I debated whether to attend a WordCamp event in October…until I took a look at the WordCamp schedule of talks they planned.
If you’ve never been to a WordCamp event, I would recommend that you look for one near you and give it a try. You’ll meet plenty of fellow bloggers and have the chance to network. You’ll hear a variety of bloggers, developers and experts talk about how you can make the most of your site. But at the same time, you have to make sure the WordCamp schedule of talks provides enough programming to be worth your while.
Attending a WordCamp isn’t as cheap as it used to be. Of course, nothing is as cheap as it used to be.
But expense does figure into my attendance at a WordCamp event. I especially pay closer attention to the budget when inflation is high.
That helped me decide against going to one of the events coming up in October. But the other thing that sealed the deal was the WordCamp schedule.
The events I typically attend are two days long. Typically, they begin on a Saturday and end on a Sunday morning. That way more people are able to attend. But that usually means a two-day hotel booking, unless you arrive super-early on Saturday. You then have to check out Sunday morning before venturing back to the event space for Sunday. No, that’s not the end of the world. But hotel bills used to be around $75-90 per night. They’re now upwards of $150. That’s literally twice what it used to cost to attend.
For that kind of money, I want to see topics on the schedule of talks that I know I’ll benefit from.
The typical WordCamp schedule is divided in three categories
To make the most of a WordCamp experience, organizers divide their schedules. They typically use two or three categories.
There’s typically a “Business” or “Professional category. This isn’t so much for “professional bloggers” as it is for businesses that operate a blog. It’s also for businesses that use WordPress to power their website, even if they don’t blog. You can imagine talks on eCommerce, security concerns, legal regulations and specific topics of interest to businesses.
There’s usually a “Developer” track. This is for the coders among us. The talks here focus on new features that WordPress rolls out and how to take advantage of them in plugins and themes. I don’t code. I know enough coding to be dangerous but I hate doing it. If you recall the old “I’m a Mac” commercials from Apple Computer years ago, I’m definitely the “Mac” type when it comes to coding. I just want to go to the site and write; I don’t care how plugins and themes make all of that happen as long as they work.
Then there’s the “General” track. That’s one of the nicest names I’ve seen for that third option. I appreciate the fact that they didn’t use a name like “Amateur.” Here’s where most bloggers — those enthusiastic enough to attend a WordCamp to make connections but who don’t do a lot of coding and don’t run some fancy business — spend a good deal of their time.
So when a schedule rolls out, I look at all three columns. WordCamp rules never lock you down to one track. You’re free to go to whichever one you want at the given time. What I secretly hope for is several time slots in which there are at least two talks I’d like to attend. It’s not that I’m a masochist, but I like having to decide between two good topics.
What I hope I don’t see are times when there isn’t a single topic I’m particularly interested in. Or worse, a “To Be Announced” listing that tells me they don’t even know what they’ll present.
Going down the list, hoping for the best
So when I went through the WordCamp schedule for one particular city’s event, I marked the talks I really felt an interest in. (Yes, I’m intentionally not naming the city because I don’t want to cast a bad light on the hard work the organizers no doubt put in.)
Not counting lunch breaks, there are a total of 12 blocks during which talks are happening, one in each track. There were seven blocks in which no topic really jumped out at me.
That’s not to say that the topics are bad. I wouldn’t even say they aren’t useful.
They just didn’t jump off the screen to me. As I say many, many times about blogging, your mileage may vary. A topic I wouldn’t feel eager about might be the topic that does you the most good.
But for me, 58% of the time, there’s no offering I feel like I’d really benefit from hearing about. When you’re watching the budget, you have to determine in your own way whether an expense is worth it. For me, that high a percentage of “not so great” is enough to decide for me.
So I’ll keep checking the WordCamp schedule and see if there’s another one with offerings that better fit what I’m looking for. And I’ll keep my fingers crossed that 2024’s WordCamp event for that one location might have a more appealing menu.