David Artiss

My WordCamp Europe 2017 Diary

Thursday 15th June kicks off 2017’s WordCamp Europe, this year in Paris. And I’ll be there! As with WC London, I’ll be volunteering during the main event and contributing on Thursday itself.

During the event I’ll be updating this post with a diary of how it goes – WCEU is the biggest WordCamp in the world and, I’ll admit, a little daunting.

I fly to Paris very early on Wednesday 14th, where I’m staying at a hotel arranged by Automattic for its employees attending the camp. I’m both excited but nervous (similar to how I was for London).

Day One – The Journey to Paris

Up at 5am for a 1.5 hour drive to Manchester airport, I wasn’t exactly running to schedule (I should have left earlier but 5am is early enough for anyone, surely?). My luck appeared good when the roads were clear and I was allowed to bypass the long queue for baggage check-in. Sadly, security had other ideas. First, my baggage was separated for its own, special inspection. Next, I enraged the lady running the body scanner by forgetting to take a piece of paper out of my back pocket. For this, not only did I get a telling off, but also a hand-search as well. To top it off, my backpack then needed hand-searching as well.

I was still in plenty of time for my flight but the usual time for grabbing a coffee and breakfast wasn’t available. A cold croissant and small coffee with powdered milk in, during the flight, was my alternative.

The flight itself was uneventful and, at the airport, I’d arranged to meet up with fellow Automattician Egill Erlendsson, who was flying in from Iceland. I didn’t know Egill but we were landing around the same time so it made sense to share transport to the hotel. Typically, we arrived at different terminals which were some distance apart but eventually met and, for the first time, I used Uber to get a taxi for us both to get to the hotel.

The Holiday Inn that we’re staying at is by the Seine and is quite nice. It’s a lovely, hot day so the air conditioning is appreciated. Because of numbers, some of us are sharing a room on the first night, and that includes me. A fold out sofa-bed is my bed for the night but after having had an awful (and short) sleep last night, it will be welcome none-the-less.

Around 2pm a few Automatticians from the hotel (all friends of Egill, and none that I knew at the time) went out to grab some food at a nearby restaurant. A niçoise salad and lemonade later and I felt a lot better.

In the evening I headed off to lunch with fellow VIP colleague Tom, meeting up various other people. The bill was paid for by Human Made, which is always a bonus.

To get there and back I travelled the Metro for the first time, including the experience of purchasing tickets and generally finding out how it all works, finding stop, etc. It’s different to the London Underground but, I’d say, easier. By the time I got back it was after 11 (so much for my planned early night).

Tomorrow is the contributor day – a shuttle bus is being laid on for us to use, although, as yet, I haven’t seen any times. It would be good to grab some breakfast before I go (it’s included with the room cost) so I may have an early start tomorrow.

(And, yes, I’m fully aware that most of the above seems to refer to food. It’s been one of those days.)

Day Two – Contributor Day

It took me ages to get to sleep. It was a hot night and my sleep was not helped by my room-mate coming back later and (unintentionally) waking me – it then taking me some time to get to sleep again. My 7am start was not appreciated but I went down for breakfast, before returning to the room to shower and dress. I packed and took my suitcase down to reception, as I was in my own room from this night onwards. Until I could check-in after 2pm, the hotel would look after my case.

At 8am,  a couple of 7-seater shuttle buses has been laid on, with the intention of one leaving every 5 minutes. I managed to grab the first one and, yeah, it took ages – Paris traffic is not kind. I think the round trip for each was an hour so much Automatticians at the hotel walked or used Uber.

Anyway, the contributor day is a great way to get involved with WordPress in one of many different ways. I started off getting involved with WordPress.tv but, with no videos to currently edit, I moved on (although I went through the process with them and definitely intend to do some soon!). Before doing this, though, there was lunch – it was a packed lunch but was very filling and very nice.

I was soon dragged into the Docs room by my VIP colleague Andrea, but personal email issues prevented them from being able to set up my access. Never-the-less, somebody managed to get a picture of the back of my head 😉

After a quick stop to pick up (and put on) a t-shirt sporting a brand-new VIP design, I now went and helped out in the Plugins room. As a plugin developer, being in a room with Mika, Otto and Yoast was a fantastic experience.

And before we knew it, it was 5pm and it came to a close.

45 minutes later, for those volunteering over the coming days, there was the first of 2 ‘inductions’, where we get told of any rules and shown around the place. And, by God, is it massive. 3000 people are due tomorrow from 83 countries and we have 2 presentation halls, each accommodating 1500 people.

After that was finished, all the volunteers and speakers were invited aboard a floating restaurant on the Seine. It was quite a distance away so, once again, I headed off to the Metro. It’s been another hot day too.

A good party was had, although I headed back early (by Uber) – not only to try and get an early night but also to check into my new room. My own room and my own double bed. Bliss. And the view out of my window isn’t too bad either.

Day Three – We’re Open!

I finally got my early(ish) night in missed my alarm at 7am. I jumped in the shower and managed to get downstairs for 7:55am, with friends intending to join me and share an Uber at 8. And, yes, I did get breakfast. The fastest breakfast ever.

Today is the first speaker day of WordCamp Europe and where I’m now needed as a volunteer. I arrived  not long after 8:30 (Paris traffic – tsk), although I was not down to do anything until 11am. This gave me some time to peruse he sponsor stalls and, yes, grab some swag. I started off quite gently, chatting with the sponsors, etc, but by the end of the day I was just turning up and taking stuff. My swag morals appear to have left me.

