My Takeaways from WordCamp Europe 2016 (so far)

The fourth WordCamp Europe was organized this year in Vienna, Austria. It’s the biggest WordCamp in the world to date, with over 2200 attendees. Along with most of my colleagues, I’ve been to all of them. One of the biggest things that has kept me using and building with WordPress for over 11 years is the amazing community, which is welcoming and friendly to both beginners and experts, users and developers. 

There were many excellent talks, but these are some of the things/themes that stuck with me so far (the event is not over yet!):


Both John Blackbourne (lead developer) and Rian Rietveld (accessibility consultant) highlighted in their talks the fact that all new code included in WordPress core must conform to WCAG 2.0 level AA. This is a big thing. The EU recently passed a directive that all public sector sites should have at least level AA accessibility. In her “State of the Accessibility” talk however, Rian pointed out that there are still many improvements in core to be made, such as the Media library.

Code is Poetry – a musician’s tale (Helen Hou-Sandi)

Perhaps the most memorable talk of the event was Helen Hou-Sandi’s talk “A musician’s tale”. Helen is one of the five lead developers of WordPress, but she is also a classical pianist. At the beginning of her talk, she treated us to an amazing recital on a grand piano, something you do not usually see at a tech conference. Her talk after that focused on the similarities between reading and performing music and writing code to build websites or applications, and also touched on the still prevalent issue of narrow stereotypes of both what a musician and a developer are supposed to be or look like.

Dealing with your insecurities

Another talk that touched me deeply was Sonja Leix’s talk on managing “impostor syndrome”, i.e. that little nagging voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough for this job, this project, this team etc. When Sonja asked who has felt like this sometimes, almost everyone in the room raised their hands. I certainly feel like I struggle with this every day at work, that I don’t know JavaScript well enough, or accessibility, or PHP, or whatever the topic of the day happens to be. Sonja’s three tips to help combat impostor syndrome were (paraphrased):

  1. Find a friendly community where you can help and get help from other people and share knowledge. For Sonja this was the WordPress community.
  2. Speaking at events helps build self-confidence.
  3. Start contributing to Open Source projects, e.g. WordPress. Be selfish when selecting an area to contribute to: what would you like to learn?

The trouble with communicating online

Siobhan McKeown gave an excellent talk on the pitfalls of communicating with pure text. Two points: 

  1. Face to face communication is important!
  2. Liking on Facebook is not a political act, because your opinions will just bounce around in an echo chamber of like-minded people.

Next year

WordCamp Europe 2017 will be in Paris, France!

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