Wordcamp Montreal 2010 Review
I'm no expert when it comes to conferences, in fact, Wordcamp Montreal (2010) was the first web conference I've ever attended. But even so, I do have some thoughts on the event, both positive and negative. Before I get started, I should probably make it known that I'm a developer by trade and wanted to attend the conference to improve the way I code my Wordpress themes. I was also really interested to hear how people are dealing with traditional Wordpress shortcomings, like multilingualism.
What Went Right
Firstly, Montreal Wordcamp is a young conference, 2010 was only it's second year running. And all things considered, I think it went fairly well. There were enough people to make it feel like a serious event, but it was still small enough to retain a degree of intimacy. There was some typical conference swag: stickers, buttons, t-shirts, cupcakes, giveaways, pizza, all that good stuff.
The venue itself was a perfect size and in a central location. There was ample space to walk around and mingle and the Wi-Fi was solid throughout the entire event. Things felt like they were organized well, there was never any confusion about what was happening and everyone seemed really friendly and enthusiastic about the cause.
The Bad Bits
At the end of the day, a conference is only as good as its speakers, and to be entirely honest, the speakers at Wordcamp Montreal 2010 were not very good if you were looking for exciting technical speeches. Many of the talks that sounded like they would be very technical were often basic and boring, leaving me feeling like I had wasted time.
What makes this situation even worse is the fact that there were so many programmers attending. At one point during the first day, a speaker asked if there were any developers in the room, and almost the entire room raised their hands. By the second day it seemed like the number of developers (and others) had declined substantially, although this trend could have been related to the previous nights party.
At many points it seemed like speakers were doing presentations for themselves and their personal reputation rather than having any real expertise. One particularly boring talk walked through the process of optimizing images, encoding MP3's, and embedding YouTube videos. All content that was not specific to Wordpress, nor suitable for such a tech savy audience.
In my humble opinion, I felt that most talks were filled with more fluff than substance. Which is really frustrating, because I think we can assume with some certainty that the audience attending a Wordpress conference knows enough about the platform to be uninterested in talks that only walk through the basics.
So will I attend next year? Absolutely. Despite my relatively sour review, I do see great value and potential in getting together with the Montreal Wordpress community. In fact, I may even try to prepare a talk aimed at theme developers for 2011. After all, Wordpress is all about being open, with each person trying to make things better for the community as a whole.