I had the pleasure of spending this weekend with over 100 delegates at WordCampUK 2009. The setting for this years event was the beautiful city of Cardiff, which has had a huge amount of money spent on it in recent years.

I drove down bright an early on the Saturday morning from Birmingham arriving to a bustling atmosphere. There was a two stream presentation schedule (something that was discussed at the end of the last conference), along with opportunities on the second day for ah-hoc sessions, which was very successful (although there were a couple of clashes here and there on timing – sadly missed Simon Dickison’s presentation).

I presented just after lunch on the first day for an hour on WordPress CMS based website development, covering the whole process from planning through to go-live and beyond. It certainly provoked some discussion amongst the delegates – which was picked up after the presentation during the many chats I had with some really interesting WordPress users. You can view my presentation and notes on this page.

I also presented at WordCampUK in 2008, in comparison this year was a bit of a tricky presentation environment. The screen was pretty small (especially compared to last years unusually large one!) and the projector did not play nice (I was not the only one that had to fiddle around to get it to work – and it only seemed to want to do 800×600, which was a problem with most websites and code application views). Also, the main room where I was presenting was a sort of L shape – I certainly had some difficulty scanning the audience. I did like the clip on radio mic though – last year we had a fixed mic at a lectern for the presenters. I much preferred the radio mic so I could move around a bit more. Again we had a roving mic for the audience, with some very helpful delegates moving it around.

Before the presentation I was a-little nervous about the subject matter. I was conscious that I was presenting to an extremely tech-aware audience, the majority of which had been through this process with a number of clients. I think I managed to share some good working practice though.

One thing that put me a little on the back-foot was Matt Mullenweg arriving around 20 minutes into my presentation. It was great to see him for obvious reasons (sadly I missed the social on the Friday night that Matt came out to), but I wasn’t sure if I should stop and announce his arrival or just carry on presenting… so I just carried on (sorry Matt!).

The first major highlight of the conference for me was obviously Matt’s question and answer session. He came across as the friendly, likable guy I expected and gave some great answers to the delegates questions. What I particularly enjoyed hearing was the reaffirmation of the strong GPL license ethos (Mike Little had cleared this up earlier in the day). It’s clear to me that WordPress is not going to have some big sell-out moment and go commercial. One funny example came up from a question from Chi-chi Ekweozor about reselling WordPress. Matt suggested she could modify WordPress and repackage it as ‘ChiChiPress’ – which certainly has a ring to it!

Apart from getting to chat to some of the great people I met last year (sadly not enough time to get around everyone as usual!) I feel that I made some great connections this year. With bigger numbers came a great vibe in the rooms and around the conference venue in general.

Some other highlights for me included some valuable insights into development platforms from David Coveney. Although I’m happy with my current development platform, it made me think about WordPress backwards compatibility with a theme framework I’m putting together. Also, I discovered some new plugins to check out from various presenters – with so many out there sometimes the goodies slip through the net!

Nick Garner – who heads up SEO for BetFair is a rare example of an SEO guy who knows what he is talking about, they are few and far between! His presentation this year and advice in the site surgery session was inspiring and very valuable – this is certainly something that should be run again next year. I have come away from the conference armed with a few new ideas and tools for SEO.

There was so much to be taken away from all the presentations, the amount of research and development in-front of me is exciting. Also worthy of a mention was in the Twitter #wordcampuk tagged back-chat, some delegates started getting competitive with mint tower building and general ‘Future Inn’ mint loving!

In the afternoon on the last day I participated in the small break-out meeting about the future of WordCampUK. For about half an hour around eight of us talked over this years event and how WordCampUK needs to operate in the future. These points were then fed back into the room by Tony in the close up session – which turned into a fairly livley debate.

One or two of the ideas from the floor were a little controversial and although I feel that they don’t align with the WordCamp model, they certainly got a few delegates thinking, including myself.

Finally a massive thank you to everyone involved in the setting up this year, including Hayley Marsden who did all the running about in Cardiff to setup the venue and keep the event moving and of-course Tony Scott – the main coordinator.

One final note – I really should also thank Dan Milward for offering up 5 license keys for his very promising looking e-commerce plugin for WordPress – 1 of which I won! I’ll be trying it out on a little peronsal project in the future that it’s perfect for, great timing thanks!

Useful WordCampUK 2009 links