WCSD 2015 – Every Conversation I Had

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I’m still coming off the high of WordCamp San Diego 2015. There is no question, the energy this past weekend was electric! I have been lucky enough to speak at every San Diego WordCamp since it started in 2011 and what’s noticeable, is that they keep getting bigger and better.

The Details

The WordCamp San Diego 2015 organizers and volunteers hit a home run this past weekend. That’s a well placed metaphor, since the event was held in the unique space, San Diego Hall Of Champions, in San Diego’s famous and bustling, Balboa Park. It seemed fitting due to the rock star speakers and format that was put together. The SDHOC is a massive venue with three floors and a very cool restaurant called the Home Plate Cafe. On Saturday, the sessions were broken down into four main rooms, Admin, Beginner, Design and Developer. On Sunday the sessions were more Business oriented and those areas were broken out into, Product, Services, Theme and Plugin Development rooms. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a Business Track broken down into so much detail. This was nothing short of brilliant and literally had something for everyone. The Saturday lunch taco bar was incredible, the after party drinks and salad bar was amazing and the endless donuts, drinks and snacks, all weekend long, kept you going. Having everything at one venue was really nice and kept the great conversations alive.

The Vibe

There is something about San Diego that changes people. Maybe it’s the weather, the casual demeanor or the ocean breeze that makes everyone happy. I used to live in San Diego and still work there often, so I certainly feel the same way every time I come into town. What I loved hearing was how much fun people were having. It wasn’t just the event, it was where they were staying and the surrounding area too. Almost everyone I spoke to either brought their family for an extended vacation or wish they did. It felt like they were saying they didn’t want to leave.

In between sessions and during lunch you would find a lot of people just sitting outside. There were several benches and people were hanging out on the grass too. Balboa Park is chock full of several museums, gardens and the wonderful San Diego Zoo. There were so many people walking around outside, it made our event seem even bigger and more festive. I constantly bumped into people I knew and we would stop and chat for a bit. This happened so often, it became the highlight of my weekend.

The Conversations

The level of attendees at this WordCamp was superb. People from all around the country, and world, came to experience WordCamp San Diego. If you’re a WordPress geek like me and love watching certain speakers again and again, the WCSD Speakers List, read like a “who’s who” in the WordCamp Community. Needless to say, there was some serious expert knowledge being dropped. What’s great about that and what’s great about WordCamps, is that after they speak, you just walk up to them, shake their hand and ask them any question you want. There is no being whisked away into a backroom, they just walk out to the crowd. Where else can you do that?

We’ve all read that conferences are all about the “hallways.” Meaning that the great discussions happen going from session to session, at the after party and standing in line getting lunch. This is true. Like I said in my presentation this weekend, Milestones and Delivery: Tough Conversations and Scope Creep, I majored in Communication in college, so I love having great conversations with people. To me, the people I get to see are the sole reason I go to these events. I thought it would be fun to think about every conversation I had over the weekend. Surprisingly, most of the conversations weren’t about WordPress at all!

  • Chris Perryman in my opinion was the ultimate rockstar. A mother to be, she was at the speaker dinner on Friday night and working hard on Saturday and Sunday. Her husband Andrew, who clearly is another rockstar, was consistently there for her all weekend. On Friday, Chris and I spoke about having kids and still running your business. I’ve written about how years ago I was laid off while my wife was 7 months pregnant and so I got to enjoy being around when my daughter was born. Chris is ramping up her business also at this time and it was inspiring to talk about how she is balancing both. It was impressive.

  • Matt Cromwell is just cool. He gave me the backstory on how he became the first employee of WordImpress. I am a big proponent of giving back and am excited to see how their “Give” platform evolves. Matt also introduced me to one of the owners of WordImpress Jason Knill and we had a great conversation which I highlight below!

