It may surprise some to know that for a veteran of the blogsophere like myself, WordCamp Mid-Atlantic 2009 was my first ever major meetup. I’ve met up with individuals before, and recently had a medium-sized tweetup, but nothing like what happened yesterday. When I was quoted in the Baltimore Sun as taking the opportunity to rub elbows with some really awesome people, I had no shame in sounding like some kind of social butterfly. After years of being online, none of the speaking topics for the day were truly important to me. Some participants were people I have known online: some for a few weeks, some for a number of years. One, almost from the very beginning. I certainly meant to finally meet them in person.
I learned a lot more from mingling with the likes of Joel Fisher (@joelmoney) of Flush Inc and Brad Williams (@williamsba) of WebDev Studios than from listening in on a talk. Not to cast any aspersions on the value of what the speakers offered yesterday, but they were not geared towards my needs. I am sure that everyone else who attended the talks found what they were searching for, but for me, what I was looking for was in making connections with the people around me: to learn on a personal level about topics that may not have mass relevance. I learned of business practices in both the incorporated and the freelance worlds of Brad Williams and Andy Stratton (@theandystratton) respectively. Matt Martz (@sivel) and Ryan Duff (@ryancduff) shared awesome perspectives in the development cycle and the way developers in general and WP devs in particular work.I spent a lot of time listening to others speak with each other: of clients and service providers from both heaven and hell, of the excitement and difficulties in running a service-based business (and yes, I know, business is hard no matter what). I’ve learned I am relatively lucky that the clients I have had so far have been the clients any designer would ask for.
So many from yesterday were passionate with the reasons for their going: Dawn Casey (Casey Multimedia on Flickr), for example, spent most of her day taking pictures. Watching her gracefully glide through the crowd for most of the morning, I asked her if she was having fun. Her answer? “This is fun.”
For me, though, the highlight of the day was what happened after. There was a small crowd at The Brewer’s Art, where I enjoyed the Resurrection Ale per Aaron Brazell‘s (@technosailor) recommendation. I will admit to a large fanboy element in having met him and Mark Jaquith (@markjaquith), and I was really looking forward to a long-time online friend, Stephan Segraves (@ssegraves). I will refer to the Vegas rule (“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”) on the fine details of the many conversations during the after-party, suffice to say that it was fun to reminisce on the early days of WordPress. After The Brewer’s Art, a number of us headed to Midtown Yacht Club, which lived up to Aaron’s description: “It’s really not as pretentious as it sounds.” As the night wore on and we started to feel the weight of the day on us, we all parted ways. I gave Mark and Stephan rides to their hotels; they were on my way home, and beyond being the proper thing to do, it was a chance to give them the Baltimore city driving experience.
This has been a great personal and professional experience, and I know I will be attending future WordCamps in, even out of, my area.