It wasn’t long until I was asked to step in, though, as they lacked a ‘Speaker Wrangler’ for one of the talks. This basically involved me making the sure the speaker was set-up and provide anything they need. You then sit through the talk and present them with a gift at the end. In my case I was looking after a really nice German gentleman by the name of Caspar Hübinger and his talk was, genuinely, fantastic – very thought provoking.

Later I was asked to be a door guard at the same stage. And look who turned up and sat next to the door…

It’s not clear from the picture but that’s Matt.

By this time it was about 1:30 and it looked as if I was going to be doing more work afterwards, so I managed to convince another of my colleagues, Gemma, to grab my lunch for me. It was much appreciated!

For the rest of the day I did an assortment of random jobs, including help to ring off a water leak from the air conditioning system. I also got to see the excellent talk give by my friend and colleague Marina Pape.

At one point I found myself at the Swag Store and speaking to a very nice lady named Charleen. We chatted for some time before I found out that she is Matt’s sister. She recognised me latter in the day and talked a little more, which was great.

The day was great but exhausting. When I got back to the hotel I joined my friends Scott and Gemma to find a nearby restaurant.

Whilst waiting for them in the hotel foyer I realised the lobby was full of people such as Gary Pendergast and Konstantin Obenland – people I’ve admired and followed for many years. Indeed, Mark Jaquith, somebody else in this category, was one of the speakers earlier in the day. If I come away from this WordCamp with nothing else, it’s seeing, and in some cases, meeting heroes of mine from the WordPress community. In the case of those in the lobby, I didn’t say anything – what do you say? “Hi I’m David and I think you’re cool. Bye”.

Anyway, yes, the restaurant. Not only did we find one but there was already a number of Automatticians there, who we joined. Great food and company, I got to meet “Clicky Steve”. I’d love to say I had an early night but, no, I didn’t. Exhausted, I dropped into bed near midnight, knowing I had a 7am start again tomorrow.

There was a lot of food

Day Four – It’s All Over!

The final day of WordCamp EU. A 7am start for me (this time my alarm DID wake me) and I was showered, fed and at the venue before 8am. My shift from 8:30am until 1pm was door-guarding duty by the registration area. Let’s just say, it wasn’t very exciting and I was grateful to Stefan for giving me a 20 minute break part way through, to stretch my legs and get coffee.

Once that was done it was time to grab lunch and have a wander. I also bumped into Charleen again, who told me of something that had happened the previous night. She’d read my Tweet from yesterday…

However, it sounds as if she’d read it out loud to Matt who then proceeded to ask whether I was married or not. I’m hoping she hadn’t said who the Tweet was from, otherwise I’m disappointed in Matt not recognising me 😉

I sat and watched the developer flash talks at 2pm, but that mainly to make sure I had a seat in the main room for 3pm – Matt’s Q&A session. It went really well and Matt announced that the new editor, Gutenberg, was now available to try as a plugin. By the time the talk was over there were 100 installs, 1 of which was my own.

The final talk was at 5pm and there was then final remarks at 6pm. This included getting all the volunteers on stage but also announcing where next year’s WordCamp Europe will be….  Belgrade, Serbia.

All the volunteers on stage – can you spot me?

And then, it was over. A quick trip to the hotel to get changed and then it was off to the after-party. Considering the venue was very close to the Eiffel Tower, you were amazingly unable to see it 😉 Sadly, the party wasn’t as good as the rest of the event. The venue was sprawling and the music was loud, meaning that people were unable to have conversations. We were told not to eat beforehand, so most didn’t, only to find hour long queues for the food, and food that wasn’t particularly good either (raw burgers, ‘off’ salad, vegetarian hot-dog sausages cooked in the same water as the meat one).

One good thing… a ‘train’ was put to transport people between the Metro and the venue!

So, many left early, including myself. 4 of us returned to the hotel but then headed out to a nearby place that does excellent burgers. And they were. The company was good and the view was splendid too…

Day Five – Home

I set my alarm for 9am but woke up around 8am. Which was good as, once again, I’d mis-calculated my flight times (don’t ask). A breakfast and shower later and I was packed and ready to go (bear in mind I was coming away with lots of swag and 10 more t-shirts than I came with).

A shared Uber of 7 Automatticians took us to the airport. Security was quite strict so there were long queues. Air France also, now, make you label and weigh your own baggage and that added to the delays too. Never-the-less, I got to my gate with 30 minutes to go. The flight was uneventful and, this time, I avoided the roving eye of security.

I was due to be picked up by a local limousine service (they work out as much cost as it is to drive yourself and park-up but without the hassle) and it’s worth it just to have a man in a suit and cap holding up a sign with your name on 😉 However, his Mercedes had developed a puncture on the way and he was on a 50 mph run-flat tyre. He, therefore, paid for a taxi service to take me home which was great but the car’s air conditioning didn’t work and it was stupidly hot in the UK. That was one warm and long journey home.

But it was Fathers Day so I was greeted to hugs, presents and cards, which is always appreciated. It was great to be home but I had a great time in Paris. I’ve met some amazing people and learnt a lot too (watch out for my first videos going live soon on WordPress.tv!). I don’t think I’ll go to WPEU next year, as my plan is to pick one or two smaller, UK-based ones next year. I might even get around to volunteer as a speaker…

Categories: Automattic, WordPress

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1 Comment

  1. Love reading your travel diaries David. I still can’t believe we ate nearly all of that food on night 3 🙂

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