WordCamp Europe 2018

Whether you’ve just returned from Belgrade or you missed this year’s WordCamp Europe, the word is out – WordCamp Europe 2018 was awesome. Just like it is every year. No one could be surprised that WordPress enthusiasts had such an incredible time at WordCamp Europe 2018.

You’ll be happy to hear that the number of passionate attendees rose and the no-shows dropped. That’s right – 2018 was a vintage WordCamp Europe with many important numbers increasing on 2017’s stats.

But it isn’t always about the numbers; the event had many memorable moments. From the party in the sky to the 33 talks and 9 workshops; there was something for everyone. And so that naturally brings us to our reflections. Now that we have all returned from Belgrade, and recovered a few hours of lost sleep, it seems natural to look back on the biggest European WordPress event of the year.

The numbers

You will remember that 3000 tickets were sold for WordCamp Europe 2017. This year we saw a decline in tickets sold to 2368. However, WordCamp Europe 2018 was still attended by 2085 attendees from 76 countries, which is much better than 2017’s 33% no-show rate.

We were also joined by 808 livestreamers from around the world. So, the final tally of 2885 WordPressers is on par with 2017.

We were also treated to 65 speakers picked from a record number of 374 applications. While the number of participating countries was a little bit lower – 76 – the event still reached around the globe with over 6 million Twitter impressions via the official #WCEU hashtag.

Traditional media helped us reach another 200k people from 67 media interviews.


While Belgrade does not have the same brand recognition as Paris; once people started arriving it was clear they were as excited as ever.

For the local team, it was a great opportunity to show off their city to the wider WordPress community and it generated some genuine excitement. We got a good taste of Serbian architecture with the event split between two venues. The main conference was held in the colossal Sava Center which once held UN meetings and retains much of its authority.

I think the Sava Center is the largest building I have ever been in and one of the largest audience halls in Europe. I was told it is due to be renovated and the hall that hosted Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Nina Simone, and Ray Charles will soon lose a lot of its 70s charm.

A short walk from Sava, 30 minutes or so, was the second area; the Belexpo Center. This was the main social focus with both the after party and contributor day held inside the giant hall.

Contributor Day

The contributor day record was shattered this year with 529 contributors each doing their thang in one (or more) of 24 teams. There were some new teams with Tide and GDPR & Privacy teams making their first appearance.

The word of the day was “connect”. While we weren’t able to connect to the wifi with confidence, plenty of people had an opportunity to connect in a more traditional sense.

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#wceu 2018 Contributor Day

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As the day wore on, plenty of work was completed, particularly the Coding Standards team who created more patches than a retired tailor.

And the core team? Core never sleeps, so they kept on Gutenberg’ing after the event.
Indeed, contributor day was kept alive throughout the entire event with a room designated as the Contribution Area where people kept contributing until the final day.

Volunteer Social

Anyone who volunteered in Paris will remember the boat that set a high bar for the Volunteer, Sponsor, Speaker Party. Well…Belgrade somehow managed to raise the bar even higher. 25 five stories higher in fact.

The view from the top of the building was a perfect way to relax and prepare for two days of intensity. The combination of excellent views, incredible food, and amazing people proved the perfect tonic for any last minute stress they might feel.

WCEU Day 1

One of the things we noticed was the movement of workshops away from Contributor Day. The workshops ran alongside the main event for the first time. This helped keep Contributor Day on point. However, it also created an exhaustive daily schedule for those looking to make the most of the learning opportunities. In fact, we made this comic along those very lines.

wceu dilemma

With Gutenberg slated to go Core in WordPress 5.0, this was always going to be the WordCamp of Gutenberg. However, there was also a good focus on JavaScript, mental health, and accessibility.

Gutenberg was the focus of an epic 3 hours workshop with the Gutenberg team, a concurrent 90-minute workshop for block building, and the keynote. This is just the first day. On the second day, we had another workshop combining Gutenberg with JavaScript and two talks.  So, for now, let’s concentrate on day one’s Gutenberg roundtable and the keynote.

The Gutenberg roundtable was held with the Gutenberg team and they revealed some juicy secrets about the editor. They also allayed the fears of many with the knowledge they shared, in particular, backward compatibility was confirmed.

What you must know is that the editor is nearly ready and by the end of June it should be feature complete. After features are frozen, possibly in early July, we should see a refining of the UX with a view towards release. WPTavern has a comprehensive review of the entire workshop including customization and theme building processes.

For the first time, I think, a presentation from Matt Mullenweg played to a room large enough to hold everyone. As you can imagine, there was a lot of Gutenberg talk with a touch on how it has evolved and how it will unfold.
The month of June will be a big one as site influencers will be encouraged to move sites over to Gutenberg. From then on, data will be collected about the editor and how users are using it, or not. A lot of bugs will be squished during this period. WordPress of the future looks like getting a release date in August.

He also asked devs to dive into JavaScript. Deeply. Again. And gave away a cookie.

WordCamps are always great events for their focus on accessibility, but this year we also saw a good focus on mental health. This focus emerged in the second half of day one with two talks; staying healthy in the digital space and easing the anxious mind.

