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WCUS 2023 Recap – The Largest and Most Incredible WordCamp Conference to Date

Hosted inside one of the largest convention centers on the East Coast. WCUS 2023 was a massive conference that pulled out all the stops.

I noticed that WordCamp US was only three hours away and I wouldn’t have to deal with airlines. I wasn’t planning to go but for 50 dollars and with lunch meals covered I felt that it was well worth it. Some of my fellow WordPress RVA group members egged me on. With only 14 tickets left, I paid with haste and drove in from Louisa, VA.

Saving money at WordCamp ended up costing me

I also lost sleep due to the A/C that was as loud as a jet engine – I could hear it through earplugs. When the events were over the attendees took showers and came back to hang out. But going across a bridge to take a shower and just to drive back and pay for parking was a pain. It also wears you out and you miss out on opportunities.

I made a financial decision that ended up costing me. I stayed across the river in a cheap Alexandria hotel. Many WordCampers booked a room in the Gaylord conference center or at an adjacent hotel. This allowed them to enjoy many of the night events and alleviated paying for the exorbitant parking fees.

A Eerie Cheap Hotel With Bad AC Unit
This hotel needs to replace its Air conditioning units

Don’t skimp on WordCamp lodging, get a place close to the conference and deduct it from taxes later. Lesson learned. I missed the sponsor parties because of where I stayed; these events you have to plan ahead of time. Then again I think you need to be working for a company to be invited, I am not sure but I missed events that took place on other nights too.

“Don’t skimp on WordCamp lodging, get a place close to the conference and deduct it from taxes later.”

I met brilliant people from around the world

I didn’t realize how many people would be there until I showed up for Contributor Day and we all gathered for a photo. I learned a lot about how WordPress was built and how each individual contributed to WordPress’s open-source core. I did not contribute, I was there to learn about the process… I would like to contribute in the future.

Photo Time: This is when I realized just how many attendees came

Contributor Day is not a main event day but many people came. There were mostly people from the US but there were several people from all over the globe.

Many agree that the networking was the best part of WCUS

Networking, the Gaylord Center, the food, the merch, and the after-party were mentioned as the highlights of the conference. The sessions were ranked as average (see Jonathan Jernigan YouTube – WordCamp US 2023 Debrief Discussion). There were ones I felt were good and sessions that I walked out of in the first five minutes.

I also missed several of the meetings while I was in the hallway meeting people but was able to watch them later on YouTube. Some of the YouTube videos were several hours long and didn’t use chapters, a few were standalone videos.

The meals inside the Gaylord

Lunch by the Gaylord staff was simply amazing

NASA.gov will become a WordPress site and Whitehouse.gov is already a WordPress site

One of the best breakout sessions was “Hands-on with NASA’s new digital platform.” The next NASA.gov website will be built on WordPress. The live demo allowed access to beta.nasa.gov (which I was surprised was even allowed). They made custom modules for every type of Gutenberg content block. I may be a little biased on this session since I know one of the developers – Gary Kovar from WPJAX.

I also liked the Whitehouse.org presentation, I didn’t see this until I watched it online and I wish they would have named the session better “All the President’s Websites.” It is just so bland and uninteresting. The presentation was great, they did not have very much time to launch this website and the use of the block editor looked spot on.

Other speaking events

I learned a lot more about the WordPress Playground in a session, I didn’t know much about how it was created since it is relatively new. I also put Composer on my laptop after learning about more of its capabilities at contributor day and Gary McPherson’s speech.

Michelle Schulp Hunt‘s speech was one of my favorites it was on:

  • Ensuring website stability and reliability in the years to come
  • What is WordPress block variation and FSE development and how to utilize it

FSE is the future of WordPress it should be on every WordPress developer’s checklist to learn.

“FSE (Full Site Editing) is the future of WordPress it should be on every WordPress developer’s checklist to learn.”

Founder Matt Mullenweg

WordPress Founder Matt Mullenweg spoke at the end and I have never heard him speak before so I was looking forward to this. He featured a new lightbox element for photos on WordPress… we have needed this feature for a long time. This means one less plugin.

Linux Thinkpad in a sea of MacBooks

I always hear about developers that use Mint or Ubuntu Linux but I didn’t meet them at this event. Almost everyone had a MacBook… I was a bit surprised… No Arch Linux users here… seriously?!?!

The legendary after-party at The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

If we weren’t blown away enough with the Gaylord or the Gaylord’s food the After Party had dessert tables under an elephant. I still can’t believe the WordPress team was able to pull enough strings to get us inside at night when the museum is closed to the public. I met a lot of great agency owners during this event that I was able to reach out to after the event.

We were having so much fun the museum staff had to beg us to leave

WordCamp Future

I want to attend WordCamp in the future, I would like to attend a European WordCamp. Overall, the WordCamp events are great, and you can’t beat the price of $50. There are so many conferences that cost thousands of dollars and, those events don’t usually end with a party inside a Smithsonian.

Goodbye Gaylord, hopefully, WordCamp will host another event here

One Last Thing

The merch at WordCamp was epic, never have I received so much free merch

The vendor booths were epic this year. There were many helpful ladies at the tables who offered to help us with our needs – several of them flew internationally to come to WordCamp. I would like to thank one of the ladies at the SiteGround table, Borislava Nikolova, for taking my photos during the event.

This mug is one of the items I received and it is the best coffee mug I have ever used. I left it on my seat at WordCamp. However, WordFence reached out to me on Twitter and is going to send me a free one even after I offered to pay for it.

This is awesome – thank you WordFence!


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2 responses to “WCUS 2023 Recap – The Largest and Most Incredible WordCamp Conference to Date”

  1. Russell Heimlich Avatar

    Aw man bummer on the lodging situation. I was fortunate enough that I could just drive in and pay parking all day. I live in Ellicott City, Maryland.

  2. Tim Wood Avatar
    Tim Wood

    It was great hanging out with you as well! Looking forward to more WC to come.

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