  • Lucy Beer is such good energy. If her amazing smile and positive energy don’t reel you in, her engaging questions will. We talked about her new adventures with WP Rocket and her incredible career being an advocate of good support. Lucy is one of those people you just want to hangout all day with, have a beer and talk about everything. She truly is awesome.

  • Jason Knill is one of the owners of WordImpress and an engaging personality. His marketing knowledge is insane. When you have a conversation with Jason, it’s an activity. He’s energetic, animated and fun. We talked about brands, specifically Patagonia and Oakley. Patagonia in the context of their Give platform and Oakley in the context of their clothing. It was interesting, because they both make clothing, but we talked about each one in a completely different way. It was fascinating and a true indicator as to why brand positioning works.

  • Nathan Porter is smart, calm and patient. As one of the Principles of Ukuu People, a WordPress CRM plugin, he always had his Windows Surface with him to demo his product at a moments notice. I got a chance to check out his app and ask him a bunch of questions about it. It actually looks pretty cool. I’m not a fan of bloat in software and what I like about Ukuu People was that it had just what you needed. Another cool thing is they built if for themselves first, then decided to offer it as a product. I love hearing stories like that! I’m totally going to look into this more.

  • Brandon Dove is amazing as always and is also known as the cool, collected and better looking half of Pixel Jar. What was also cool was hearing and seeing all about Crash Labs, a new CoWorking and event space that Brandon and Jeff are involved in with some other people. I just started working at a CoWorking space myself, so I’m totally into what other spaces are doing. He of course was excited and that made me excited. The pictures looked fantastic. Guess where I’ll be working the next time I’m in town?

  • Robert Gadon is a newer WordPress developer and I loved hearing his story about how he watched the video of Karim Marucchi and I last year on stage at WordCamp LA. It was about Setting Client Expectations. He spent some time talking to Karim as well and it’s pretty cool to get feedback like that. A lot of the time, you come off stage wondering how you did and if people got something out of it. It was cool to see Robert in person!

  • Nick Olsen has the chops to do Web Development and Product Development. I think he’ll end up on the product side eventually, but he is amassing his army of skills and already taking on the world. I bumped into him in between a few sessions and he had his card with all of the sessions circled that he was going to. It was great to see Nick getting a lot out of sessions.

  • Karim Marucchi and I usually chat a couple of times a month and it is always good to give him that long awkward hug when I see him. I really enjoyed working for him at Crowd Favorite and I love that we are still good friends. Karim and I have similar backgrounds in the Web Industry and remember when they didn’t use the word “Digital” that much. I told him that now everyone seems to be overusing it and asked when he remembered that becoming a thing and he gave me a hard time and said that it’s been a thing for awhile. Whatever, it’s still overused people. Stop it.

  • Dave Margowsky is one of the coolest guys to talk to and the lead organizer for WordCamp Orange County this year. The funny ongoing story is that Dave and my wife went to grade school and high school together and we didn’t figure that out until last year at WordCamp Orange County. We made a joke of it a half dozen times this weekend every time we ran into each other. Everyone do themselves a favor and say hi to Dave when you see him. When you walk away, you will feel awesome inside. He does that to people.

  • Dave Jesch not only spoke once, but twice at WCSD this year. I was sitting outside when he came out of his first talk. He looked a little brain tired. When Dave talks, it’s technical, on point and probably one of the top things you will hear that day. Dave goes all in. He was talking to me about how he prepares for his talks. Constantly reviewing and practicing. The reason he’s tired, is because he just gave some serious free info out there to everyone and a lot of it. I love his talks and try to never miss them.

  • Chris Ford is not only a polished speaker and designer, she is funny as hell. Chris just enjoy’s life to the fullest and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about all of her crazy antics she got herself into as a teenager. Seriously, I was crying laughing. The cool thing about Chris is she gets it. She is a REALLY good designer that has been around for a long time and knows her stuff. I’m going to definitely work on a project with her soon. I’m going to make that happen.

