Episode 432: WordCamps With Ryan Waterbury

Show Summary

Rob Cairns and Ryan Waterbury talk about WordCamps.

Show Highlights:

1 Why WordCamps? 2. Things to take with you to a WordCamp. 3. Have fun.

  1. Why WordCamps?
  2. Things to take with you at a WordCamp.
  3. Have fun.

Rob Cairns here and today I’m here with my monthly co-host Mr. Ryan Waterbury from Minnesota. How are you today, Ryan?

I’m not doing. Too bad. We’re we’re still getting soaking rains, but that should end today, hopefully.

Don’t don’t send any more of it. N We don’t want anymore. And then so we’ve had hot and humid weather worse than Florida and Toronto. So that tells you where I’m at right now, so. You know, today you and I were talking offline and we thought we talked about an interesting topic and that’s work camps and one reason why is those who don’t know, I’m off to work camp. Kenda a week next Thursday. So less than two weeks away. You’re talking about going to work camp. And it’s so dirty. You’re not, if I recall or.

Yeah, we’re camp Minneapolis is in August.

Sorry. So you’re talking about going there, where can’t you? US is coming up. We’re just out of work camp EU, which is probably the biggest world. Of all in Europe and in the spring, was where Camp Asia. So we thought we talked a little bit about where camps, what do you feel about work camps?

You know the first word camp I attended and I’d put off going to him just I had attended a lot of conferences in my corporate career, dozens per year. So when I had went off on my own and started doing consulting, I was not not excited to go to any conferences. But a friend of mine finally talked me into going to my first one. I think it was 20/20/16. And that was a word camp in Minneapolis, and I was really surprised. It was a very different feel from the other tech conferences that I had been to. And it really surprised me on how open, inviting and helpful and just warm. Welcoming feeling that I really didn’t get at at other config. And I just thought that I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was just kind of a warm, fuzzy feel that people were actually nice and willing to share technical information. It was a it’s kind of a foreign concept for me coming from other conferences and particularly tech conferences. So I I I tried to go to as many work camps as I can. At least the local ones, and even the meet ups. And I think they’re they’re beneficial to connect, especially in the in person ones. Then we had a few of the online ones during the COVID era and you know, for people that primarily work online and are connected virtually, it’s nice to do an in person event and you know, connect in, in the real world. And I think that’s important.

No, I would agree with that. I haven’t done a work camp since 20. That was the last one that was in Toronto, so it’s that was your Gutenberg came out if you remember, was right before it actually about a week before. Work at US. I did that one and I haven’t done one since the Toronto WordPress meet up group has basically gone virtual so before. COVID there was like 4 different meetups running every month and now they’re down to one virtual meet up. And frankly I don’t need another virtual meet up like on this site. I do enough of them now with some online groups that I’m already involved with, so I’d like. Excuse me an in person one sooner than later. And then. There hasn’t really been anything local now. There’s been a couple around here. Buffalo’s not far away. Rochester’s not far away. That I’ve had scheduling conflicts because most of these run at least one day on the weekend and I don’t know about you, but my weekends are kind of sacred right now, so you look at my schedule. I need a a color. How it organizer does decide what I’m doing where and when? Because my schedule looks like that. It’s like dogs breakfast, but I am going to work at 10 the week Thursday. I’m not going for contributors day, but I’m going for the rest day camp. The interesting conversation going on is somebody jokingly is starting an over. Under pool on how many ***** I will attend, so there’s the fun.

That’s, you know, the talks at at work camps are also. That was also one of the things that I really enjoyed, where our work camp was broken up into three tracks, the business track that was really focused on how to run your agency or make that leap from Freelancer to, you know, agency or how to organize your business or. You know what worked for. You and that was completely new to me and I was, you know, really surprised. So one year that’s pretty much all I did was spend time doing the business track just to see what other other freelancers and other agency owners were doing. And I made some really great connections with really good people there that I still you know. Do work with today, but then you know we have the the marketing track and then the developers track and and they’re all good and the there’s just such a variety of talks to attend that there’s something for everyone that at every level from. You know your nonprofit person. That was technical enough. They got thrown into managing their WordPress website to, you know, the full blown agency owner that’s got a team of 20 that there’s something for both of those individuals at a work camp. And that’s what really. Surprise me and gave me. Like I said, that warm fuzzy feeling that everyone walked in the door and and was treated with some kind of respect and and, you know, people talk to you at at your level and tried to understand and help as much as possible.

