Having just returned from Wordcamp Lancaster 2013, I thought what better time to write a quick round up of how I felt the weekend went than now. Having previously been to Wordcamp Portsmouth 2011 I was keen to make up for missing 2012's Edinburgh event. I hope by providing some feedback and some relevant information to those who didn't attend this years event in Lancaster it might help them make decisions about going in the future.
I've decided to break the review down into the following areas; Location, Venue, Hotel, Range/Quality of talks, Workshops and Social.
Lancaster was chosen for the location of the premier UK Wordpress developer event of 2013 (although it is rumoured they are also having a London based event in the winter hush, hush), affectionately (as always) dubbed Wordcamp 2013. Lancaster itself is a pretty quaint northern city with a huge University presence but when uni's out for the summer it's pretty quiet. Lancaster was a difficult venue to travel to for a Londoner like me, though it does have reasonable travel links via Virgin trains from London Euston. On a friday night a direct train to Glasgow stops at Lancaster without needing a change (bonus!). This is a slightly different story on a Sunday evening however, a 4 hour train ride with a change at Manchester Picadilly is what your looking to get you back to London Euston.
Lancaster university was the event venue, I couldn't fault this. Perfect location and a nice university campus with alot of new buildings. The lecture theatres were perfectly fit for purpose. Though it was a little difficult to find the relevant area of the campus that the event was taking part in. There was some hot and cold food provided at lunch time which was a nice touch, seems as you had very little choice for alternatives.
We stayed in the Lancaster House Hotel. This was awesome! Nicest hotel in Lancaster (apparently) certainly seemed pretty good. Great breakfast, good rooms, even better showers and a nice array of other facilities such as swimming pool, sauna and gym.
Range & Quality of talks
I like to measure the quality of an event by the amount of tangible things I walk away with, against what it costs me to be there. This years Wordcamp 2013 for me didn't quite live up to my expectations. Despite it's extraordinarily cheap event ticket prices (just £25 if you grab an early bird ticket) being in Lancaster I had to chuck another £300 just for travel, accommodation and food costs. I use Wordpress professionally week in week out and I go to be involved in the community and learn a few things myself while i'm at it. This year I struggled to identify one tangible thing that I could look back on and say that i've added x to my armoury this year.
Range of talks
The good: There was a reasonable range of talks (at least in title), most of the talks were high level talks which applied to a wide range of event goers. Most of the content covered in the talks was easy going (with a few exceptions) and there was plenty of room for event goers to ask questions at the end of talks with little objection. I felt that all those giving talks did so with good delivery, well spoken and capable of answering questions to a good level at the close of the talks.
The bad: Most talks lacked relevancy to Wordpress or relevancy to real life application when using Wordpress, which in my mind makes it difficult for event goers to put talks into context or convert to something tangible. There was a big lack of advanced subject matter / Workshops for heavy Wordpress developers to truly geek it up at the entire event. Some talks were even outright boring mainly due to their lack of relevancy or loop back to reality from theory.
Quality of talks
The quality of talks for me this year was lacking in content more so than it was speakers. I thought each of the speakers were more than capable of presenting. I just thought the talks lost focus on the audience being able to have an "aha" moment! To me alot of the talks lacked a little bit of finesse and very few added real value back to the advanced Wordpress event goer. I guess I normally also expect the talkers to be those pushing Wordpress to the limits or having particular expertise in certain areas of Wordpress. Indeed that is at least where i'm personally likely to learn the most. This year felt like alot of speakers first talks and some of the talks came across asif the speaker hadn't truly mastered his/her subject matter in real life situations, before giving it.
It may sound a bit harsh, and it probably is, besides, it's always easier to sit in the audience goading the speaker, than it is to be the speaker, right!?
There wasn't really any. Nothing hands on anyway. Bit disappointing personally for me, though I do understand they add an extra layer of complexity to proceedings.
Events and conferences alike are always good places to go and meet people working in similar fields to you. Usually you'll find lots of friendly people and this year was no exception. There was even a social drink up in Lancaster town in the evening on Saturday night.
Will I be going again?
Probably. I guess I wouldn't be writing this post if I didn't want someone to read it and make it better next year.