WordCamp Retreat Soltau 2018: Recap

This weekend, the very first WordCamp Retreat took place, in Soltau, Germany. This is a new kind of WordCamp where all attendees, organizers, speakers, volunteers etc. are accommodated in the place where the WordCamp is happening; this is most likely a hotel. Overall, this was my fourteenth WordCamp, and my eleventh time speaking.

I was really looking forward to this special event for a long time, and by now I already know that I want to be part of the organizing team for WordCamp Retreat 2019 2020 in Germany, wherever it will happen. 🙂

Thursday: Arrival Day

As usual for nearby WordCamps, I went to Soltau by train. When I was all packed for the very first WordCamp Retreat, I thought about what to do with both the time before my train goes, and also while traveling. Considering there is a BarCamp day, and also considering there are not many workshops in general, and no JavaScript-specific one at that, I was intrigued by the idea to host a beginner-level React workshop.

Well, I actually started brainstorming, and not long after set up a repository. Most of the time on rails, I then worked on exercises or rather stepped solutions for the workshop. 🙂

Check-in & Welcome Drinks

Every hour—when the train went by again—more and more people arrived at the hotel.

Checking in to both the event and hotel went super smooth. Luggage to the room, some water in the face, and back to the lobby to say Hi to so many nice WordCampers.

The weather was more than just OK, so lots of people enjoyed their coffee and/or beer outside.

Dinner

At 19:00, the dinner buffet started, and within a few minutes only, lots of hungry traveling WordCampers assembled to pitch into the pasta buffet. Round tables for six to eight people ensured easy-to-manage conversations.

Networking & Entertainment

The rest of the evening was open for further networking, darts, billiards, Kegeln (i.e., nine-pin bowling), games and much more.

Because of the bad cold that I was (and still am) having for about two weeks now, and that still doesn’t let go of me, I called it a day rather early. That said, I also had (and wanted) to be fit for duty next day, being one of the speakers in the very first slot.

Friday: WordCamp Day 1

On Star Wars day, the first actual day of the conference started with nice weather already, and some people having their breakfast outside in the morning sun.

Welcome & Introduction

Organizers Carole, Sven and Detlef kicked off WordCamp Retreat with some words about how it came to be, and what to expect during the next three days.

We also got to know the background of the WCRetreat Wapuu: Heide, the Heidschnucke. It is so lovely!

It followed a BarCamp-like round of introductions. My hashtags for the event were #SoftwareTesting, #JavaScript and #ObjectOrientedProgramming.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the WordPress Coding Standards

Well, then it was already time for me to get on stage and give my talk about the WordPress Coding Standards.

In this—somewaht nerdy—talk, I first explained coding standards in general, and why they are a thing. After a short anecdote off my personal life, I stated that rules should exist where they make sense, but that, at the same time, there should almost always be room for exceptions. And this is also true for coding rules or whole standards.

Then I moved on to WordPress-specific coding standards, and also the tools to make use of them. These are primarily PHP_CodeSniffer and ESLint, while there are lots of other things one can utilize, for example, an .editorconfig file, or stylelint, or Prettier, to only name a few.

Similar to WordCamp Antwerp and WordCamp London—where I gave slightly different versions of this talk before—the overall feedback was really positive. People liked the talk, and, even more importantly, they learned something new and also got interested in this whole coding standards thing.

My slides are available online, …and even the video recording is already available at WordPress.tv. WTF!? 😀

WordPress.org – Under the Hood

Next up was Sergey Biryukov, one of the Core Committers. He provided a full overview of what all exists in the WordPress.org infrastructure. And that is a lot, by the way.

At the end, I asked whether or not it was a goal to make all of the meta infrastructure open source. Lots of it already is, but not everything, for example, the profiles area. Good news is that it is indeed the plan. No estimates on when that might happen, though.

Lunch

A tasty lunch buffet invited us all to fill up on energy, have nice conversations, and enjoy the sun.

WordPress Breaks Time (and How to Fix It)

After lunch, it was time to hear Andrey “Rarst” Savchenko talk about broken time (in WordPress).

No kidding, I really do think this was the overall best talk that I attended so far at all my WordCamps. It was informative, funny, scary, something to think about, and overall at a great quality.

