Giving in to the urge to give back

Kathy Zant of WordFence with Joe Simpson at the UnConference session at WordCamp US.

A look back at my whirlwind week in the WordPress Community

Like that large blackbird sitting on the streetlight outside my bedroom window each morning, a Google Flights notification to St. Louis greeted me each morning. Possibilities with serious doubts were chirping at me constantly. After all the event was less than a week away! I didn’t have a room or board or a ticket. Taking a deep breath, click the BUY button, my challenge was laid out before me — WordCamp US (#wcus).

Within the next hour, frantically thinking through logistics then reached out to members of the organizing team to volunteer wherever I was needed.

Smile, Your On Candid Camera!

As I boarded the Flyaway bus to Los Angeles International Airport, my phone buzzed with a tweet. A harbinger of good things to come, WCUS Organizer Mary Baum forwarded a tweet with a screenshot of her television, “Joe, you’re on my television set in St. Louis!”

As part of the imagery used by Channel 2 during the interview with Jen Swisher, an image shared from our first WordCamp Santa Clarita appeared. The WordPress Community has always been so welcoming and supportive in my journey back and I met Mary at her WordPress Meetup two years earlier in Palmdale, California prior to her relocating to St Louis. Small world.

Got to Be There (In the Morning)

Walking through the doors of America’s Center Convention Complex in St. Louis I smiled. Traveling through the wee hours of the early morning with a layover isn’t fun but the WordPress Community awaited. I’d be cutting it close, arriving on Friday after opening remarks, but WordPress and WordCamps have a special place in my heart.

Lending a helping hand

My offer to assist led me to Organizers David Bisset and Cami Kaos who were kind enough to plug me into two incredible Community events:

  • UnConference – According to the WCUS site, “An unconference is a participant-driven meeting” and our task was to quickly put up a sign-up board in the Sponsor Hall to collect topic ideas on Friday for Saturday’s event. We’d select four interesting topics for a session in the Community Track (274) the following morning at 11:30am; and
  • Get InvolvedI’d talk with attendees entering the Sponsor Hall about how they can contribute to WordPress and specifically about Meetups. A great spot to hang out, doodle on one of two great boards, talk WordPress, and meet the Community.

The Doodle Board early Friday morning at WordCamp US.


The Doodle Board early Friday morning at WordCamp US.
Thanks to David Bisset (@dimensionmedia) I became a meme.

Smiles and smiles to go

I love attending our five local WordCamps, but WordCamp United States is even more majestic. Imagine a family/high school reunion, mixed with the world series or super bowl, tinged with a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral. Unlike your average convention, there are friendly faces everywhere you turn, the positive vibes are infectious and the hugs plentiful.
I originally met Kathy Zant @kathyzant when she visited two of our local WordPress Meetups to talk WordFence and security. Kathy’s project, “Open” debuted during the State of the Word, attended the UnConference.

Another highlight for me is the new friendships that kindle at WordCamp US and I was fortunate to have a chance to get to know the speakers who participated in the UnConference. Here are the session highlights:

  • 2 Chris and a Dave (Chris Wiegman, Chris Wiegman, and David Johnson) presented “Practical Privacy Protection: How to Keep Your Data Safe”;
  • WordFence’s Chloe Chamberland shared her experiences on “Nomadic/Remote Working”;
  • Jeff Gamet presented great insights with “How To Get Journalists And Bloggers To Read Your Press Release”; and
  • Johnni Fazio provided an energetic and dynamic presentation with “Learning From Failure Experiences”

Chris Weigman (@Sharp3d), David Johnson (@TheDavidJohnson), and Chris Weigman (@chrisweigman) during their presentation at the UnConference.


Chris Weigman (@Sharp3d), David Johnson (@TheDavidJohnson), and Chris Weigman (@chrisweigman) during their presentation at the UnConference.

Living in Perfect Harmony/WordPress SOW

I feel a kinship with WordPress for so many reasons:

  • After all, way back when I made first contact and needed a kind word or question answered, everyone jumped in and helped;
  • My nickname is “Jazz”, I’m a hardcore jazz fan and anyone who names core releases after the giants of this truly American-grown art form (and has a trio perform standards during lunch!) is a kindred spirit; and
  • The genuine kindness and desire of volunteers to give back to create unique, open, and impactful contributions to our WordPress Community is inspirational and is pivotal in my journey back from a heart event two short years ago.

Jazz and Instrumental music during lunch at WordCamp US.


Jazz and Instrumental music during lunch at WordCamp US.

Open film premiere during State of the Word.


Open film premiere during the State of the Word.

This is my third WordCamp US (second consecutive in person, first via Livestream) and the State of the Word is, by far, my favorite session of any WordCamp. Seeing Matt’s vision for our Open Source project, examples of things in the works, and taking live questions is inspiring and exciting. The premiere of the documentary Open was a great kickoff.

Same time next year

Boarding the early evening flight home to the Los Angeles area, I once again smiled. I can’t wait to share this weekend’s events with my Meetup and organizing team as we move forward. In four short days, I’ll be giving back at WordCamp Riverside. WordPress is great…

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