WordPress Retreat 2018 (english)

Sunny weather. Informed talks. Meaningful conversations and a community celebrating itself and WordPress. The WordCamp Retreat Soltau 2018 was a full success. Hopefully the format will be retried in the future.

 The organizing team at WordCamp Retreat Soltau 2018 in front of the crowd applauding

From may 3. to may 4. 2018 the WordCamp Retreat 2018 took place. It has been just a week but my recap is almost a bit late. Because Blog-article after blog-article kept appearing in my twitter feed for the whole week. The tone was unanimous: The WordCamp was one of the best, if not the best WordPress-event so far in Germany. Thanks to the hard working Organizers around Sven, Carole, Detlef and Thomas.

But let us start from the scratch.

WordCamps: Vital points of the WordPress community

Just in case someone not knowing this stumbled across this article: WordPress is an open source content management system. The software can be used to create and administer websites and blogs (like Utopian Reflections). Open Source (oversimplified) means that WordPress is free of charge for the user. It is developed and maintained by a community of volunteers.

There are a lot of different tasks necessary for this. Of course the WordPress core must be developed and maintained. But there are also other volunteers translating the software into different languages (like German) or organizing the community. For planning and discussing all those different subjects the WordPress-Community arranges conferences on a regular basis. These are the so called WordCamps. At those events all the people contributing to WordPress meet up to discuss and plan their tasks, to exchange ideas and experiences, to establish contacts… and to party hard.

At WordCamp Frankfurt in 2016 several community-members realized something: Despite all the fun and the productive input WordCamps provide people are often anxious and stressed out. Everyone meets up a lot of people he or she hasn’t seen in month or even years. Frequently people run from conversation to conversation driven by their fear of missing out. Once in a while someone takes a „short“ trip to the hotel to change clothes, returning two hours later – after crossing the city twice – when the WordCamp is almost over.

At Frankfurt the idea of the WordCamp Retreat was born. The whole community meeting up at a place a bit isolated for several days, spending the conference and their free time together. After searching for a suitable location for a long time, they chose the Hotel Park Soltau.

And to tell it right away: The concept worked out amazingly well in every detail.

Difficulties in the run up

Not everything looked perfect in the run up. Surprisingly not all tickets for the WordCamp Retreat were sold. (Something very unusual for a WordCamp in Germany in recent years). Also there weren’t quite enough sponsors, so the WordPress foundation had to increase the amount of money provided. It seems like most sponsors lacked trust in the new format, which hasn’t been tried out in any country so far. Furthermore the WordCamp Retreat took place at the same weekend as the re:publica in Berlin, Europe’s biggest conference concerning digitalization and society.

The organizer-Team didn’t let those obstacles get under their skin. Full of plans and energy they started their preparations on May 1. and got the community all hyped up by twittering beautiful pictures of the location for the whole week.

When the first attendees arrived, the atmosphere was great. Wonderful weather, a lot of faces, one had not seen for a long time and finally a chance to relax.

 

The WordPress Community celebrating itself

Everyone I talked to at the WordCamp had the same opinion: most relaxed WordCamp ever. During the three days one had the chance to speak with everyone. And it was the WordCamp of short ways. Due to the hotel and the conference-building being on the same compound getting the laptop, changing clothes or having a break at the private rooms took only a few minutes. The spared time could be invested in sessions, activities or just conversations.

The whole community got engaged. Attendees could organize own activities and did so quite extensively. One could do jogging, meditation, play basketball, learn to solve a rubix-cube or take part in a jam session.

The weekend was blessed with admirable weather. So several walks through the beautiful nature were on the program too.

The Team of Raidboxes (one of the sponsors) took care for the refreshments and provided delicious slush ice.

Sessions and talks

Beside all the fun a lot of work was done as well. For everyone who is dealing with web services in Europe right now there is only one subject: The EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation. Therefore there were a lot of sessions held about that subject.

But one could learn interesting stuff about permissions, WordPress Coding standards, react and accessible design as well. Udo Meisen and me also gave a talk about privacy- and copyright laws regarding the use of images. This subject is obviously still relevant in the year 2018.

My personal highlight was the session of Andrey Savchenko. In his talk „WordPress breaks time“ he traced down several problems, that occur, if one tries to manipulate or export time-stamps in WordPress. Without getting too technical: Like almost every problem with WordPress it leads to the principle question: Which php-version can and should we still support. Andreys talk can be watched at wordpress.tv (like every talk at a WordCamp)

For me it was rather his unique personality that impressed me.

Contributing

Of course we also did some work at the WordPress-project itself. The WordPress Core, the CLI, Design-Tasks and the translation of multiple themes and plugins. Everyone made quite an effort on Saturday.

The environment

The Hotel Park Soltau provided unforgettable service. A world class catering, professional assistance of the conference, clean and comfortable rooms, sports-facilities and a bar, were hell went lose.

The hotel staff was always reachable, always present and assured a good atmosphere.

The evening program

Barbecue, ninepins, swimming and a formidable WordPress-Quiz. The nice Sponsors of Yoast were so kind to bring their Karaoke-machine with them. The community could celebrate their successes quite extensively.

Of course I did not take part in the Karaoke myself. And should there be photographs or videos suggesting otherwise,… then those must be fabricated by new AI-based media-manipulation-tools 😉

Conclusion and thanks

Over the course of this WordCamp I have seen friendships being made, company-foundations being organized, WordPress-Meetups being established and new concepts being created. The community has the chance to win a lot of new members. Because every newbie I talked to, was excited by the event. The WordCamp Retreat Soltau 2018 has enriched each Attendee and also the WordPress community as a whole.

A WordCamp format exciting all off its attendees in such a way should be replicated. The fire on twitter and social media under the hashtag #WCRetreat during the event and the whole last week speaks for itself.

We all need to thank the amazing organizers: Sven, Carole, Detlef, Marc, Frank, Thomas, Udo, Matthias and Bas. The planning of this WordCamp took more than one and a half year. Its cost was an incredible amount of time, effort, energy, sorrow and endurance. The Ladies and Gentlemen built up this completely new format from the scratch in their spare time and realized it against all resistance. Therefore for one last time: Thank you!

Because i know how much (unpaid) work goes in a WordCamp like that, I do not want to add higher expectations. Whether the team wants to organize another WordCamp Retreat in two years is their choice, and their choice alone. But If you ask me, whether the German WordPress community would like to have another WordCamp Retreat in Soltau: I agree with Felix Arntz a 100%. Best WordCamp ever!

Other great Recaps from attendees, organizers and sponsors. (selection)

 

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