Many of you don’t know me from Adam. I’m a small-time blogger, with an interest in homeschooling, writing, the German language, and current affairs. Mostly, I write fiction and poetry.
I began blogging in 2015, knowing next to nothing about all things internet, having been born as part of a generation that looked upon the nascent World Wide Web with suspicion. The generation that remembers when Al Gore invented it. 😊
Almost since the moment I began my blog on WordPress, I found it necessary to reach out to others who knew more than me. Every beginner blogger runs into problems sooner or later, and although the internet is a great resource, there is nothing like the human touch.
And so, in the fall of 2017, I joined my local WordPress meetup (WPJax.) Right away, I began meeting people who could help me. Most of them, to my chagrin, were younger, hipper, and more well-versed in the way things worked, than I was. Natives, as they say. But there were plenty of people my age as well. The mixture of ages, backgrounds, purposes, and experience levels made for a stimulating group.
Rarely have I belonged to a group so welcoming, so vibrant, so enthusiastic. Rarely have I seen people give of themselves, both in service and in largesse, so willingly, openly, and generously. And rarely, outside of college, have I learned so much about so many things.
Together, with all our counterparts in every part of the world, we make up the WordPress Community.
By “The WordPress Community”, I mean the spiderweb of individuals who somehow, in some capacity, find the world’s most-used content management system, WordPress, useful in their own lives.
According to WPBeginner, a content management system (CMS) is “a software, that facilitates creating, editing, organizing and publishing content.”
Who doesn’t want to create? And once you have a creation, you must pare it back and expose its best features. So you need to edit. And once you have multiple creations, you must somehow organize them, so they make sense to others, and are easy to find and use. And once you have this wonderful set of creations ready, of course, you want to let others see it. So you need to be able to publish.
All of us want nothing more, than to put our creations out there. Our words, our products, our advice, our opinions, our services. And those who join the WordPress Community want to learn how to do it better, and learn that being part of the community means giving back. Community members want to help make it possible for others to learn as they have learned.
WordPress operates in service to the individual in all of us. It helps us express the individuality in each of us. I don’t want to do with WordPress what you’re doing with WordPress. But we should all respect and delight in the many ways WordPress is put to use, by individuals.
What kind of individuals use WordPress? Tweeters, bloggers, web designers and developers, SEO specialists and marketers, content providers, business owners, aspiring writers…the list goes on. Everyone you can imagine, every profession, every persuasion, pretty much.
And that is the beauty of WordPress. It allows us, as separate individuals, as people with distinct and often insurmountable differences in voice, attitude, motive and politics, to come together on one platform, one stage, and share what is important to us.
You cannot be around WordPress people for long, without hearing about WordCamp.
WordCamp is a yearly event in many cities and regions. In Jacksonville, FL, we put on WordCampJax every year. In 2020 it is taking place on March 28 and 29. This will be our fifth year.
There is a WordCamp happening somewhere in the world every weekend. And there are huge events like WordCampUS amd WordCampEurope and WordCampAsia, which seek to offer an even more diverse and multifaceted experience to those who go.
But many WordCamps are small, intimate affairs. Ours has about two hundred people each year. But much like when you are choosing a college, the important point is not the size. The point is, the impact these events have, on those who go.
Think of it as an an anime convention, for those whose fandom is WordPress. These people are enthusiastic! They know, collectively, just about everything there is to know! And they learn, from each other, more, in a short weekend, than they could in a year of Googling.
What do they learn? Everything WordPress. From code to content, plugins to podcasts, SEO to shopping carts.
And all the while, a network is building. The threads of the spiderweb are being reinforced, getting stronger.
Having connections means you know where to go, next time you have a problem. You know whom to consult, and which sponsor to try out, and which trick to use, as a shortcut. You know who might know the answer.
You feel more capable, more able to do this, more knowledgeable, about the vast panoply of resources out there, to help you do it. Or, if you can’t, or don’t want to, manage it alone, you’ll learn who can do it for you.
So now comes time for the big call to action, the big ask: Won’t you help?
It costs a mere $40 to come to WordCampJax (tickets here!) Two days, meals, hallway chats. Forty. Bucks.
And I do encourage you to get your tickets, if you haven’t yet. But I’ll let you in on a secret. The ticket price is low, so that the maximum number of people are able to come. It is low, so that we can be an inclusive community.
It does not begin to cover the cost of the event. For that, we need sponsors! Sponsors are what keep WordCamps so affordable. And you can help in that effort!
The Importance of Sponsors
There’s no such thing as a free lunch. (Although at our WordCampJax, lunch is free!)
WordCamp is not free. Any other conference out there, that provides as much in the way of content and networking opportunities as a WordCamp, would cost you in excess of $250. That does not mean that WordCamp conferences cost any less to put on. They simply rely on sponsors to make up the difference.
If you would have spent $250, anyway, to attend such a valuable conference, why not invest your savings,and help sponsor your local WordCamp?
Our own WordCampJax is not free, though we do try to make it as low cost as possible.
It is not free,
- Even though all of the speakers donate their time and pay for their own transportation and even speak for free.
- Even though the organizers volunteer long hours each week, over an entire year, to make sure it comes off without a hitch.
- Even though the space is often donated and the catering, as well.
Still, every WordCamp has expenses. WordCamp is not free.
Choosing to Be Involved
This is why I have I chosen, for the past two years that I have been coming to WordCampJax, to sponsor. Last year, I sponsored at the lowest level possible, just to give a little extra, after all that has been given to me. This year I bumped it up a bit, to the next level.
The point of this little blogpost is to remind those of you, who have had a similar experience to mine, to reach into your pockets and support this effort.
Find your local WordCamp. Attend your local meetup. Volunteer. Join the organizing team for WordCamp. Sponsor by donating money or by providing something they need (catering, snacks, decorations, meeting space.)
Do the same for your local WordPress meetup. Nearly every city or region has one, these days.
I did just that.
In the past two years I have sponsored. I put my money where my mouth was.
It’s not enough to love WordPress. To keep the community alive and flourishing, we all need to pitch in and do what we can, with our energy and with our wallets.
But why? What could I possibly gain from a sponsorship? Little ole me, with a two-bit lit blog? Sure, it’s nice to be mentioned on the website, it’s nice to have a tweet here and there, if you’re at the higher sponsor levels. But that’s not the point.
The point is, you know you’re giving back to the WordPress Community. To the Community that buys your product, makes your life easier, allows you to flourish. The Community that has done so much for you.
How can you give back?
For the last two years I have helped organize WordCampJax. I’m not a tech maven, but I can post on Facebook. I help out with social media.
Everyone has skills they can bring to the table as a volunteer. Even just sitting in a seat during WordCamp, and turning a video camera on and off, or introducing a speaker, helps out.
What about You?
Whether you’re in the Jacksonville area, or elsewhere, I hope you’ll come to on March 28-29, 2020. And if you do come, or have in the past, I would encourage you to reflect on all that WordPress has given to you over the years.
Maybe it’s time to give a little back. Give a lot, if you can. Sponsor WordCampJax or your local WordCamp. We could all certainly use your help.
When you think about it, for all the individuals I mentioned, for the WordPress Community and beyond, WordPress is about Freedom.
And, as they say, Freedom isn’t free.
For more about my experience with WordPress, check out my other posts!