WordCamp Miami 2014: a Touchy-Feely Retrospective

Just a heads up here - this post shows a strong display of emotion. I likely wrote it in the immediate post-conference glow, yet before ones' body collapses into a sleep-deprived shell devoid of serotonin and water. Please excuse my displays of affection, and know that, deep down, I am as misanthropic as ever.

I was lucky to attend WordCamp Miami again this year. I enjoyed an unbelievable variety of conversations, and the talks I managed to attend were excellent.

I tried an approach that I’ve been embracing the past year or so – and recommended by several-year veterans: more hallways, less talks.

One of the elements that are most notable to me in the WordPress community in particular is the large amount of like-minded people. It goes far beyond the software, and I find that ethics and disposition are refreshingly healthy with most people I get to talk with. There are conversations and situations I experience at every WordCamp that rival (actual) camping trips taken with my oldest friends.

I’ll miss many people here, but I’d like to touch on some of the interactions with the people I’ve been lucky to get to know a little better this weekend. Just off the cuff – no particular order.

David Bisset

David and the other organizers and volunteers did a wonderful job – the attention to detail, and affinity for embellishment showed them to be meticulously organized, thoughtful people. Some of the cool things that stand out are liquid nitrogen ice cream, massive giveaways – even BuddyCamp whisky glasses:


Shayne Sanderson

I started working for Maintainn – a WordPress support and maintenance company of which Shayne is the founder – this January. Almost immediately, I felt not only welcome, but productive, appreciated, and was surrounded by brilliant co-workers. Although I’ve only been with Maintainn for 149 days, I already consider the people there friends, especially Shayne. Also: 1. He wears super cool shirts, and 2. That guy can drink some Fireball.

Andrew Norcross

I’ve been very fortunate to correspond with Norcross as well as Brianna on several occasions online over the past year, and was really looking forward to meeting Norcross in person. I know it sounds corny, but he’s truly as insightful and generous in person as he is on the Interweb.

Josh Eaton

Josh has a baby on the way, and still made it to Miami, as an attendee and speaker. Moreover, with his hectic schedule the past few months, he’s still taken considerable time out of his day once per week to mentor me on general development as part of the WPMentor site. I was really happy to meet him in Miami and talk a bit (although it did prove tough to connect at length, as we were in different places more than expected). Josh – thank you for everything.

Daniel Griffiths

The multi multi-hour conversations I’ve had with Dan this weekend may be the most cathartic experiences of recent times for me. As the saying goes, we ran the gamut – speaking on everything from OSS ethics to firearms and space travel. However, it wasn’t until the networking party that, while we were both conversing with Pippin Williamson, that we realized we’d already connected online some time ago.

Around 6 months ago, Norcross tweeted a small service I like to do once per year:

Dan liked the idea, and wrote an excellent follow-up post, which is supremely humbling.

We spoke at length on the realization that tasks that seem trivial or compulsive to developers and designers, even basic WordPress installation and configuration of plugins, when executed well for a person or interest that needs a site, can be immediately life-changing for them. Some don’t have the money, and the reward of helping worthy causes without the financial ability to hire someone on their own is profound.

Tracy Rotton

Tracy is the lead dev at an agency in Maryland called RP3, and a friend I originally met at the Baltimore WordPress meetup. We quickly became friends, having attended a few of the same WordCamps this year and last. Although we live only about an hour away from one another, we incidentally hang out the most at out-of-state WordCamps. When at WordCamp San Fransisco in 2013, Tracy was generous enough to take me around her old neighborhood in the Mission district. Tracy is also the person that finally got me using SASS, in September of last year.

Michelle Schulp

The most fun conversations I had all weekend were with Michelle, hands down. I was introduced to Michelle last year when she created her template hierarchy design. We’ve conversed in Cyberspace since then and have seen each other at conferences as well, but I was able to get to know her here a little better. True story: Michelle is a great dancer. I wasn’t dancing, I was just at the same pre-party after-party post-party as she.

On that note, I truly feel like I should take Salsa dancing lessons before the next WordCamp Miami.

Pippin Williamson

By the time I’d found myself sitting at a table with Pippin, I was a few rounds in. I was all “Oh hey, your tutorials have profoundly helped me and I probably work with your code every day nbd”.

But seriously – very cool person. Singularly brilliant in conversation. No divergence, or non-sequiturs.

He’s really as humble and approachable in person as he is in support and comment threads.

Pippin’s talk on Saturday was largely focused on ethics and pragmatism in the development world. We spoke at the networking party at length on the topic.