Yeah, I would agree. The biggest thing about the Canadian one coming up and by the time we air this podcast, the Canadian One will not have happened. So that’s a good thing is it’s almost like to who’s who in North America, WordPress. If you start to look at the speaker list, it’s it’s a vast degree, I mean. Everybody from Nick Diego, who from automatic, who comes from your neck of the woods to Cory Miller from Oklahoma to you name it and I’m. I’m at the point with that one. There’s so many people going that I know. That’s my problem on this one the the social side of it and the catching up side of it and the four track which you did not mention. And famously called the hallway track might become a big prominent one for me, because there’s just way too many people there. I know I’ve connected with over the years. I’ve had conversations with and now finally, after COVID, we’re all in one place, which will be really good.

Yeah, that’s interesting. I was talking with one of my friends who are not at at work camp and it was at a A A meet up in person not too long ago, we started seeing meetups pop up again. It was kind of a lull for a while in, in our area, but. You know, I mentioned I said, hey, nice to see that word camp Minneapolis is happening. Then. But I, you know, made. I don’t know if I made the comment exactly like this, but I said I don’t know if I’ll get too much out of a lot of the talks and you know, my friend turned and looked to me and said, well, then it’s time for you to start presenting and you’re at that level and I said. You know, you’re probably right. It it probably is time to, you know, do a presentation. But I really wanted to attend work camp just for that same reason that you brought up is to connect with colleagues that I haven’t seen in person in a long time, just to see what they’re doing, where they’re at.


In our last segment that that we talked about, you know we talked about how to grow your agency and I’ve done it with strategic partnerships and you know filling in. Different piece of work, so I’m not going looking for work, but it’s always interesting to hear what other people are working on and how they’re doing it because you know, we work in a vacuum a lot of times, especially as solar printers and you know we we get used to doing things our own way.

So true.

Where whenever I go to a word camp. There’s always a talk or a a subject or something comes up in a conversation that. Flips the switch. That said, I never thought about doing it that way, and I always learned something it it might not be a big thing, but I learned something at every every meet up, every word camp, some little trick or tip that has been useful. So when I look at that, it’s absolutely. Worth while and. For the cost and he and automatic subsidizes these heavily and a lot of the other sponsors, the host level sponsors subsidize it. So I think tickets for our work camp were 50 bucks and that’s a steal in my opinion that the sponsors do such a great job of picking up the tab. And make it approachable for pretty much anyone that $50 is not going to break the bank to attend an event.

Yeah, go not GoDaddy. Canada’s tickets are actually $75.00, but that’s Canadian funds, so you know, take 60% of that. You’re probably in the same ballpark, right. I would think the other thing I would say is I actually submitted a talk this time around. And my top topic was very similar to Dan. Now says topic and Dan submitted the day before I did so and somebody said to me you’re just starting, you’re not speaking. I said no because I can go relax now. I’ve spoke at the last two pod camps in Toronto. As you know, I’ve done some of that. So I’m at the point where I can just go schmooze, which I like to do for those who don’t know, I’m taking the podcast on the road to work camp. So I’m planning on doing some minute interviews, videos. Just about why you like WordPress stuff like that, and I’m gonna combine the videos into a podcast or two, so that’s the plan for that. And by not speaking, I’m free to do basically whatever I want for two days so. And and I even went out for the podcast and I got two RF mics that plug into the chart. The receiver plugs into the charging port of your phone and then their RF lapel MIC. So that I I actually have some clean audio too. So I’ve kind of worked that out as well. So I’m going to be doing some of that. So I’m going to have fun. Regardless, it’s where camps are all what you make out of them. Not what you don’t do.

Exactly. And you know that that’s the nice thing. Even even if you go and you don’t attend a single talk that you’re going to get something out of it. And, you know, you talked about the hallway track where.

Is this?

Conferences for me are, you know, those conversations that you have with with other developers, designers, agency owners, you know, in the in between the talks and. You know, that’s what makes it worthwhile, and I think WordPress as a, you know, community. I know we’ve had our issues over the past few years and some of the drama. But overall, I think the WordPress is is more about community than just the software. And I think word camps are the embodiment of that.

It was.

So you know, when we were bouncing around topics I, you know, I really wanted to highlight that, especially since it’s work camp season. You know, it’s usually from what is it, February, March until September, October. Yeah. And so I I thought that was a, it was a fitting time to to talk about you know, work camps. Again, because we’re now having them in person, you know, like we did pre COVID.


