One of the cooler things the WordPress community started doing in 2006 was putting on these events we called WordCamps. A big one is about to kick off in National Harbor, Maryland (which is basically Washington DC, but we’re calling it National Harbor for some reason).
You might be wondering where the name came from: Tim O’Reilly, of the O’Reilly books that so many of us learned from, hosted a hacker event called Foo Camp but it had limited capacity, and was therefore something of an exclusive invite (one time I eventually went I slept in a sleeping bag in an office). Tantek Çelik had been invited the year before, but not in 2005, and I had never been invited, so a group of us put together a more “open source” event in response called BarCamp. (The name was an allusion to the foo/bar concept in teaching programming, and the picture on that Wikipedia page was in the living room of my first apartment in San Francisco, as you can tell by the stand-up piano and Thelonious Monk poster.)
Foo had the idea of a conference created on-the-fly by its organizers, and also had a radical event where there wasn’t even lodging but all that mattered was getting people together. Bar took that format and opened up the invite list, and did it quickly with just a few weeks of planning. They also open sourced the format so BarCamps could be hosted anywhere in the world, and many were. The following year I riffed on that and made the first WordCamp in San Francisco, at the Swedish American Music Hall, the same place Stewart Brand hosted the first hackers conference in the 70s. (We didn’t know that at the time, it was just a coincidence.)
WordCamp took the everyone-is-welcome from Bar, mixed it with the attendees-create-the-conference from Foo, added a little more structure and planning so we ended up with these really groovy community-organized events all over the world where people come together to learn, contribute, get to know each other, and have fun. WordCamp San Francisco evolved into WordCamp US, our flagpole event for North America. (I like that US can mean “us” as well as United States.) There have been hundreds of WordCamps around the world, and when we were getting started I used to go to all of them; if someone put one together I’d cram into an economy seat and fly there. I can’t make it to all of them anymore, but I still go as many as I can, and they’re some of my favorite days of the entire year.
It’s so cool to see a group of people from the eclectic backgrounds come together because we love making the thing that allows people to make the thing. (WordPress.) You’ll see CEOs of multi-hundred million ARR companies brushing shoulders with techno-anarchists, all brought together by a common hope and belief in the four freedoms of open source and the mission of WordPress—to democratize publishing, put the best tools in the world in the hands of everyone, for free and for freedom.
This year’s WordCamp US is exciting to me for a bunch of reasons. One, I love spending time with other contributors to open source. Second, WordCamp organizers iterate and learn, and so every year I’m excited to see what’s being trialed and what’s improved, because they just keep getting better and better. Third, we’re doing a community summit beforehand for the first time in a while, which is why I’m already in Maryland. Finally, on the amazing schedule are two speakers I’ve invited to bring something new to our milieu.
Ken Liu is one of my favorite sci-fi writers and will be giving an amazing talk weaving together the history of narrative craft and modern publishing and technology. I’ve read almost everything he’s written or translated, and seen him talk once before, and couldn’t be more curious to hear what he’s bringing to the WordPress community.
Simon Willison is an engineer and blogger I’ve followed since the earliest days of WordPress, and recently he’s been one of the most interesting explorers in the new world of AI and LLMs. He’ll be sharing with us how to tap into this new alien intelligence, how it can accelerate our coding, security, and mission to democratize publishing.
So if you ever have a chance to go to a WordCamp, take it! It may be too late for this one, but you can follow the livestream (visit the site once the conference starts), and plan for next year. We also make sure all the talks accessible on WordPress.tv later.
Foo Camps still happen, by the way, and have branched into science and such, and who gets invited is a whole deal. They’re still awesome.
I hope what people see here is that creativity and doing generates more creativity and doing.