  • Adam Silver is a comedian. Really, he was a comedian for like 6 years. Now he is a Dad, WordPress Pro, Podcaster and a fast talker. Adam is very intelligent and speaking with him is like you went up one grade level. The humor is always high brow and about half way through the conversation you realize we are all there for his entertainment. I’ve talked with Adam several times, but I got a chance to have a few longer conversations with him this weekend and it was a blast. Him and I are close to the same age, he’s older, so it was cool to talk about his career as a comedian and being a Dad. Laughing and enjoying your kids, my two favorite topics!

  • Chris Hawkins is one pretty awesome person. John Hawkins better half and just a really fun person to talk to. She just recently hacked all of her hair off and my wife being a stylist, I know that transforming moment well. We talked about those challenges and then she let me in on a cool secret. It turns out John Hawkins was a good backwards skater back in the day. Like legit! We laughed and suggested maybe we should do a rollerskating WordCamp some day. That actually sounds like a good idea, hmmmm.

  • William Bay and Jon Brown are jerks! This past year both went to Thailand. They are both avid travelers and following them on Twitter and Facebook, just makes you envious. It was cool to listen in on their conversation about Thailand. Bottom line, the food and the people are amazing. William was clearly smitten and Jon goes back every year. They talked in detail about the towns, geography and the amazing dishes they ate there. No joke, I’ve been jonesing for Thai food for two days now.

  • Ansel Taft is a force online. He is funny, cracks jokes at himself and is a VERY nice person. I made a joke on twitter that Ansel was going to try and break the record for the most hugs at a WordCamp. Every time I saw Ansel I gave him a hug and apparently others did too! I wanted it to become a meme. One of the coolest things I heard all weekend came from Ansel when he said that my first talk at WordCamp San Diego in 2011 on Responsive Web Design with WordPress, inspired him to learn Responsive Web Design, because I said it was going to be the future. That pretty much made my weekend!

  • Alex Vasquez is killing it this year. Not only did Alex become a full time freelancer last year, he is on track to beating his production goal from last year as well. Besides being one of the funniest people I have ever met, Alex has a serious business side. He really gets invested into his clients projects and is passionate about the outcome. We sat and talked for a bit about how fast you can become busy. It really does happen just like that and you have to be set up for it. This will be Alex’s year.

  • Sarah Wefald has awesome fashion sense and one of the rad people you always need to have a conversation with every time you see her. I met her friend Rachel, who is equally awesome and from Portland. Sarah is an old soul, a WordPress Pro and has excellent taste in music too. Besides food we talked about “Bad decision making Rob Lowe,” who is the star of the current campaign of Direct TV commercials. Brilliant.

  • Scott Bolinger is a co-founder of AppPresser and a new father to a getting-big-fast baby boy. I always find it interesting to hear other peoples stories about how they are balancing work and family life. There is a lot of WordPress people that work from home and WordPress has given many of us the opportunity to do so. Scott talked about how it started out rough, but how it’s gotten a lot better. I’m a big fan of what Scott is doing with AppPresser and the fact that you can still be innovative and work from home, is a great lesson for all of us.

  • Bill Ericksen gave one of my favorite presentations over the weekend with Jared Atchison on Choosing Clients. Besides all the incredible data they shared, Bill and Jared each have new babies too! Ha, seemed like a lot of WordPress Dev’s have babies right now. It was cool to talk about the home dynamic that Bill is going through, while also having a home office. The biggest takeaway I got from talking to Bill was, that it was nice to be there to help his wife during this time. I felt the same way when my daughter was born.

  • Greg Douglas has been on a product streak lately. His latest is called Code Cavalry. He gave me the gist of it. Essentially, Code Cavalry breaks down the barriers by helping you get access to code help fast. Most people need expert help getting through just pieces of code, not the whole thing. Code Cavalry solves that problem. It’s cool to see people moving forward on their own products. It looks like we will be seeing a lot more from Greg this year!