I I agree with you and you know to go one more. I so for people who haven’t attended a work camp or any big conference, one of the things I always suggest is if I haven’t been schedule it #1 have it in your hand and then take a look and say this would be an interesting talk or this would be an interesting talk. And or I should go to this talk because I know this person well, maybe I want to support them. I’ve got one of those on my list already. And kind of outline what you want to see and who you and make a list of who you want. To catch up with. And then what I would suggest is. Reach out to those people before they can and say, hey, can we sit down so? I’ve already got. Two dinners booked. I’ve already got two breakfasts booked. I’ve already got a couple lunches booked. I’ve already got several people saying, hey, we need to sit and have a 20 minute conversation. I’ve got a list of cell phone number, so I gotta do is text people so you know, a little preparation goes a long way. I’m making your day more enjoyable.

Absolutely. And it’s funny, you mentioned Nick Diego relocating to my city of Minneapolis a while ago. And the fact that neither of us had made, we’ve talked about it a few times about getting together, but we haven’t. So you know, you’re absolutely right. I’m. I’m starting to make a list of. People I want to purposefully catch up with at word camp that it it’s easy to to make and break plans, but you know it it work. Camp is also one of those spots where you know people are going to be there and you can always catch. Help with them.

Yeah, like in next case Nick’s been on the show with me once. I’ve been wanting to get him back a second time. If you’re watching Nick, the request is coming in a week and a half. So there you go. But but I also a guy like Nick and respect his knowledge. So he he’s a good deaf. He really is, and he’s approachable.


And he’s always got an open door. I just. Haven’t gone there lately, and I think he’s really good. One of the things you mentioned earlier was community and the word press community is different in the drama. I wanna share something cause I’m kind of in the point of view where I don’t want the drama inflicted on me to show my business and I try to avoid it like. Mike and Sam Brockway over at WP Engine has coined the phrase that I really like, saying we need to learn to accept doing WordPress the way we want to do WordPress. Basically, that’s not the exact quote, but that’s suggestive. It is. You do work, press your way. And and by that I mean if your page builder person like you are go ahead and do page builders if you like to play with a block, an add-on which is. I’m sorry folks basically a page builder whether you want to call it that or not, that’s what it is. And I’m I’m a black head on guy. I’m all in with Cadence much so, but I’m not running around knocking page builder guys. I have clients client right now who’s like I’m revamping. It’s all built on elementor. I didn’t build it. So the point of making is there’s not one way to do WordPress. There’s that. There’s the headless people, there’s the people who like to go in and edit config files and stuff like that. There’s people like to play with react. The point I’m making is are all kinds of ways to do it. So I think what we need to do. And not you and I, but some other people need to do is accept that the purpose of open source is so you can do things your way and let’s stop all this garbage and just accept there’s different ways to get to to run.

Exactly. And you know, that’s why I I I kind of had the analogy of, you know, that that inexperienced, you know, nonprofit single person to the agency owner, where there’s a whole breadth of experience and, you know, like you just said, ways of doing things. And they’re all accepted when you walk in the door at a work camp and you know you’re going to find like minded people that are doing WordPress the same way that you’re doing it, or maybe a little different. And that’s the benefit of work camp where you can connect with people that have different experiences and can share those with you. Maybe they’ve been on the page builder bandwagon and moved to Gutenberg or vice versa.


And I lately with the community and seeing the do word press your way, that attitude being more prevalent other than. Blocks, blocks, blocks has been more positive and so that.

I agree, I agree 100%. I want to share. A bit of a a WordPress story, if I may. About a word camp and maybe I shouldn’t share this one, but I’m going to do it anyway and that WordPress story kind of sits around this whole. Oh. Work Camp 2017 in Toronto so I’m not going to mention names because I don’t want to get myself in the trouble with people I know. But what happened in 2017 is they decided to have word Camp Toronto in a municipal space.


And they went and charged for. It’s do you see where this conversation’s going? Ryan, you are not allowed to charge for tickets in a free municipal space that the city gives you the minute you do that, you have to pay exorbitant rental fees. And this all came to light. Like 3 weeks before the. Camp. And the end result was a sponsor stepped in and basically covered the shortfall and they had to refund. All the people had paid $50 a head for tickets for the weekend because they couldn’t charge the municipal and somebody should have done their homework. But I just found it ironic after the fact.

That’s a big one. Yeah, you know. Most of the work camps that that I’ve been to have been at the University of Minnesota in, you know, a couple of the lecture halls that they have set up and this one that we’re doing this year is actually. And my suburb at the Mall of America and in one of their. Event event halls, so this is the first time that it’s it’s not been at a public university and it’s in its whole existence. And as far as I know, so it’s.

That’s cool.

It’s kind of interesting the the spaces that they choose for word camps.

