WordCamp Baroda 2014: A Memorable and Insightful Experience to Share with My Readers

I am pretty much sure that many of us know about blogging and most of the bloggers use WordPress as their main blogging platform. But then many of you will be surprised to know that WordPress is not after all just a blogging platform.

Yes, you read that right. WordPress isn’t just a blogging platform but a complete package or a solution to any online website or application needs. WordPress as a community of designers, developers and bloggers are making sure that it evolves as the best solution for not just blogs but any web application you can think of.

To develop such a great community and create solutions, WordPress needs the support of us who either use WordPress as a blogging platform/CMS or those who develop & design WordPress powered plugins, themes and web applications as well as the end users who desire to learn more about WordPress.

To cater this issues and extending the community as large as possible, WordCamps are organized by great volunteers in their respective cities globally.

So, what is a WordCamp?

WordCamp, as the name implies is actually a camp or let’s go with a more geekish term, i.e. event, organized by WordPress community members in different cities where they discuss, share & learn about WordPress from each other.

The first WordCamp was organized in 2006 at San Francisco. Since then many other cities have hosted WordCamps both as informal unconferences and formal conferences. Since 2006, there have been a total of 150 WordCamps held around the globe with an average of nearly a WordCamp every week.

The first WordCamp in India was organized at Delhi in the year 2009. Since then cities like Pune, Mumbai and my own Baroda has joined the party organizing WordCamps all over India.

I feel proud to mention the name of Rahul Banker, who played the anchoring role in developing the community of WordPress enthusiasts in Baroda as well as also helped the fellow Barodians to network with other WordPress enthusiasts all over India as well as globally. I also thank him to give me a chance to attend this event this year which I was looking forward to since I missed the last year’s WordCamp in Baroda.

So let’s talk about my experience and my first WordCamp in Baroda.

WordCamp Baroda 2014

Day 1:

The first day started a bit late because there were people coming in from every corner of the country and reaching a city called Baroda which is not yet famous in the IT industry, I can understand the timing conflicts. Being the first day, there were mandatory registrations at the entrance further added up to an already late start to the conference.

Finally after having some refreshments, the event kicked off with #GhantaTalk by Ankur Agarwal, the founder of PriceBaba.com. His topic of the session was “Blogging isn’t dead but the Blogger inside you is Challenged.”

Pick Trivia: Youtube is the No.1 Search Engine in India.

Ankur did explore the dimensions of blogging. Most of us believe that for blogging you must have your own domain or a sub-domain (from WordPress.com, Blogger, Tumblr etc.) which is not true. Blogging actually is about sharing your views, photos or videos on the web no matter whether you share it on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, WhatsApp or your own domain. Ankur actually inspired me to use the social media networks as a blog rather than just a link sharing tool.

Pick Trivia: Opera Mini is the 2nd most used browser in India after Google Chrome.

Next on stage was Siobhan McKeown, an avid WordPress enthusiast who also organized WordCamp London recently. Her topic for the session was, “Creating Reality: How Free Software empowers us to control our World.”

Now by talking about free software, she actually didn’t mean to find an alternate version of premium software available. In fact she talked about freedom not getting things for free. She emphasized on the strength of this WordPress community that can help achieve such a freedom. Being a Non-Indian, especially from an Irish background she did find it difficult to connect with the audience although her topic was brilliant. I felt somewhere down the lines the examples favored the English audience more than the Indian audience.

But still she came all the way to India just to attend this event and really presented us with a chance to freedom that can be achieved using WordPress. And I really thank her for that.  It was announced lunch after Siobhan’s session.

Now I wanted to attend this event especially for few sessions from some interesting people. One such session was from Jaydip Parikh, whom we all lovingly address as Jaydip Baba and after Siobhan’s session and lunch, it was our own Jaydip Baba on stage.

Jaydip spoke about Blogging and eCommerce which was debated on as well later in the day. Basically he emphasized on the buying behavior of Indian users who shop online. It wasn’t related to WordPress was the topic of the debate later, but I think if you want to create a web application such Flipkart or Snapdeal, the developers need to put them into buyers shoes to create the best user experience. For me, though not completely relevant to WordPress, Jaydip’s session was totally important as a part of learning about how to sell myself as a blogger to my readers or if in future I myself wish to start an eCommerce website or help my friend to do so, this experience will surely come into play.

Also if some aspiring WordPress developers want to create something like WooCommerce, then they got to understand the user behavior to create the perfect flow.

The Day 1 ended with the sessions Saurabh Shukla and Prasath Nadarajan one after the other. Both spoke about something which as a non-techie I couldn’t grasp much. Saurabh Shukla came up with an extra-ordinary demo with real hooks on stage while speaking about his sessions on “Hooks API for WordPress users and developers.” While Prasath Nadarajan, who came all the way from Sri Lanka, presented his session on “Extending WP with Filters and Actions.”

Both these sessions are quite helpful for someone who is a WordPress developer or a WordPress user who has an understanding of PHP and some coding. Both these sessions actually pushed me to start learning WordPress Development.

Once both these sessions were over, there was a debate about the importance of this WordCamp as I said earlier. The debate was about the topics in the sessions were up to the mark and helpful to the attendees among whom many were students of Engineering.

The surprising fact that came out of the debate was that most of the attendees didn’t know what WordPress is all about or they had never experienced the Admin dashboard of any WordPress powered blog or website. So later, Amit Kumar Singh volunteered to have a session first in the morning on Day 2 which will explain the whole WordPress Admin Dashboard settings with a live demo.

