Reflections on a good digital week (and a positive volunteering experience) – WordPress User Group London and WordCamp London

Such a good digital week that I’ve done a mini-blog separate to my normal general reflections on the previous week. Readers of my blog will know that I aspire to be much more proficient than I am at digital (I would like to be a techy geek rather than just a digital enthusiast). And one of the main things I have gotten into is WordPress (WP), using it to create this blog and my fairly primitive website. Indeed last week’s good experience was actually based on two separate events – the WordPress User Group London (WPUGL) on Tuesday evening and then WordCamp on Saturday.

I found out about the monthly meetings of WPUGL on (what a brilliant digital resource that is in itself)and this was the third meeting I had attended. I still feel nervous going but that is definitely lessening with each meeting. A useful presentation on helpful sites and plug-ins as well as the usual friendly participants. But some of them are so much better than me at the technical side of WordPress, I can only hope my content is better than theirs! Next session will probably be looking at our sites then letting everyone analyse, feedback (and criticise?); I feel slight hyper-ventilating and a panic attack coming on already.

Then Saturday I was at WordCamp London WordCamp are events that take place around the world where WordPress enthusiasts gather, a bit like a less formal conference with people generally more friendly, approachable and enthusiastic. It’s based on the principle of WP being a community resource. It was only £30 to attend the whole weekend event but I was committed on Sunday to visiting Brighton to see the two old chaps I keep an eye on. So by volunteering for half a day on Saturday I got to attend the rest of the day free.

featured-london-825x510These sort of events rely on people volunteering – perhaps all conferences should demand participants volunteer in some way to keep down costs and build more of a community feeling? I certainly got something out of doing my bit on the day. I was a menial mic-runner (I am definitely not skilled enough to do something more technical); I was the person carrying the mic to people asking questions and them automatically saying ‘Is this switched on?’ (no I thought I’d leave it switched off…) But it was good to do some volunteering again and remember what it is like to be somewhere new doing a low level role when you are not 100% sure of what you are doing – recreating such humility would not go amiss for many people I deal with. Good to always remember how we encourage volunteering but then forget how scary it can be for people who are doing it for the first time.

Apart from the good volunteering experience, I also learnt a lot simply by being at WordCamp; getting advice and information then exploring further on my pooter. I don’t think I appreciated the camraderie that there is around WordPress. I made some good contacts and took stuff from the workshops. Indeed, one of the main things was the infectious enthusiasm people still have to try and make the world a better place, and the fact that we are all teachers and learners to different extents. Lots of people keen to support not-for-profit and sustainability-based work rather than feeding corporate beasts.

In the workshops I got to there were examples of people using WP to run academic inter-action sites between students, tutors, and externals; sites dealing with ultra private and confidential issues; more disruptive WP sites to run alongside main ‘corporate’ sites as well as workshops dealing with improving content and making better use of e-mails to support a site. Great the way people were committed to sharing and ensuring other people could build on their achievements. I even had a chat with one of the WPUGL people I had never spoken to before on one of the Tuesday evenings.

Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the evening social as I needed to spend some time with my partner, we haven’t seen a lot of each other with both of us travelling for our work. I hope it happens next year and I would encourage anyone interested in WP to attend.

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