Yeah, that’s really cool. But I think you know, mistakes aside and I think one of the problems in the strong community is there’s been some politics behind the scenes, so. I I suspect knowing who was involved at the time, I’m not surprised, to be honest with you. The person that was running the show and was removed at the time like to how should we say volume, tell people what to do, not ask and that is a mistake with volunteers you don’t. I was get the cream of the crop, I think. The only issue I have with this camp is I don’t think it’s been as well promoted with camp camp as it. Could have been. For a, it’s a different concept cause it’s not a fight ship, but it’s not a local. It’s kind of a hybrid in the middle. And I know it’s hard when you have volunteers. I understand. And I’m not. Picking on the people doing the work I never do because it’s a lot of work and but I’m just wondering if people aren’t ready. For a hybrid right now and July in Canada is a tough time. It’s hot, it’s expensive to say the least, but where do you put it? Do you put it in the spring where? Where temp your fall? Should you put in the fall where we’re Kemp US fall. So you’re kind of. Done. Do you know what? I. Mean and if you put it in the middle of winter, people are gonna say it’s too cold. So.

Exactly. Somebody will be unhappy with timing, no matter what. What time of the year. So we just have to roll with it know know that they’re going to be in the summer when it’s blisteringly hot and you know you and I are not blisteringly hot. We’re not Florida. You know so. Our hot is a little different, but it’s still not fun.

But I’ll tell you last week or two weeks ago, we were warmer with the humidity in the state of Florida, we were 105 to 110 whole. So and we had thunderstorm warnings and I don’t know if you’ve heard this, Ryan, Ontario is now the tornado capital province of Canada because we do have between the Detroit and London Kitchener strikes. That’s like Tornado Alley. And then we do have various north of Toronto. An hour and a half N. That’s tornado. We don’t get them in the city, so there is that to be seen. But it’s been that hot. And when it gets that hot, it becomes unbearable, my friend. It just becomes unbearable. So.

Well, that’s when you want to be in an air conditioned hall listening to a speaker.

Yeah, right now or talking to you and doing one of our monthly catchups, let’s talk about for those who haven’t been to a camp. What you should take with you so one thing I always say to people at the camp is. Look at the lunches and do you have any dietary restrictions? Because lunches are included if you’re on medication. If you’re a diabetic on insulin, I’m diabetic, but I’m not on insulin, so I’ll have that problem. Make sure you take your medication with you, #1. You should probably take a laptop or a tablet or both with you. That’s number two. You should take a charged cell phone. It operates as a camera or a voice recorder, or in my case, a podcast recorder, #3. I will take a laptop bag. Big. That is an over the shoulder bag, not a knapsack this time, and one of the reasons I’ll go to an over shoulder bag is with the way I’ve been for those who don’t know, I’ve got a bit of a wound on the back of their neck and carrying a knapsack around for two days. It’s just gonna kill me, so I’ll take it over the shoulder bag and then I’ll be tempted to carry it. Part of the time. So I’ll do that. I would make sure in that bag you have a charging brick for your cell phone in case you can’t find an outlet, I would make sure you have your laptop fully charged at the beginning of the day in case you need. I would say if you have a large data plan. I would tether to your data plan, then to the Wi-Fi in the venue, because you’ll probably get better connection with all these people in the venue. The other thing I would take is a notebook. Of course, a pen. I still believe in business cards, so I will take some of those and I will also suggest. That if you’ve got any Bluetooth medical device. So I I wear a Libra for those who don’t know, is a device that says on my arm that scans, I’m actually gonna turn the Bluetooth off on my cell phone in the venue because there’ll be so many people running Bluetooth devices, you’ll get collisions. It’s just an interesting thought any and take a water bottle with you. One of the best things you can and take your favorite coffee mug. A good traveler month cause it’s easier to carry any other thoughts on what you should take or not take and don’t bring it back.

I think that. Yeah, I yeah, I would love to bring my office. Staff.


What would you take that pretty much covers my list. And you know, my list is pretty much the same. I have my laptop and over the shoulder bag and my cell phone. I have my headset because there’s some down time where I’m not talking to anyone and you know, in a public space it’s always good to be polite and and. You know, control your audio. You know, so for me it’s cell phone. Ironically enough, the charging brick was one of the gifts. There’s always a gift at our work camps. And one of the last ones they went, they had a an awesome cell phone, charging brick and so. I make sure that I bring a couple of those. Like you said. Water coffee. Those are good things. They’re all provided, but it’s good to have those things in your home. But yeah, for me, if I have my laptop, my phone and my headset and everything’s charged, I’m pretty good for the most part.

And what the two kids we haven’t covered is wear some comfortable clothes.


