Why I Volunteer
Before I get into my WordCamp San Diego (WCSD) 2016 digest, let’s start off with some stats because, why not.
- This was the 5th WordCamp I’ve attended,
- 3rd time volunteering, and
- 1st WordCamp San Diego (WCSD) as a volunteer.
- The first 3 WordCamps I attended were in San Francisco (WCSF 2012, 2013, 2014).
- I’m also in my 7th year running QuiteVisible Studio,
- 6 of those years are with WordPress as my ‘business partner’, and
- 2 years working exclusively with the Genesis Framework.
- I have also enjoyed working with the AppPresser team for just over 1 year.
With that in mind, I really don’t think I need to explain why I happily volunteer at WordCamp events. Simply put…
WordPress has been a foundational part of my livelihood.
There’s always a lot of chatter about contributing and giving back to the community, and this happens to be one of the ways I do my part. Besides, introverted as I am, I’m actually starting to enjoy mingling with the community and meeting new people. Imagine that.
This would be a good time to talk a bit about the organizers/speakers/volunteers dinner on the eve of gameday that is WCSD.
The Organizer’s Dinner
This event did not turn out to be what I expected.
Now that’s not a bad thing. It’s just the best way that I can explain it. What I expected, was more of an orientation: A little bit of meet ‘n greet, dinner, followed by some instructions, thank you’s, and finally some networking and socializing. Instead, I felt like I was hanging out at some reunion party, waiting for the friend who invited me to show up already.
Time to challenge my social skills.
I tried hard to introduce myself and meet some people, but it felt like everyone there pretty much knew everyone else. Plus, seems like most of these folks already had an established remote working relationship but were meeting each other for the first time. Or it had been awhile, at least.
Needless to say, it was hard to break into some of the conversations, and understandably so. This could be the only chance some of these guys would get for some one-on-one interaction with close friends from afar. I get that and am cool with it.
The handful of people I did meet meet and chat with were genuinely friendly, engaging, and on par with WordPress peeps.
I do have to say this: the food and venue were pretty noteworthy, and I was able to get up close to some very cool fire engines.
Saturday was your typical chamber of commerce day for San Diego. Whoever came up with Liberty Station as a venue was genius. I worked at the nearby airport for about 10 years and this area sure has changed from the abandoned buildings and lots.
Once the venue was set up, it was almost time for registration. There were plenty of other volunteers eager to man their stations and take specific assignments. I wasn’t assigned anything specific and decided to just grab a few schedule/map booklets and roam the area to help attendees in distress.
The ‘hallway track’ had started and I loved that most of this venue was outdoors.
It wasn’t long before I found myself in conversation with two fellow volunteers who were attending their first WordCamp. Turns out that one of them and I had quite a few things in common, one of which included living in the same remote neighborhood, up in the already remote town of Alpine.
Moving on from that mini-meet up, I ran into someone who had attended the same Front End Web Development program I was enrolled in during the summer/fall session at San Diego Community College District’s Continuing Education division. As we chatted, we were joined by another gentleman who had worked at Intel for over 14 years. He was preparing for the next round of layoffs and looking for ways to sustain a living, post-Intel.
Without being the least bit condescending, I would describe both of these guys as close to ‘retirement’ age. Smart and experienced. They really should be mentors, and yet, this was the first WordCamp for both.
Speaking of first WordCamps
I spent a good part of WCSD at the registration table, checking-in attendees and answering questions.
Not sure why I was surprised with the number of first time WordCamp attendees, but there were quite a few, in my opinion. In addition to mostly not knowing what to expect, many were there either alone, or with just one other person.
Going back to the Organizers/Speakers dinner the night before, I thought about maybe finding some ways that might make WordCamp more meaningful for first-time attendees. Having an orientation dinner the night before, or breakfast the morning of, might be a great way to both provide a preview of WordCamp, and a little networking opportunity. Maybe even form an AMA group of volunteers whose sole purpose is to roam around and be available to help out first time campers.
Just thinking out loud here.
Wrapping it up
It’s been a good couple of weeks that have passed since I started writing this post. I had a few more highlights that I wanted to flesh out a little more, but a few dozen other priorities now screaming at me means that I need to wrap up this post.
In the spirit of compromise, I’ll still mention those highlights as bullet points with a little blurb. Here we go…
Hanging w Automatticians
- Many of the volunteers were Automattic employees who worked within WordPress dotcom, Jetpack, Woo, and various other divisions of Automattic. As has (mostly) been my experience, these folks were approachable, amicable, and happy to let me pepper them with questions. Always happy to hang out with Automatticians at WordPress events.
Hanging w Shane
- Shane Eckert is a Woo wrangler for Automattic. We spent a good part of the day on Saturday, parked at the Registration table. While we talked shop some of the time, we were each able to share and compare stuff going on in our personal lives. I found out later that we had a couple more things in common that might have made our conversation even more interesting than it had been. We connected online after WordCamp and continue to stay in touch. Sometimes the personal elements of a WordCamp gathering can provide the greatest value.
In The Chapel
- Growing up in, and still actively involved in church today, I have to say that sitting in on design tracks in a church building – well, that was just a bit confusing for me. There are certain expectations and behavior that I naturally attach to being in a church sanctuary. WordCamp talks are definitely not part of that programming. However, watching Mr. Adam Silver’s pre-talk antics on stage and around the pulpit, reminded me a little of my own boyhood mischief during times of waiting for my parents in an empty church sanctuary. This, for various reasons I won’t get into right now.
Meeting Mr. Bolinger
- I had been working with AppPresser for over a year but had only met Scott Bolinger on Skype, HipChat, and Zoom. I knew he was planning on being there, but wasn’t sure if I’d get a chance to run into him and personally get to shake his hand. It wasn’t hard to spot the tall, bald figure who seemed to be constantly surrounded by people, and was glad for the opportunity to chat for a bit after closing remarks on Saturday. And once more in passing on Sunday. Again, like Shane, we talked mostly about family life and things that were on a more personal level. Comparing his virtual persona with real-life interaction, I would have to say that I enjoyed our in-person meetup more than hanging out online. Of course, context could play a big part in this sentiment.
Sunday Something Sunday
- I got to Liberty Station a little earlier on Sunday to go exploring. I really had not spent too much time there since it had been converted over from the Naval Training Center. I’ve always called it NTC. I walked the path along the water over to Starbux on the Harbor/Nimitz side, across a bridge, then back to McMillin where the venue was located. Having been virtually ‘chained’ to my desk for the past year, that turned out to be one of the highlights of my weekend.
That’s all Folks!
That should about cover it. Looking forward to the next WCSD and hoping to get more involved.