Christina Varro gave a detailed talk about the perils of freelancing based on her experience from nearly 10 years of freelancing. Her tips have helped her move beyond the sleep disorders, physical health and anxiety disorders that often go hand in hand with heavy computer work. The tips themselves are small but very powerful in helping us stay healthy.
At WCEU 2018 a lot of speakers and workshop leaders stepped up to say “You’re not alone. Let us help”. Laura Nelson is open about her own struggles and shared her experience and knowledge to an eager audience.

These two first day talks set the wider stage for a conversation about mental health in a number of talks and workshops on day 2.

WCEU Day 2

Day 2 had big shoes to fill after an inspiring first day, but somehow it managed to achieve it. If you are a fan of connections and contributions, then you will be happy to hear that WordPress and Drupal share a decent amount of love. We share so much love that we are lending them  Matt Mullenweg for the Drupal Europe conference in Berlin this September.
Sharing love was also the theme of Davide Casali’s talk on feedback. This was the talk of the day in my opinion. Giving and receiving feedback is actually quite challenging and often times we find ourselves falling into ridiculous traps. Casali helped redefine the process and provided strategies for moving forward. This is the best quote from a highly quotable talk:

We say “negative” feedback but let’s reframe it to feedback that you know what to do with. “Positive” feedback is confirmation feedback – keep doing what you’re doing.

We also witnessed an epic 3 hour Gutenberg and React workshop with Zac Gordon and Julien Melissas. Attendees enthusiastically packed the room and happily squeezed into chairs without desks. Their deep learning of JavaScript paid off handsomely with a love heart counter to keep.
Sherry Walling’s workshop provided attendees with superpowers to help them stay healthy and productive. The workshop was completely full which vindicates the decision to put focus on mental health at this WordCamp.

The workshoppers also participated enthusiastically in the exercises.

Let’s switch back to Gutenberg for the final summary. We had two hardcore Gutenbergers delivering talks with Tammie Lister considering design patterns and Matías Ventura taking a deep dive into the technical side of Gutenberg and what it means for publishing.

One of the most exciting implications from the Gutenberg editor is the placeholder because it makes blank, judgemental, pages less frightening. In other words, placeholders help us see how a page might take shape. You can see that people started getting excited for Gutenberg and some of their worries eased after the talks, workshops, and the keynote.

If you were lucky enough to be at WordCamp US 2017, you probably remember the Gutenberg demonstration from Matías Ventura during the State of the Word. The demo was a watershed moment when people started to get excited about Gutenberg. The markdown support is getting people excited. If you copy and paste markdown into the editor it will convert it into a bona fide Gutenberg block. Pretty tasty.

This presentation has me thinking that Matías Ventura was the big star of WordCamp Europe because he helped many people get excited about the changes. To sum it up that the future is WordPress.

What are other people saying

The future is near according to the team at Sitelock, and they are ‘excited for this new chapter’. The event itself was ‘near perfect’. it is hard to disagree with that assessment from a team that attends a WordCamp nearly every week. These guys know WordCamps like I know pizza.

For the local view Ivana, volunteer and happy sharer of Serbian facts wrote a piece focusing on the ‘great talks’ and diverse workshops. There was also a shoutout for Adrian Roselli’s mammoth accessibility workshop (with slides).

You’ll hear it said often that the Serbian people were welcoming and it was a great experience, and you might also hear a mention of two of the amazing food.

As ever, the Gutenberg timeline got a lot of the focus. Without a doubt, the clarification of the timeline is a great step in the right direction.

Volunteering and Organizing

The ThemeIsle team before WordCamp Europe 2018

As with every WordCamp Europe since 2016, the ThemeIsle crew was all hands on deck as volunteers. It was my first experience as a volunteer and I really enjoyed it. It was stressful combining it with our role as media partner but I learned a lot. Next year will be even better.

We had pirates volunteering all over the event. First off we had Madalin working in the happiness bar. Sounds like he had a great time (hopefully staying within the Code of Conduct).

Another first-timer, Radu, said, “I heard from a lot of the guys that WCEU is a great experience but I didn’t expect to have so much fun.”

We also had two pirates on the organizing committee. Sabina was 2IC of the communications team. She was busy the entire event, and as a result, barely had time to grab swag. She did score some delicious Estonian chocolate from our new friend, Kris. That’s what we call engineering happiness.

Finally, WordCamp Europe 2019 will be in Berlin

Finally, the announcement for WordCamp 2019 in Berlin was one we can all get behind. If we thought the Sava Centre was big, then the Estrel Hotel and Congress Center takes it up a notch with room for 12,000 people.

The Berlin WordPress community is strong as can be seen in the 1300 members of their monthly meetup. They also have dedicated meetups for developers, women, and beginners.

So, while we’re all disappointed that WordCamp Europe 2018 is over already, the good news is the WordCamp Europe process has already started again. The call for organizers has been sounded and if you’re quick you can make another awesome WCEU.

And the rest of us will start counting down the days.

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