Really. And wear some comfortable shoes. You’re gonna be on your feet quite a bit that day, so I think running shoes is probably a good idea. Like, if you if you can, if you’re comfortable in shoes. I don’t think ladies, I don’t think a word camp is a good place to wear a three inch heel. And I’m not being sexist. I just don’t think it’s a good idea.


Like on.

I that was the other awesome thing. You know that when you know you go to a a a tech conference and I’m I’m going to try and make it to Cloud Fest next year but some of the other technical conferences I’ve been to you have people from business casual to you know full suit. You don’t see that at a word camp at all, no matter who the person is. And I I’m glad you brought that up. That it is. I mean, don’t come and rip jeans and flip flops. You know, if you, you know, be a little respectful with your, with your wear. But you know, business casual and even a little less, you know.

Good. Please stop that workshop for me.

Casual. Is acceptable it it’s meant to be an inviting, comfortable environment for you to learn and network and.

I’m. I’m more likely to wear a pair of men’s dress shorts because it will be hot and sticky in Ottawa on July, and more than likely and interesting as we speak. I’m looking at a brand new pair of New Balance shoes. Which I need to break in before work camp because I know what my feet do, so be comfortable and the other thing I would say is I know there’s a coffee bar, folks and it’s easy to drink multiple cups. Do yourself a favor and stay hydrated and coffee doesn’t help hydrate you. So think about drinking lots of water. Find a. Good water bottle that you. Like cause I find I’m a I’m a diet poker, a Coke 0 drinker, no sugar and at camps I try to stay away from that stuff be just because. It’s not good for the long term thirst to believe it or not. So like my coffee is OK in the morning, but I’d be telling you to switch the water sooner than later if you. Can. Yeah, probably.

That, that, that reminded me. That’s one of the other nice gifts that they had was a stainless steel water Tumblr with the WordPress logo that’s going to be clipped. My bag. So yeah, I, you know, make sure you’re prepared. I mean, you know, not to for us to sound like all gloom and doom that you’re gonna be stranded on an island. You know, they’re they’re they’re charging ports. You know, the coffee bar. There’s pastry in the morning.

I don’t know.

You know. Yeah, it’s very well. Most work camps are very well set up and but you have to realize they’re volunteer run. Things can happen and you know.

They do their best, they do their. Best and that’s.

They. Yeah. So you know, you have to keep that in mind, that it’s, you know, not, you know, a professionally run convention. But it feels like it. And you know, because we are professionals, you know that that step up, the volunteer that run our own. Businesses.



I wanted to jump on charging ports for a. Minute. And you know where this conversation’s gonna go? Cause you know I’m a security guy. Do not. Use the USB charging ports at a Convention Center. Please plug your cell phone directly into a plug in the wall. There is still a hack out there. It’s been out there for 10 years. We’re hackers exploit USB ports. Unless you have a cable that is designed for charging only on. Boxes. There are such things out there, but please don’t use a a generic charging port. So one of the things I don’t do. Was I do a lot of commuting around Toronto because I don’t drive but choose not to and I go to bus stations and we have charging ports on the bus stations. You will never catch and on the buses as well. On regional buses we have ports. I will not be used when those plug right into a wall. Don’t use the charging port in your hotel room. Plug right into the wall, please and thank you. And if you want to use the charging port in your hotel room, get a travel power bar that has two built-in charging ports in it, and use those, not the ones in the one.

Of course.

I and you also talked about turning up Bluetooth. That’s another exploit that can be used. I usually I usually have Bluetooth turned off on my phone, on my laptop, the Wi-Fi on my laptop and my phone is still on because I tether and even even at that level.

Yep, you know what I can.

I have the VPN on in between there just. Just for, you know, safety sake. So yeah, just.

Yep. Be.

Be safe, you know. Do do your due diligence, you know. And we talked about WordPress being, you know, a good community, but it’s not no community, no matter how good or not without they’re bad actors on occasion. So just keep that in mind and go and have fun and learn something.


Yeah. And I think, Ryan, you just took my final words out despite everything we’ve talked to, we’re giving you some tips to prepare. We’ve given you some tips to what to look for. We’ve both been to camps. We’ve both been to conferences. I mean, I’ve been new. One of the biggest tech conferences in day contacts back in the day when they used to run. And Toronto was a big, complex center, a little different type of conference. I’ve done that. I’ve done South by Southwest, I’ve done conferences in Vegas like the more important thing is. Be yourself, go have fun and meet some people and enjoy the experience. I think that’s really the key.

Exactly, but I don’t have any other final words other than that.

Yeah. So that’s it. Have fun. Ryan and I will be back with you next month.

Similar Posts