WordCamp US 2016 Recap

This year’s WordCamp US 2016 was a tough journey for us. On the one hand, sure, we were incredibly psyched to go to the US and take part in this huge event. But on the other, the “getting there” part wasn’t that straightforward at all. More than 24 hours on the road, one bus after another, then 2 connecting flights, then some more buses … and that’s just one way.

So, was the trip worth it for us? Did we enjoy the event? More importantly, should you consider visiting next year? To give you some answers, here’s our recap of WordCamp US 2016.

(By the way, with the WCUS season over, it’s time to start thinking about the next WCEU. Check out our summary post for the previous WCEU 2016 event in Vienna.)

The Beginnings

Like I mentioned, we arrived in Philadelphia rather tired, after spending 24 hours or so in various forms of transportation. At that point, the grumpiness kicked in and we even started questioning the whole trip altogether.

But this feeling quickly vanished after having some good sleep and waking up the next morning. We went for a walk and explored the beautiful streets of Philadelphia for most of the day, being careful not to miss the Thursday afternoon’s Volunteer Orientation meeting at 5 PM.

Almost the whole ThemeIsle team decided to volunteer this year, so we were quite confident walking into the meeting in a group that’s 9-people-strong.

That meeting was really cool. We received a great guided tour around the Pennsylvania Convention Center, got our volunteer badges and t-shirts, and started getting into the vibe of the conference that was scheduled to begin the following day.

The great thing about volunteering is that it makes you feel like you’re the host, not the guest. After all, you’re helping run things for the next couple of days. Also, when the conference starts, you don’t need to wait in that long line to register. You can just enter like, “Honey, I’m home!”

Anyway, after the orientation, we went straight to…

The pre-party

Or, at least, this is how I call it. It was a welcome meeting which gathered the volunteers, sponsors, and speakers all together in one place, at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (right across the street from the Convention Center). It was a relaxing atmosphere, with drinks, and a lot of cool people to talk with.

Here’s part of our team:


It was probably the best occasion to reach the speakers and sponsors, and have a few words with them in a relaxing setting. And if you didn’t want to socialize, there was plenty of room in the museum where you could rest.

But this was just the warm-up.

The conference

I need to admit that when I entered the Convention Center for the first time on Friday I was quite overwhelmed. People everywhere! Everyone talking, looking at what the sponsors had going on, and etc. But things fell into place pretty quickly as I made a tour or two around the venue, and got familiar with the sponsor tables, booths, people’s faces, and the coffee corner (most importantly).

Conference hall
Conference hall

Then, it was time to see what was going on in the presentation rooms. With three tracks happening at the same time, it wasn’t easy to decide what you’re going to see, but hey, those are the standard conference challenges.

Now, about volunteering. As I mentioned, nearly the whole team volunteered this year, much like we did at WordCamp EU 2016. But unlike in Vienna, where volunteer shifts lasted longer and were divided by days, in the US, the shifts were actually very short, which allowed us to enjoy the conference more.

For example, for me it was only an hour and a half in total, all on the second day of the event.

What did we do specifically as volunteers? For instance, I sold WordPress stuff in the swag store (which was something totally new for me), Sabina and Rodica offered badges at the registration desk, Madalin and Marius C spread Wapuus and t-shirts among the attendees, Andrei and Cristi were hall runners (making sure that everything was alright at the venue), while Marius G and Uriahs were room guards/runners.

It’s a great feeling knowing that you’re helpful to somebody and that you actually have a mission!

Sabina and Andrei also took some additional jobs onto themselves – interviewing WordPress people on video. They say they had a lot of fun doing that, but it was surely an equal dose of stressful as well.

Those interviews are going to be live on the blog soon, so don’t miss them.
By the way, Ionut got interviewed too … just not by us: πŸ˜‰

The conference ended with Matt Mullenweg’s traditional State of the Word. A lot of interesting stuff there, but we already covered that a bit more in-depth in this month’s latest news roundup over at CodeinWP.

The Parties

Normally, we would have had one single official WordCamp party. THE after-party at the Museum of Natural Sciences. But we actually attended WP Engine’s and Envato’s parties too, which took place one night before the official one.

We had great time at both! There were drinks, snacks, some dance music, and some good talks with other WordPress people. Also, at Envato’s, there was a band playing Pink Floyd songs! Could one wish for more?

But, let’s get to serious businesses… the official after-party. That one was quite interesting. I mean, it’s not everyday that you see giant stuffed animals at a WordPress party, nor dinosaurs. Apart from those, there was ice cream, karaoke (some guys just went crazy on the stage, kudos!), photo booths, and a good vibe overall. The only bad thing about this was that it only lasted 3 hours and it felt very short.

Yes, this is us:

The Contributor Day

So, after two full days of doing our jobs, meeting new people, attending the talks, and enjoying ourselves, the team took part in the Contributor Day as well. Our developers reviewed themes, while Karol and Marius G went to the marketing room where they met and worked with Matt Mullenweg.

Here’s proof:

In total, there were 365 contributors that day!

In conclusion

Overall, this whole event was an awesome experience for us … meeting the community in the US, exploring Philadelphia and New York City, working together as volunteers, attending the talks. Everything!

Those 24 hours spent at airports, in flights, in the rain, and in various buses on our way to Philly were all worth it.

So, see you in Paris for WordCamp EU? (The thing is that we already signed up as volunteers for WCEU 2017 and we’d be thrilled to meet you there. Such excitement!)

How about you? What are YOUR takeaways from this year’s WordCamp US?