Jeff Matson

Jeff co-hosts a weekly WordPress hangout with Jeffr0 – that’s where we first spoke. He works in technical support and marketing at InMotion Hosting. I had the opportunity to really get to know him better over the weekend. We both attended solo (a first for me at a conference; I’ve travelled with someone every other time), as did he, so there were many chances for “Oh, cool! Jeff isn’t up to anything for dinner. Jeff, let’s get some Cuban food!”

I love the direction that InMotion is headed in having a down-to-Earth, knowledgeable, pleasant person at the head of their WordPress involvement efforts. He’s like a Suzette Franck in the making, in that regard.

We’re both speakers at WordCamp Philly next month, so I’m looking forward to catching up then, too.

Jeff Chandler

Jeff needs no introduction, of course. I love the tavern as much as the next nerd, as well as the Weekly podcast. I enjoyed catching up and having a few with Jeffr0 – no filters, no bullshit, excellent conversation.

One of the qualities I admire most about Jeff is he’ll immediately rebut with honesty and conviction on whatever the topic is; from taaxis to food to anything WordPress-related.

Sarah Gooding

Possibly the most laid-back, pleasant person I met this weekend. As you know, Sarah is of course an editor on WPTavern.com with Jeffr0, as well as co-host on their Weekly podcast. As anyone that reads the Tavern will know, Sarah provides a very deep contrast to Jeff’s style. The nuance, measured prose, and pragmatism present in her writing shows equally as strong in person.

Thomas J Griffin

I only spoke with Thomas for a few moments, but I tried to make the most of it. Knowing that I can install a plugin on virtually any WP site without any notable issue is a massive luxury. Soliloquy – and everything else he’s done, is that well-made. But you know that.

It was nice to be able to thank him in person.

About 8 months ago, I contacted Thomas via a mutual friend about a small javascript tweak in Soliloquy I was wondering if he’d make, or provide advice on. Fifteen minutes later, the tweak was added to Soliloquy itself. Very cool guy.

Suzette Franck

I. LOVE. HANGING. WITH. SUZETTE. Uplifting and engaging, I always take away a good perspective when we’re hanging out. We met at WordCamp Miami in 2013, and bonded via my intense love of the (mt) gridservice hosting plan. Having been a long-time, happy customer of Mediatemple, I was really looking forward to meeting some Mediatemple people. They literally hired the best possible person they could have to be their WordPress evangelist.

Brian Messenlehner

I met Brian on Friday during BuddyCamp, as he was demo-ing the Oculus Rift for people. Over and over, he’d take the time to walk them through intense 3D interactive scenes. It was really cool to see something like that at a WordCamp. Indicentally, I’d JUST finished his book, Building Web Apps with WordPress, and he was generous in letting me pick his brain for a while about it.

Although I was not his dance partner, he is also a good dancer, I’ve learned.

Brad Williams

This is techinically the third time I’ve been lucky to hang with Brad – no small feat for me. The first was brief, at WCSF 2013, and then again later that year in Baltimore.

As anyone who has spent time with him would tell you, he’s extremely approachable, down-to-Earth, and beyond knowledeable. I have since resisted asking him to sign any of his books that I’ve had for years now – but I think I’ll do that in Philly next month. Why not?

We…partied heavily. He and Dre Armeda are truly champions. I mean…I’ll need special training to keep up next time.

Brad Touesnard

The other Brad I spent some time speaking with! WP Migrate DB Pro – something Brad is entirely humble about – has significantly impacted my day-to-day support ticket turn-around time. There are countless cases in which it’s saved me endless time and headache. I really enjoyed getting to pick his brain during the networking party.

Ptah Dunbar

Patron Saint of WordCamps. I barely know Ptah, and I feel that way. Incidentally, we didn’t end up talking too much, but the times we did were filled with hugs and drinks and WordPress.

Zac Gordon

There’s a type of person that, as soon as you begin speaking with them, you find their disposition wonderfully infectious. That is Zac Gordon. ALSO: BEST DANCER AT WORDCAMP MIAMI. I got to talk with Zac at length about his work at Treehouse, as well as what’s coming up next for his WordPress series there (it’s very cool stuff). Once he ate a mango like an apple.

This duck

This was a cool duck. There were many on the UM campus, but none like this one.

Her name is Duck.
Her name is Duck.

Author: Rami


7 thoughts on “WordCamp Miami 2014: a Touchy-Feely Retrospective”

  1. So… we’re going to go back and forth on this a few more times I suspect… You may say that my post was humbling, but I’ve said (numerous times) that the only reason I posted it was how humbling I found YOUR post! That said… being included in this list was just as humbling. Glad I made an impact, and looking forward to our next encounter (and more drinks)!

  2. Aw! All the times we got to hang out were also a highlight of my weekend as well! I think this was the most people-oriented WordCamp I’ve been to so far, in that there were so many wonderful and widely varied groups of people that I had fantastic conversations and experiences with.

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