In our ‘Out and About’ series, we catch up with regular 93digital collaborator Alex Denning, founder of Ellipsis marketing and co-author of Master WP, the weekly newsletter for WordPress professionals, following his recent trip to WordCamp Europe 2018, in Belgrade, Serbia.
Alex, please tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I solve marketing problems for WordPress people and products, my company is called Ellipsis marketing and we tend to work with WordPress products looking to develop a monetization strategy.
So, today we are talking WordCamp Europe 2018 – having attended can you give us an indication of what was going on, any key themes?
WordCamp Europe is massive, it’s on such a larger scale. Most WordCamps you go to you can see every talk or almost every one, whereas WordCamp Europe was two and a half thousand people, a totally different scale. There were lots of people that were there that you wouldn’t get to see otherwise, such as people from the United States, India and Asia. The theme was nominally space, the staging was space themed.
What did you hope to get out of it, what were your main goals?
It was nice to be in the same place for a couple of days and hang out with good friends. It was a good opportunity to find out what is happening to people that I know in the WordPress community, the mood around WordPress, and what people are ‘sub-tweeting’ about.
What was the most interesting WordPress related conversation you had?
The mood around products was interesting. It has been trendy for the last couple of years to talk about the space maturing, as in WordPress technology turning towards enterprise, and doing enterprise work outside of the agency world. This was the first time I thought people were talking about products much more professionally, which bodes well for the future. People who make successful products were talking about them much more seriously, using business terms such as ROI etc. which is really interesting and exciting.
Was there much talk on Gutenberg?
The Gutenberg workshops were new this year, as you’d imagine, there was a lot of talk about Gutenberg, the most important insight was on the timeframe – it is coming soon – very soon!
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Will that affect you in terms of your day-to-day?
Gutenberg will make it easier to make a WordPress site yourself, and it will make it easier for Plugins to interact with regular WordPress content, so say you have a contact form and you want it on your contact page, pre-Gutenberg you had to go through messy shortcode, with Gutenberg you just drop in the block and it’s all there. Where I am working with people who make solutions that can be block based, this makes it much easier.
Was there a focus on other issues in technology spaces, like mental health or diversity?
Yes, there were some talks surrounding these issues. People were talking about it – Laura Nelson from Pragmatic did a talk on anxiety – people were taking the code of conduct very seriously. I think there was also some pressure from other WordCamps like WordCamp Brighton – which had 60% women speaking and they only served vegetarian food last year, I believe these transitions make everything easier.
I believe you tweeted saying that WordCamp had provided you with ‘energising ideas’, can you share any of these?
We have a one bed flat and I work from the corner of the lounge, being around a big network of people is always very helpful and insightful in terms of energising and keeping me motivated. The focus towards the product is very interesting because we work with a lot of product people and there were some interesting ideas on how we can do that effectively, to more fully serve that market. That was probably the most interesting thing, for me.
Did you learn anything at WordCamp Europe that you can take into your work day-to-day?
The main things I got out of it were the ability to connect and network with people and I got some interesting ideas about upcoming products.
What surprised you the most about WordCamp Europe this year?
The food in Belgrade was great – the surprising bit was that the vegetarian restaurants were excellent, there were four vegetarian restaurants. I went to them all, and they were all really good!
Would you go again?
I would definitely go again, Berlin next year will be fun!