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WordCamp Ann Arbor Recap 2016

WordCamp Ann Arbor Recap 2016

WordCamp Ann Arbor 2016 was the first camp I attended where I didn’t have an agenda. I usually attend a WordCamp to gain new friends and make a few contacts. Maybe meet a WordPress Rockstar or two. This time was a little different. My agenda was to learn how people in Michigan use WordPress. This is all part of my plan to become a better role model in WordPress. Even though you and I both use WordPress to achieve an end goal, we use it differently every day. So my objective was simple. Learn.

Ann Arbor a.k.a. A2

I’ve been to Michigan a handful of times. I’ve seen hockey games, visited for Christmas and seen some amazing street art. All of this took place in Detroit. When I applied to speak in Ann Arbor, it was simply to visit another part of Michigan. Ann Arbor is a real college town. It’s full of life and there’s so much going on any given weekend. I was excited to participate in the fun.

When I got off the plan in Detroit, I was coming from WebDevStudios Camp. We spent a week in the Poconos. Boy was that amazing. I hailed an Uber and I was off to Ann Arbor. My Uber driver was a real talker. He had many jobs and he had built a few WordPress sites. Naturally, we talked about WP for the whole car ride. I gave him some tips until we got to the speaker sponsor dinner.

Speaker / Sponsor Dinner

When I arrived at the dinner, I was fighting to stay awake. I had been up for almost 16 hours and flew a few hundred miles. Jet lag can sure be a bitch. I walked in and there was Kyle. Lead organizer of WordCamp Ann Arbor. We shook hands and hugged one out. I had previously appeared on his podcast. We had a great conversation. You could say that wa the first time I met him. Meeting people in real life is so much better.

Speaker dinners are usually hit or miss for me. Sometimes I get anxiety when I’m in a new WordPress environment. Normally I know everyone in the room and I’ve met them. This time different. I knew a few people and naturally, I gravitated towards my friends. From there, I meet a couple of their friends and the whole social gathering starts to take off for me. This time was a bit different. I met up with Michelle Schulp and we had a wonderful conversation about her transition into development. I had asked her about it a few times on twitter. Again, real life is so much better.

Hanging with Michelle was awesome. She introduced me to a few people I’ve heard of. Some of them knew who I was, and I felt like a jerk for not knowing them. This is one of the reasons I’ve decided I needed to become a better role model. The WordPress community is a large one and I want to meet as many people I can.

The best part of the speaker / sponsor dinner came. The time when Kyle said it was time to go home and get some sleep. I was staying in the same Air BNB. So I caught a ride home with Kyle and Ashley. Both are amazing people. When we got home, he showed me where my room was. I got changed and I went downstairs to help with final preparations for Day two of WordCamp. As a former organizer, I know how much work goes into a WordCamp. I pitched in and ended up talking with some amazing people. At this point, I had been up for about 19 hours.

WordCamp Ann Arbor

Camps can be hit or miss for me once again. I either attend every session or I get lost in HallwayCamp. I was determined to learn how people use WP in Michigan. This camp I attended many sessions. I learned a lot. I heard some really interesting questions and some unique answers. I hung out in the sponsor room for a bit and it was my turn to speak.

Speaking at a WordCamp is nothing new for me. I’ve done it a few times. I get a huge rush from telling people my thoughts about WordPress. I had practiced my talk many times and I felt on top of my game. I walked into the room and people were ready to learn. I got excited.

I gave my talk on theme demonstrations and why I hate them. I went through my slides and my talk was over. I felt accomplished and satisfied. I packed up my bags and I headed off to lunch with Andrew Wikel. Andrew is one of my favorite WP people on the planet. He had just been to Las Vegas a few weeks before Ann Arbor. We picked up where we left off. We had a great conversation. Andrew got carded at lunch for ordering a non-alcoholic beer. I was not carded for ordering the strongest beer on the menu. Explain that one people.

The best part of WordCamp Ann Arbor

Many of you know I work support for WebDevStudios.com. Every WordCamp has a Happiness Bar. It’s essentially a place for people to get free help and ask questions. If you’ve ever met me, you know this is one of my favorite things to do. It’s all part of becoming a better role model.

Part of learning how others use WordPress, I jumped on the Happiness bar and helped a few people out. One guy, I ended up rewriting code for. One woman had three pages of questions. I handled them all like a champ, as my girlfriend would say. Nothing wa out of my league and everyone walked away with a smile. My only rule for helping people at the Happiness bar includes taking a picture with me. I’ll post a few at the end. There’s to many to post and page speed is important to me.

In conclusion, WordCamp Ann Arbor was amazing. Kyle, you did an amazing job and I’m more than happy to help out anytime.

Russell Aaron
Hey. I'm Russell Aaron. I'm a WordPress enthusiast. I work at WebDevStudios. I'm Lead Organizer of the WordPress Vegas Meetup Group and WordCamp Las Vegas. I simply blog about anything that comes into my mind. You've been warned.

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