Call it a mash-up of users, developers, code freaks and the rest of us, people like me who could use a few tips on how to make our blogs better, but were too busy trying to write decent posts to ask, and you have Germany’s WordCamp Hamburg, the first ever European WordCamp.
Not sure what I was getting into, I headed off to meet with the best of the best in blogging and WordPress in Hamburg, Germany, my adopted home.
Turns out I wasn’t alone in my uncertainly, but that was exactly the idea. Organiser Cem Basman said the best way to reflect the open-ended, participatory style of WordPress was to do it Open Space or BarCamp style. No set agenda, no schedule, no organisation beyond selling out the 161 tickets three weeks in advance, booking the space for the weekend and of course setting it up for WLAN/WIFI.
“If I were to go to Brussels for a conference with business and political people to discuss the impact of a new law, for example, this kind of set-up wouldn’t work for people like them,” said Basman. “The Open Space concept matches the type of people who use WordPress, with its open style.”
Despite the worldwide German reputation for punctuality, the northern city of Hamburg likes to wake up late on the weekend, so it was perhaps fitting that the un-conference didn’t get underway at 10 o’clock sharp. Once the usual hellos were out of the way and the microphone passed to the participants, the suggestions started flowing. A makeshift schedule tacked along one wall was quickly filled in, times shoved around and soon the participants were spread out among four venues set up in Hamburg’s Stilwerk, a well-known boutique and design shopping mecca on the city’s harbour.
The WordCamp Hamburg Workshops included:
WordPress Design And Development: A lively, and at times wry, look at blogging and the law in Germany presented by Henning Krieg of Bird & Bird. Krieg also plans to blog over the coming weeks a longer series on the same subject.
Facepress: A new social networking WordPress Plugin being developed for WordPress by self-described geek and technology blogger Thomas Strassburg, which is exciting but there is little information available yet.
Blogging In The Classroom: A workshop for teachers given by
Brigitte Jellinek from Salzburg, Austria on using blogs in the classroom to help students.
WordPress Plugin Development And Security: Hosted by Frank Bueltge, the session included tips and suggestions for keeping your WordPress Plugins more secure.
WordPress and OpenID: Oliver Wagner covered using OpenID in WordPress blogs and looked at the future of such universal user access.
Blogs and Usability: A session with WordCamp Hamburg co-organizer and blogging book author Vladimir Simovic covered blogs and usability issues, what works, what doesn’t, and discussed his user survey results on his blog, Perun.net.
Xing and PaseExpress: Presented by Joachim Rumohr, this session introduced these two new services.
In the final activity of the first day, four bloggers, Herr Paulsen, Merlix of herzdamengeschichten.de, Kid37, and MC Winkel, each read a post from their blogs in what the organisers claimed was the first ever blog readings.
The audience listened attentively and applauded with enthusiasm as each concluded his story, for these were more like short stories you would find in an anthology than a blog post. The blog readings were an important artistic and dramatic counter-weight to the at times tech-heavy seminars and discussions.
The readings were followed by a generous buffet dinner at a nearby restaurant, accompanied by the mellow country tones of Captain Stubing and the Loveboats..
I met so many wonderful bloggers and WordPress fans. Meeting Lori Grosland of Microsoft, an American living in Germany for eight years, was a treat as I could talk to someone in my native English for a change. I also enjoyed meeting Herr Paulsen, another English-speaking blogger. One of Hamburg’s expatriate bloggers hails from as far away as New Zealand, and blogs at miss-verstaendnis – a playful bilingual pun on the German word for misunderstanding. She’s still trying to figure out the Germans, but seems to be having fun in the process.