Andrea Gandino

WordCamp Europe 2024 impressions

Random thoughts from being a first-time organizer at the largest WordPress conference in the world.

Published on WordPress

For those of you that don't know, the largest WordPress conference in the world is held in Europe, and it's called WordCamp Europe.

It is an itinerant conference: each year, a different nation is awarded the honor to host it, as a sign of recognition for the activity the local WordPress community has shown in recent times, and during the conference closing remarks, the next host city (picked as a result of a thorough selection process) is revealed to the public.

WordCamp Europe is truly a one-of-a-kind event: more than 2,500 people join on average from all over the world, to experience a three-day event that is packed with speeches, activities, discussions and good vibes; and, as with all WordCamps, the conference is even more amazing if you think that its organization is completely voluntary.

This year, we as Italian community had the privilege to welcome the world to beautiful Torino.

Interesting stuff

Since its creation, I've been to a grand total of nine WordCamp Europe. The 2024 edition has been by far the one in which I've attended the least number of speeches, but, on the other hand, it has been one of the richest in terms of conversations I've had.

Here are my highlights that are worth mentioning, in no particular order:

  • This year's WordPress Summer Update from Matt has been way more interesting than the past, in my view. We're all kind of used to the understandable fact that Matt's answers are somewhat politely insitutional, but I've perceiced this year's update as vibrantly filled with interesting perspectives: being a plugin developer myself, I particularly liked the ideas around the empowering of authors with tools that go beyond what's currently available (that's frankly not that much), or how there's a plan to make the documentation easier to edit and to create.
  • I want to give a special shout to my friend Carola and her speech about visual communication and its rules. You totally nailed it, girl!
  • I went to a talk about the Interactivity API: while I still may have contrasting feelings about it, I think the time might be right to start experimenting with it a bit more.
  • I was also in the room where the Gutenberg Speed Build Challenge took place. I probably liked it better as a format on YouTube, but, hearing from the people around me, it was perceived as a success, regardless of the outcome. Jessica challenging Matt to a duel during the closing remarks was definitely the cherry on top of it!
  • I'd like to reserve a special praise to Matteo from the Milan chapter of the Italian community, for publicly asking Matt to provide free access to one of the paid plans to meetup organizers: thanks to Matteo, who knows, someday our own meetup will have its own website!
  • I had a very pleasant conversation with Mark Howells-Mead: I'm glad we got to know eachother; I think we are very much alike when it comes to the work that we do – thank you for spending some time with us and even more so for your feedback and support!
  • Every year, Thomas and I sit down (or not, in this case!) and share our vision about the industry, and where the WordPress project is heading, and much more. I always look forward to those conversations, and this year was no exception.
  • With Florian and Claudio we go way back, perhaps all the way to WordCamp Europe in Leiden, more than ten years ago. It's great to talk to these guys, because they remind me of Simone and myself, considering they're also plugin authors: if you want to pick eachother's brains about product management and distribution, know you can hit me up anytime!
  • Alexandros: it's been truly great talking to you, sharing eachother's vision and ambitions, all of that mixing up english, greek (thanks for your lessons!) and italian. I look forward meeting you again next year!

First-time organizer

When last year, attending the conference in Athens, I witnessed the announcement of Italy being picked as successor to Greece, my heart was filled with joy, and the fact that I already knew that was going to happen made little difference: I went back home, had a shower, and, after merely minutes from the closing of the conference, I applied to be an organizer.

What a journey it has been!

Being behind the scenes of an event of this magnitude is surely an experience worth remembering. Organizers are divided in different groups, each with its own set of tasks to care about.

I was assigned to the Attendees Services team: our group has been in charge of ticketing, handing out Visa invitation letters, and generally all kind of assistance to the attendees, from treating information regarding potentially threatening allergies, to arranging special accomodation for those who requested it.

A photo of the Attendees Services team and WordCamp Europe 2024
My team of organizers: Lorenzo, Marieta, Uroš, Alexandros and Ivelina thank you for the ride!

I had been a volunteer before at WordCamp Europe, and I always thought that it was the best way to truly experience the conference, but I can tell you this now: being an organizer is that good times ten.

To be honest, I've been nothing short of lucky: our team leader, Uroš, made it simple to take care of the daily things. When we had a question, he always had the answer, and made us feel right at home, all while teaching us about what needed to be done, just by being the example that a leader is supposed to be.

No wonder, he's going to be a lead organizer at next year's event! Congrats, buddy, you deserve it!

Being with other organizers is truly special because of the bonds you end up forming with the people that are working side-by-side with you; people you just met for the first time, or people you maybe had seen just a couple of times in your life, and that, when the event is over, you feel like you've known them forever.

I don't know about you, but I think there's definitely a certain sense of reassurance in knowing that each year the magic is reignited.

Each year, we all come to the event from different places and different walks of life, we all find ourselves in the same context, breathing the same vibes, and even just to communicate with others, we have to make an effort and speak a language that's not our own, and chances are that the other person will have to do the same.

This simple thing alone may be why WordCamp Europe is truly great: it gets us together, with the pretext of an open source software that we all use and contribute to make better every day, and it naturally makes us share stories and knowledge and emotions with others, putting biases aside for a moment.

I don't want to sound too idealistic, but we certainly live in challenging times, and honestly I cannot think of anything more essential than the simple act of opening ourselves to others in a safe and enriching way.

So, thanks to everyone involved in the making of this beautiful event, from the friends I've known for the past decade (you know who you are!), to the people I met in this occasion.

Here's to WordCamp Europe! I look forward to hopefully see you all again in Basel, next year!