My experience attending, speaking and enjoying the heck out of WordCamp Johannesburg 2017.
WordCamps are one of the most visible and accessible representations of the WordPress community. There are over 500 WordCamps around the world and that number is growing every year. It’s not only a conference for people who work with WordPress on a day to day basis, but also a place where developers can come to connect and share skills. Also, entrepreneurs can receive business advice and people from a wide range of interests can come together to share ideas on what they’re doing online.

It’s also a wonderful showcase of the community behind WordPress – this thing that powers 30% of all websites on the internet, yet no one owns it. A true open-source community. And yet this platform is providing a livelihood for millions of people. I went to WordCamp Johannesburg 2017, for its second time ever. I’ve also been at the very first WordCamp Joburg, but this year I had the privilege to contribute to the event as a speaker. Here’s just some of what I experienced at WordCamp Johannesburg 2017.

The event was hosted at the South African Military History Museum, situated next to the Johannesburg Zoo. A beautiful venue, with some interesting things like World War 2 tanks and submarines to gawk at between sessions. As with all WordCamps, Jetpack was a sponsor, as well as Woocommerce, Code Cabin Academy, Paid Memberships Pro and many others.

WordCamp Johannesburg 2017: A Behind the Scenes Peak

The first day’s sessions were split between the End-user Track and the Developer track. The developer track was, as the name implies, targeted at developers. To appreciate these, you are required to have a decent understanding of the WordPress codex, as well as many sessions requiring the attendee to be comfortable with using the Command Line. I’m not a developer, but I attended one or two sessions in the developer track out of curiosity. I could still take away a lot of value from attending these workshops, gaining more understanding of what can be achieve technically.

The End-User track focused on learning more about marketing, customer relations, processes, as well as other topics related specifically to WordPress agencies. One of the sessions that really stood out to me, was the session on creating customer processes by Anchen le Roux of Simply Digital Design. The session was especially relevant to me due to so much of our business, being a WordPress support company, being repeat-processes as jobs come in.

It’s Easy, Fun and it Actually Does Good

Day one was entirely split between the Developer and End-User, tracks save for one session, the Community Contributor session. This was probably my favorite session as it reiterated what WordPress is about: Community. WordPress, at least the self-hosted (.org) version, is completely open-source and free for anyone to use. In my own personal walk, I haven’t yet come across anything as empowering as this platform. It’s a PHP project that is maintained by thousands of people working just for the good of it to exist.

The Community Contributor session showed how anyone can get involved and contribute in so many different ways. I highly urge anyone to have a look at the Get Involved page on the site. You don’t even have to be a coder to contribute to WordPress.

I personally contributed to the translation of WordPress into my home language (Afrikaans), the section under Get Involved called Polyglots. It’s astonishing to see the number of languages available to the community. That said, there are many languages that still need contributors and being part of this community is what’s making it happen.

Paid Memberships Talk

It was a great honor to be a speaker myself this year. My talk was about creating and growing a Paid Membership Site, using the awesome plugin created by Paid Memberships Pro. Our own site uses Paid Memberships Pro for our customers. I shared from my personal experience and offered some insight I’ve gained into growing Tribes around a brand. Read PMPro’s article on the talk here. I haven’t done many public speaking sessions, so doing this was nerve-wracking at first but actually turned out pretty well. This was mostly thanks to an engaged and motivated audience. Everyone was passionate about realizing their personal goals using WordPress.

As with every other WordCamp I have attended, the food was great. On both days there was a tea break, a wonderful lunch, as well as afternoon tea and snacks. The venue staff was friendly and accommodating. (To the person who decided on mini-shwarmas, I applaud you). At lunch, I decided to wander around the venue a bit. The museum showcases various tanks, planes, boats, submarines and other military vehicles and weapons. These range from World War 1 all the way to the modern age.

Become Involved Now

WordCamp Johannesburg 2017 was a blast! I’m excited about the growth of Joburg’s (and Pretoria’s) WordPress Community. We can create so many more opportunities for the WP community of South Africa. This is only the second WordCamp Johannesburg. And already many more people attended this year compared to last. What I really took away from the event, is the importance of the community’s contribution to this project. This thing that no one owns but runs 30% of the websites on the Internet. I also managed to make meaningful connections with many people. I would urge you to find your local WordPress Meetup group and to go to your nearest WordCamp, of which there are over 500 around the world.