back and forth with being sad that an event I enjoyed is over, but also being charged up from all the amazing things I learned and experienced this weekend. I’m going to need more coffee. You might, too. Give this a read and learn what I got out of attending this popular WordPress conference. You may want to add it to your list of events to attend next year.

If it ain’t broke…

As an event organizer, I’m always keeping an eye out for how an event is put together. One of the many things I love about WordCamp Orange County is that they’ve found the formula that works for them and they stick with it year after year. Sure, they introduce new elements, but the core of their event remains the same.

On Friday, the speakers and sponsors are invited to take part in a golf tournament which is followed by an informal dinner. Because of the size of their camp, between the organizing and volunteer team plus the speakers and sponsors, the dinner is a big event in its own right. And it’s a hugely valuable opportunity to meet and chat with some of the speakers before the crush of attendees at the event itself. It’s a great way to build new relationships and strengthen existing ones.

One of the new elements for this year’s event had to do with the types of content available. On Saturday and Sunday, there were four tracks to choose from. There were, of course, the standard presentation tracks that covered topics for beginners, designers, and developers. But there were also two tracks that were dedicated to workshops and general discussions. If you organize a local meetup, WordCamp, or any sort of conference, you should step up and take notice. Not everybody learns the same way. Having content available in different formats is such a great idea. I am already thinking of how I can incorporate different types of content into our local WordPress meetup. Kudos to the organizers!

On Sunday afternoon, one of the other traditions of WCOC took place: Plugin-a-Palooza. Each year, the camp invites a handful of people to submit a plugin idea, build the plugin, and enter it into a contest. This was my second time entering the contest, and while I was happy to finish in the top 3 the first time around, this year, it wasn’t meant to be. My humble little plugin was crushed by some amazing entries. This year’s winning plugin is called Plugin Detective and was absolutely worthy of taking the top spot!

There’s more than one way…

I’ve said this many times in the past when you attend a session at a WordCamp, you aren’t going to learn an entire subject in 45 minutes. That’s not what it’s about. Instead, you should be attending a session with the purpose of taking away one or two ideas that you can jot down and research further once you get back home. That’s exactly what happened for me when I had the great pleasure of seeing Jennifer Breuske’s talk about how to use third-party plugins without breaking your website.

Rather than trying to teach us everything there is to know about plugins in a single session, Jennifer provided a few examples which could be applied to several situations. She also opened up her toolbox and showed us the plugins that she uses. She made it quite clear that there many other choices for plugins and she never claimed that the ones she uses are the best. For somebody who’s just starting out and may be frozen by the fear of picking the wrong plugin to use, a presentation like this one can be hugely beneficial.

Knowledge sharing is infectious…

John Hawkins and friends at WordCamp Orange County.One of the most inspiring aspects of WordCamp events is how readily people share information. I’m not just talking about the speakers who signed up to present at the event. They are just the tip of the iceberg. No, I’m talking about the community as a whole. Everywhere I turned all weekend long I could see people helping other people. From developers offering to take a look at a broken website, to marketers offering tips on driving traffic and everything in between, it doesn’t just happen in the sessions. It’s two people sitting on a couch; it’s a small group huddled around a laptop. It’s four guys going for a beer at lunch and talking about organizing group events.

Before I wrap up, I want to issue a little challenge. As you prepare to attend your next event, I want you to go with the intention of sharing one bit of knowledge you have with somebody else. No matter how big or small, teach somebody something. I promise that it will be your favorite part of the event.

WordCamp Orange County 2018 was a gigantic success, as I expected it would be. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event. If you can’t make it to Orange County for their WordCamp, look up a WordCamp near you and get there!


  1. Jeff Zinn on June 12, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    Just to bring it full circle, John gave me a great tip at the camp. I’ve been struggling with finding a tool to make quality, low-file-size animated gifs. At John’s suggestion, I’m now trying out LICEcap. It’s looking like a winner! Thanks, John.

    • John Hawkins on June 12, 2018 at 2:21 pm

      Oh, good, I’m glad you are checking out LiceCap. Such a nifty little tool.

      Thank you for all you do at WordCamp Orange County. Congrats on another great WordCamp!

  2. Priscilla Christian on June 12, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    So great to see you and Chris last weekend! Thanks for being an awesome part of our community!

    • John Hawkins on June 12, 2018 at 4:05 pm

      It was great seeing you, too! Thank YOU for the amazing volunteer work you do each and every year. WordCamp OC is better because of you!

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