I purposely waited a few days to publish this because I wanted to focus on some points that seemed important to me at the time in order to see if they still were important to me. This was the second WordCamp Israel and my second time attending. This year rather than write a detailed review of the event, I want to share some of my impressions. If you’re looking for a review, Rebecca Markowitz at WordPressGarage wrote up an excellent piece on her experience.
The Venue: Presentations took place in two separate rooms, a large lecture hall and smaller meeting room, joined by a central foyer, all three areas being utilized during the event. Last minute changes meant the schedule was somewhat different than the one originally published on the WordCamp Israel site and in the folder handed out. This led to a bit of confusion and me sitting in the wrong room more often than not during the day. All sessions were recorded and hopefully this year they will also be released for viewing, so I hope to catch up on those presentations I missed.
The Purpose: One of the stated goals of this year’s WordCamp was creating an opportunity for NGOs and WordPress enthusiasts to come together to promote blogging as a tool for social change/awareness. Honestly speaking, however, I’m not sure how this was achieved. The eight or so NGOs attending were invited to give a short overview of their organization in a “Hyde Park” corner speakers venue. Unfortunately, this was done in the foyer area, which had terrible acoustics, especially given that at the same time the NGOs were giving their shpiel, the WordPress enthusiasts were schmoozing with other WordPress enthusiasts. The NGOs would have been much better served if they’d had their airtime in the lecture hall and also stated what assistance they were looking for from the WP community. Maybe they did, but only one presenter understood that even with a microphone in hand she needed to talk loudly to be heard. The rest were swallowed up by the background noise. I would be happy to hear from someone in the comments that there was more interaction between the NGOs and WP community than just the “Hyde Park” session described above. This was a real opportunity for the virtual world to assist others in making an impact on the real world.
WordPress.COM or WordPress.ORG? Miriam Schwab of WordPressGarage, israelplug and Illuminea gave a half-hour presentation on using WordPress.com and the Hebrew Blogli (which apparently runs on WordPress MU) as a blogging platform, but I didn’t hear her, yet. (See my note above.) During his informative talk, Automattic’s Raanan Bar Cohen asked his audience how many were blogging on COM and the ballpark answer he gave was about 20% of those in the room. In other words, one fifth of WordCamp attendees could not utilize a large part of the information being shared during WordCamp, such as plug-ins, advertising, creating templates, using Google Analytics, etc. The impromptu “Ask a Geek” mini-session at the very end of the day mixed it up even further after someone asked where they could get the WordPress API key to use for Akismet on their ORG blog, which is only available by registering for a COM account. Given the numbers, (check the bottom of my sidebar), it would seem appropriate to have a bit more COM centric information.
Putting together such an extensive program in two months is a huge (huge!) undertaking and the organizers again deserve kudos for pulling it off. With the popularity of blogging in general and WordPress specifically as a free, open source blogging platform, there is a large and diverse user base coming to WordCamp looking for information. I don’t know what it is like at other WordCamps, but it seemed to me the attendees in Israel consisted of people who have next-to or zero technical knowledge and who want to blog, all the way up to WordPress developers. Trying to address the needs of such a diverse group is difficult in the extreme and I think having parallel sessions was a step in the right direction.
All-in-all, WordCamp Israel was a great opportunity to learn more about my favorite blogging platform, as well as meet up with new and old friends and netfriends. Already looking forward to next year.