It seemed like only yesterday that I was invited to speak at WordCamp Mumbai 2016. But my 5-day trip to the City of Dreams has already ended and I’m back home in Kathmandu, Nepal. Time flew by so fast. Like every WordCamps I have been to, this one was a lot of fun, I got to learn so many things. There were some great revelations, and some sessions that were review of stuff I already know. In this post, I hope to share some of the high points I noticed, and some thoughts I have regarding this WordCamp.
If you are a regular in my website, you must be well acquainted with WordCamps. But if you are not and just happened to stumble in here, you might not know about WordCamps. Well, concisely, WordCamp is a conference that focuses on everything WordPress; a community event for and by the WordPress users all over, with presentation of specific topics, getting to know fellow WordPressers and having fun throughout. It’s like a one big party. WordCamps are rather local events by and for WordPress users of a specific country. But it is not exclusive. So, WordPress lovers from all over the globe can join in the groove.
This WordCamp Mumbai blew me away! Perhaps a little of that had to do with my low expectations. My Indian colleagues in the WordPress community had praised us for our efficient event, sharing that things didn’t usually start on time in their community. So, I was expecting a slightly haphazard experience.
What I got instead was the experience of a very professionally organized WordCamp, where everything was on time. From the very beginning, I was impressed. My twitter handle on my name badge had a typo; right away they printed another one, and gave me an error-free badge to carry around. There was individual access to the Internet. Although it was primarily because of security reasons, it felt like you owned that particular Internet. It also seems to have decreased the pressure on the network, as you could only use one device at a time. Since we have problems with a lot of people connecting multiple devices, slowing down the connection at our WordCamps, we might look into doing something like this.
The roster of speakers was excellent; filled with people who were tackling real issues, and could therefore draw from their own experience and make the audience engaged like no other. They were also an incredibly diverse bunch, with four female speakers, two speakers with disabilities, and six international speakers.
The topics covered were also wide-ranging, from content, themes, plugins, as well as marketing.
I was really touched by Raghavendra’s talk on accessibility. After attending WordCamp US three months ago, I had decided we needed to make accessibility a priority at Catch Themes. Even though I knew the importance of accessible websites, his speech, which drew from his experience dealing with disabilities, brought the point home. He really connected with the audience, and made everyone feel viscerally, the need for accessible technology.
Naoko’s talk was also interesting to me because she spoke about how WordPress became a hit in Japan. In Japan, everything was translated into Japanese, and could reach a mainstream audience. It made me realize that in order to make WordPress popular in Nepal, we need to do a lot more; we will need blogs, and books and events in Nepali, which is something we need to be working towards.
The first day was high energy, with amazing speakers who raised the bar really high. In fact, I had to go back to my hotel room that day, and work quite a bit to modify my own presentation, and practice the delivery, just to be on par with the other speakers.
My presentation saw a lot of interest, with lots of questions in the Q&A and even after the session. I think it was the right audience; mine was the only developer-focused talk, and lots of people came up to me later and said that they will start creating themes, because they realized that getting started is not that difficult.
Even full-time developers had their favorite approach, and my talk gave them insight into the other approaches out there, which they were more willing to try. Especially my experience with underscore components and editing an existing theme were areas that seem to be new for a lot of the audience. I was happy that my talk gave people the confidence to venture into creating themes.
The Social Side
Selfies and wefies were all the rage at WordCamp Mumbai. We usually only take group photos at WordCamp Nepal, so I was taken aback at first by the selfie explosion, but then got my smile on. There was also a photo booth, and lots and lots of photo sessions. I took some too, which you can see right here.
For me, the best part of WordCamps is hanging out with other WordPressers, and this one was no different. The whole of Automattic team has become close friends, and I had a good time hanging out with them.
I had a surreal experience dining at the Taj with the Automattic team. We had to go through security checks as thorough as an airport, and had a jaw-dropping bill to pay at the end of dinner. I always knew there were really expensive places in Mumbai, but knowing something and experiencing it are incomparable.
We also went to another restaurant called Mamagoto, which looked really unassuming on the outside, but was filled with really cool Japanese art on the inside.
The organizers also put together a speakers / organizers party at the end of the first day at Barbeque Nation, with such good barbecue that I had to visit the place again before I left. The after-party was more of an impromptu affair, but there were people from local companies, and Automattic, and we had a good beer tasting, and it was loads of fun. We ended WordCamp Mumbai on the right note.
City of Mumbai
Mumbai: The City of Dreams, the Gateway of India or the Hollywood of Asia. The city skyline at night –when I arrived – was just magnificent. I was taken to the Hotel Metro Palace, the hotel where I’d be spending the next 5 days. It was just a short walk away from the WordCamp Mumbai venue. However, I was most excited to be taking up residence a few doors down from Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan. Unfortunately, that was as far as my brush with celebrity went on this trip.
Lots of things stand out from this short but very eventful trip to Mumbai. I don’t remember much from my last Mumbai trip, except Esselworld, so this was a great introduction.
I wanted to get the full experience of going around Mumbai, so I tried all forms of transportation, including the local train, tempo, scooter, ac taxi, non-ac taxi, uber, and ola.
I also met up with my college friend, who took me to literally the biggest mall I’ve ever been in. It was clean, and the design reminded me of Singapore; it definitely looked like a fork of Singapore J
One of the major things on my agenda during this Mumbai WordCamp was discussion of a WordCamp Asia. We have now done the initial planning, and almost agreed on doing it in Bangkok in 2017. While Naoko’s initial proposal was Tokyo, we considered Bangkok because it will be hard for people from developing countries to get a visa to Tokyo.
If WordCamp Central agrees, we can move on to plan a grand event for 2017.
I will be retiring from WordCamp Nepal in 2017, so this is something I would like to do before I retire.
We at WordCamp Nepal are also excited to welcome Sam Hotchkiss, who is in Nepal on vacation after WordCamp Mumbai, and has kindly agreed to do a repeat of his Mumbai presentation during this month’s WordPress meetup. Sam is the JetPack project lead, and his presentation talked about the important issue of QA, which we could all use a bit of. I hope everyone finds his talk as enlightening as I did.
I wouldn’t hesitate to say that WordCamp Mumbai 2016 was one of the best WordCamps I have been to.
I would like to thank the organizers and volunteers for putting together such a superb event!
P.S. Here is the link to my presentation. Hope it helps. Happy Holi.