Imagine you’re invited out to dinner with a big group of people who just seem to mesh well and share the same interests. You’re introduced to fun, welcoming new friends. You’re challenged without feeling intimidated, and you leave full and happy, so glad you decided to go.
To me, that was just like WordCamp Jackson.
The first WordCamp Jackson (@WCJXN) was held in Jackson, Michigan on May 5-6, 2017. The 2-track event attracted about 90 attendees at all levels, some who had never touched WordPress and some who use it every day.
For me, it was just my second WordCamp after WordCamp Ann Arbor in 2016, and I loved the contrast between events. While Ann Arbor felt big and buzzing and a bit like a firehose for a first-timer, Jackson was intimate and warm and friendly. The perfect venue size made it easy to run into everyone and make new connections. And every attendee seemed willing to chat with and help anyone who needed it.
I consider WordCamp Jackson to be a great first/inaugural WordCamp for this city. Fantastic job by the organizers. It would also be a great “first WordCamp” for someone who has never attended a WordCamp before.
Here are a few highlights of my WordCamp Jackson weekend.
Planning and Tracks
The WordCamp Jackson organizers were obviously purposeful with the schedule, mixing beginner and intermediate topics in the main track. There was also a nice variety of session types, including 1-person presentations, panel discussions, and lightning talks.
The organizers shared that this was intended to be a single-track event, with just one session happening at a time. But they received so many great developer-focused talk submissions that they added a separate developer track. The developer talks took place in a small conference room at the venue, which felt really welcoming and encouraged a ton of group discussion.
WordCamp Jackson 2017 took place at the Consumers Energy Innovation Center in downtown Jackson, Michigan.
It seemed like we snuck into some sort of secret technology haven. The beautiful space was renovated and opened in 2016 as a hub for innovation in downtown Jackson.
The high ceilings, big windows, exposed industrial elements, and built in coffee bar were pretty much perfect for fostering creativity and encouraging interaction. We heard a couple times that the space had never hosted an outside conference before, so it felt very special despite a couple hiccups connecting to the highly secured WiFi network.
The location was also perfect for walking to lunch at a variety of great downtown restaurants on Saturday and to the after-party at the Jackson Symphony Orchestra’s Weatherwax Hall.
Talks that Left Us Talking
Here are a few talks that I attended. There were many more, which I’m sure were all awesome too.
Eric Malcolm gave a great rapid-fire overview of getting Woocommerce up and running with regular products, variable products, downloadable products. He shared some in-depth knowledge on memberships and subscriptions and some use cases for each.
Ian Wilson and Mike Hale teamed up for a psychology-focused talk about Imposter Syndrome, that little voice in our heads that tells us we’re all a fraud and just aren’t good enough. This session was a useful lesson on the pitfalls of comparison and a nice break from more technically-focused talks.
This was my first WordCamp talk! I had a great time leading the main track through my suggested process for identifying their target audience and creating a call to action for their websites. Many thanks to everyone who attended and participated. I’ll be posting slides soon.
At Saturday’s first main track talk, Seth Alling gave an excellent WordPress overview, including choosing the right themes and plugins. Seth has already shared his talk slides on his website.
Andy Melichar, Web Development Director at A2 Hosting, absolutely knocked it out of the park with his developer-track talk on pair programming. Andy’s talk was littered with purposely awful stock photography and purposefully brilliant insight on A2 Hosting’s transition to Agile/Scrum and pair programming. I’ll definitely share his slides here if he posts them.
When I grow up, I hope I can be half as clever as Kyle Maurer. Kyle got everyone laughing by somehow tying superheroes and digital ecommerce together with an abundance of Nicolas Cage references. The main track attendees had plenty of questions for Kyle about Easy Digital Downloads and selling digital products online.
In a fantastic ending, Topher DeRosia presented the final talk of the WordCamp. He shared his own story about starting his HeroPress initiative and gave some excellent advice on how to deal with negative feedback in work and in everyday life.
As Seen At WordCamp Jackson 2017
For attendees’ tweets, check out Twitter hashtag #wcjxn. Here are a few goodies:
— Leeann (@leeanndrees) May 6, 2017
— Sara Dunn (@Sara11D) May 6, 2017
— ellell & co. (@ellellco) May 6, 2017
So many hugs and high fives go out to the organizers, volunteers, and sponsors who made the first WCJXN possible. It can’t be easy to organize a brand new WordCamp from the ground up. So much thought and attention went into making this a memorable weekend, and everyone involved deserves a big thank you.
Find Out More
Interested in WordCamp Jackson or future WordCamps? Here are some links you might like: