WordCamp Europe 2023 Wrapup
I recently spent a whirlwind weekend in Athens for WordCamp Europe 2023.
For much of the last 3-4 years I wasn’t sure if I would even get to attend a WordCamp again. The WordPress community in Australia has been very slow to recover from COVID, so this was not only my first WordCamp outside of Australia, it was my first WordCamp anywhere since 2019.
I was overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the event. I knew it was historically one of the largest WordCamps, but I wasn’t entirely sure how many people would return after COVID. Turns out, quite a lot, with a few thousand people in attendance. There were more organisers at WCEU than there were attendees at the previous WordCamp I attended.
I flew in from Gatwick Airport in London on Thursday afternoon. Unfortunately it turned out I had booked my flight for Friday, which would have meant I would have only been able to attend the second day. The helpful staff at the airport were able to get me on another flight, so I got there on time in the end. The only problem then being that I landed about midnight local time, without a hotel booked for that night, so I was left to unsuccessfuly try and get a quick nap in at the airport before heading to the venue. From the airport it was very easy to get to the venue, by getting on the Metro Line 3 and heading straight there.
It was so good to spend time around other people again. I’ve only been to a single in person event since early 2019, so it was great to be amongst other WordPress folks. There were a few friends from Australia who had made the trip, there were other friends I’ve made online that I finally got to meet in person, met others who I’d known of but hadn’t really interacted with before, and yet more that I met for the first time. I’ve missed it so much.
The Not So Good
There were a number of things I noticed that were less than ideal, unfortunately. No WordCamp is perfect, but hopefully these things could be looked at being improved for future events.
There were two workshop tracks which had limited spaces, and required registration to attend. Unfortunately, registration had to be done in person at a registration desk. I lined up at 9am on the first morning. I was still in the line at 10am when the first workshop started, completely missing the opening remarks session. I thankfully didn’t miss the first workshop, as those in the line who wanted to attend were pulled out of the line to attend, but then it meant that by the time I could line up again hours later, one of the other workshops I wanted to attend was fully booked out. The registration process was incredibly inefficient and stressful, and I can only hope it will be improved upon for any other WordCamps that intend to have limited space workshops.
The after party
The after party was hosted at a nightclub a fair distance from the venue (about an hour walk, or 25 minutes on the metro). Myself and a number of other attendees took the metro, only for it to not stop at the station for the after party. Apparently it was due to a nearby fire or something. We ended up catching the bus together and got there eventually, but it would have been better if it was closer to the venue. In saying that, I do realise that options would have been very limited considering the amount of people to accommodate.
The after party venue itself was very loud and crowded. There was a live band, and while they weren’t bad it was not an environment that I felt was suitable for a WordCamp. As much as people want to have fun at the after party, many people want to network as well which would be practically impossible in the venue. I love live music, I’ve already been to 4 concerts this year, but I don’t feel it’s suitable for a WordPress event. Most people ended up outside on the street as a consequence of the noise and the limited capacity inside, which was great for the kiosks and food stands nearby as they were far more convenient to get food and drink from. At the bar inside, I waited 45 minutes to be served a drink, and that came only after someone else pointed out to the bartenders how long I had been waiting. I met many great people at the after party (outside the venue of course), but the overall experience was not good.
The badges felt like an afterthought. They were just a piece of cardboard with a name printed on a sticker, that was printed at the venue. For those that throw their badges out this is an environmentally friendly approach, but it would have been simpler to forget the badges altogether and just put the name sticker on your shirt, at least then they wouldn’t be blank most of the time. I like to keep my badges, and it feels very odd that the largest event had the lowest quality badges by a long way.
Will You See Me At WCEU 2024?
It’s unlikely, at least at this stage, that I will be at WordCamp Europe 2024 in Torino, Italy. I would not have made the effort to attend this year had I not already been living in England on a working holiday. Australia is literally the opposite side of the world and it will be hard to justify the time and money required to attend. I’m not even sure how feasible it will be to attend a WordCamp in Australia if that happens in the near future. But I can say it won’t be my last WordCamp, and I’m very glad to have checked WordCamp Europe off the bucket list.