  • Nathan Tyler is also on a product trend. Nathan is working on a new product to help us with a certain type of plugin problem. Now, I’m not sure how far down the road he is, but it sounds like it’s something we all can use. This new plugin is hot on the heels of his latest plugin Draw Attention, which helps you create interactive images in WordPress. The first thing I asked Nathan was, “How have you been?” “Busy,” he said. Busy indeed!

  • Blossom Wright is like a really awesome quilter. She is really into it and was dropping some quilting slang to Margowsky and I Friday night. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry and apparently she’s working on a project to get a piece of that pie. Blossom is funny, laughs a lot and is incredibly sharp. Whenever we talk, we always have some wild conversations and she does some really fun work. I can’t wait to hear what’s next.

  • Shawn Hesketh runs WP101.com, but we didn’t talk about that at all! What we talked about was running, running shoes, Austin and our families. Shawn is a really nice guy and made me feel like I need to coordinate my WordCamps with him, so we can go on a run together some time. Shawn is a dedicated family man and lover of WordPress. It was refreshing to talk to someone that has so much passion for everything they do.

  • Chris Lema, Jennifer Bourn & Brian Bourn all say we should stop what we are doing right now and go on a Disney Cruise with them someday. None of us have ever been, but we all want to go. It looks like Chris is already set up to go next, meanwhile it sounds like Jen and Brian aren’t that far behind. WordCamp San Diego was the first WordCamp where I got to sit and talk to each one of them individually and together. Simply put, they are awesome. I know for a fact we couldn’t be neighbors, because I would just want to hang out with them all the time. And if we all live close to Chris and Melissa, pretty much all productivity would cease. Some of my most enjoyable conversations of the Weekend were with Chris, Jen and Brian.

  • Elena Rego is one of those people that when you talk to her, it feels like you are starting right where you left off. Time fades and you just talk. She has incredible presence, great insight and very easy to talk to. Elena and I talked about our parents, I talked about my mom and we shared stories of getting to that age where we need to start worrying about them. I hope we get to hang out a little more before Jon and Elena head back to Hawaii.

  • Rebecca Gill is a treat to talk to. She is a strong business woman and loves her family. I enjoyed talking about her latest family project of renovating her lake house and all of the upgrades she’s been working on, such as her wood counter top and finally getting reliable DSL, so she can work. You always know where you stand with Rebecca and she is an absolute blast to hang out with. If you do hang out with her, hold on and try to keep up. She’s awesome.

This is definitely the longest post I’ve written in awhile, but possibly the most fun. WCSD was one of those WordCamps where you connected with people more than you had before. I’m sure there may be a formula to follow to create a great WordCamp, but whatever the guys did this year needs to be written down. This years experience was nothing short of magical.

6 thoughts on “WCSD 2015 – Every Conversation I Had”

  1. Great post Wes, I got to speak with many of the folks that you did. All are amazing people! I feel so fortunate to be a part of this community.

  2. Whoa. This is impressive and inspiring, Wes. Couldn’t agree more with your observations about WordCamp San Diego, and the quality of the amazing conversations. Loved your idea about coordinating our future WordCamp schedules so we can get that shared run in!

  3. Well dang, Wesley….what an awesome post! I’m totally honored to be mentioned among the gaggle of elite WordPress-ers and generally dope people here.

    You, sir, are hands down one of the coolest guys around. Truly one of the Zen masters of our community! It’s always a real pleasure to talk to you about life n WordPress. You bring wisdom, calm and humour to every conversation and this post is testament to your generous nature. You’re awesome!

  4. Wes it was a pleasure seeing you at WCSD, and I enjoyed sharing a little bit about my startup with you. For all the great people I got to meet and speak with at WCSD this past weekend, there’s a long list of those I didn’t get the chance to. We’re spoilt for choice with the abundance of knowledge and talent in this community. What a great problem to have.

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