Finally the Day 1 was announced and all of us went back to the city.

Day 2

Day 2 started early as compared to Day 1. There were no registrations needed on this day, so we directly went for the refreshments and then on to our seats in the auditorium. As announced at the end of the Day 1, Day 2 started with a session on explaining WordPress Admin Dashboard settings with a live demo by Amit Kumar Singh and Saurabh Shukla.

The 2nd session of the day was from the blogging legend Harsh Agrawal – Founder of Shoutmeloud.com, the session I was eagerly waiting for. His session was about Implementing SEO on a WordPress Blog or Website. Being in the SEO Industry for the past 7 years and working on WordPress since the last 3 years, I pretty much knew most of the stuff Harsh mentioned in the session.

But looking at the larger picture, it took him 5 years of Blogging experience to accumulate this knowledge but all the attendees were showered with knowledge in just a 1-hour long session where most of them were newbies and fresh to WordPress. It was a fruitful session for me and I can bet the same for other attendees as well. All thanks to WordCamp!

I learned about a few new plugins like All WP SEO, Date Exclusion SEO, Google Author Link and some tweaks on WordPress SEO by Yoast that can help your blog become more search engine friendly.

After Harsh’s session, it was King Sidharth, as he calls himself, who is a part of the Startup venture called Instamojo, presented his session about a Crash Course in Typography. As per my experience in the industry, this was one very important session for WordPress developers and designers. Bloggers with non-technical background can also make use of the tips and tricks highlighted in the session.

Most of the time we focus either on the technology more or may be the design and layout but very often do we think about the “Typography”. Yeah! Typography has a great impact on your website visitors and often creates either a positive or negative impact on them. So if you wish to understand something more advanced about Typography and how to improve it on your blog or website, then you must get in touch with Sidharth.

Once Sidharth’s session was over, all of us went for lunch.

After lunch, it was Samuel Sidler from WordPress who explained how one as a WordPress user whether as a blogger, developer or designer can contribute to WordPress. WordPress is an open source platform run and improved on a day to day basis by its large and ever growing community. So if you believe that WordPress has helped you in any ways whether its about following your dream, passion, profession or making a living out of it, it’s essentially important to give back to the community as well. As a developer you can help improve WordPress from its core, as a designer you can help WordPress look more beautiful and attractive and lastly as a blogger you can spread the word about how WordPress is flexible and the best community driven platform of current age of Internet saga.

Pick Trivia: Almost 20% of websites over the web is powered by WordPress.

Samuel explained how to get featured and contribute on WordPress as well as volunteer to grow this community by either organizing WordCamps in your city or being a part of one being organized in your city. He was very friendly and as he claimed it was his WordCamp as a speaker, he was quite cool with his approach and engaged with the audience quite well.

The next session was actually a surprise to everyone sitting in the auditorium. Next on stage was Mr. M. Nagarajan, an IAS Officer. Yeah, it was very unlikely to see an IAS officer at a tech conference where you find geeks from all around the globe but hardly any Government official.

Now if an IAS Officer as speaker was surprising, then the topic of his session may give you a shock. Yeah, the topic highlighted by Mr. M. Nagarajan was about using WordPress in Govt. sectors. This session was actually an eye opener to many and as Mr. M. Nagarajan suggested that the next big market to target is the Government sector. He also shared about his own experience on WordPress and how he introduced WordPress into Government agencies handling eGram Yojnas by Gujarat Government. He also implied that the road would be tough and WordPress community should represent as an Organization rather individuals and freelancers looking for work. Hopefully with the help of WordPress, we may see some fruitful changes in Indian Government sectors.

Finally it was time for the last session of the day and this year’s WordCamp Baroda. Sathish Nagarajan was on stage speaking about “Creating Large Scale Web Apps using WordPress.” As I mentioned at the start of the post that WordPress is not just a blogging platform but much much more. If used well, you can develop large applications like Facebook or Google+ using WordPress. There are many examples of eCommerce websites as well as shopping, jobs and real estate portals powered by WordPress. You can also find social networks and other community forums build on WordPress platform.

Hopefully we will see WordPress evolving as a Web Solution for any known application in the next couple of years. And as the session from Sathish ended, the Day 2 was called off. There were some presentations given to the Speakers, Volunteers and the Organizer who made this event possible this year in Baroda. Lastly there was a group photo including all the attendees up stage.

My Takeaways at WordCamp Baroda 2014

First and foremost I got the chance to meet Harsh Agrawal because of whom I believed that one can make a living out of blogging. Besides that I met Jaydip Parikh and Rahul Banker both of whom I was waiting to meet for quite a long time. I also got a chance to network with Sathish Nagarajan, Ankur Agrawal, Saurabh Shukla, Amit Kumar Singh, Ayush Gupta, Anand Thakkar, Khamosh Pathak and many others.

Secondly I am now more charged up to make big in the blogging arena. Also I am looking forward to learn WordPress development to set my basics clear about the platform. I also came to know about how WordPress invites or encourages almost anyone to contribute to WordPress either as a blogger, developer or designer. I also realized that Baroda, i.e. Aapnu Vadodara, is making its mark on the IT Industry globally, after seeing the likes of Samuel Sidler and Siobhan McKeown who came all the way to India for the 1st time just attend WordCamp Baroda 2014.

I heartily thank everyone and especially Rahul who made this event possible in Baroda.

Hopefully see you all at the next WordCamp!