This is a must-see for almost anyone, so watch it on WordPress.tv. You will not regret it.

Rubik’s Cube Workshop

After some networking and a quick coffee-and-cake break, I went to the first activity for me: Rubik’s cubes, and how to solve fail at solving them.

It was so much fun, entertaining, but also frustrating, because I didn’t solve it. At least this was true for almost all the people too. But I got really obsessed.

Too bad that I didn’t get my own cube in time, though. It should have arrived this day, but it didn’t. 🙁

Dinner

The dinner was, as usual, quite good, and I had interesting conversations with people from four different cities (and also two countries) about how they run their local meetup. As one of the organizers of the rather young local meetup in Aachen, Germany, I am really interested in input in this regard.

WordPress Quiz

The last official activity was an interactive WordPress quiz, led by quiz master Hans-Helge. And it was great, great fun!

The quiz had a nice mixture of questions, ranging from development- or code-related ones, over to community questions, to ones requiring wild guessing.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed at the end, because throughout the game, you could always see the TOP5 players, but then on the last slide, only the best three were displayed, and won prizes. … I happened to end up in fourth place. 😉

Drinks

To conclude the first conference day, quite a few people assembled at the bar for drinks and conversations.

Saturday: Contributing & BarCamp Day

The second conference day had both contributing and BarCamp action in its pockets. 😉

Contributing

After a—for me quick—breakfast, we all assembled in the great hall for the opening of the contributing time. This was a first, because usually this is happening as a separate contributor day.

However, contributing time in the middle of the WordCamp worked quite well, actually. Throughout the first day, people new to this kind of thing could be talked into going there. 😀 And there were quite a few people who had not been to a WordCamp, and thus no contributor day, before.

I spent my time at the Gutenberg table. After a short round of introductions, we split into two or three groups. I was in the more developer-centric one, where we talked about the architecture of Gutenberg itself, but also about the make-up of Gutenblocks. We also discussed the impact of Gutenberg, and being still in some kind of a pre-alpha state, when maintaining and kicking off new client projects, respectively.

We did not produce any visible results, but all of us learned quite a bit. And this is much more valuable, and may have a much more meaningful effect in the end, than just fixing one or two issues.

BarCamp Session Pitch

Then it was time for all willing attendees to pitch their ideas for possible talks, workshops, activities or whatever they had on their minds for the BarCamp time of the event.

There was quite some interest in sharing knowledge, so instead of only accepting as many talks as there were slots planned, the organizers just opened up new rooms. Three of them, which in the end meant six sessions more than initially scheduled. 🙂

As mentioned earlier, I actually pitched my React beginner workshop, and there were quite a few people interested. So … I really had to prepare something. 😀

By coincidence, one workshop host had to leave the event early, so there was actually an open 90-minutes slot on Sunday. This gave me (much) more time to prepare. Phew!

Lunch

I had my lunch in the summer sun with nice conversations about (organizing) WordCamps.

Multi-Network (Live Podcast Session)

The first BarCamp session I attended was one with an interesting format, which worked quite well for the in-room audience. Simon from the PressWerk podcast asked Felix to be his expert studio guest, and answer all sorts of questions about the (hidden) WordPress feature Multi-Network (aka Multi-Multisite).

There was an additional microphone for potential questions from the audience, … so I asked one about what is possible with WP-CLI with regard to Multi-Network functionality. 🙂

Freetime

Then I really took some time to just chill. And obviously a lot of the people did this (some time during the weekend). I mean, it is a retreat after all. 🙂

BBQ Dinner

In the evening, we had a fantastic BBQ dinner.

I had lots of interesting conversations, but went to my room rather early. Because I had to prepare that workshop. You know. That stupid-idea-turned-real one. 😀

Rubik’s Cube

After I decided it was good (enough) for now, I picked up my Rubik’s Cube, which just arrived that day.

And finally, at around 2 AM, I beat the cube! 😀

Good night! Zzzz…

Sunday: WordCamp Day 2

Oh noes! Last day of this very special event ahead…

Breakfast

I only had a quick (because late) breakfast, with interesting conversations nevertheless.

Workshop Preparation

The rest of the morning was spent on preparing the repository for my React workshop.

React Beginner Workshop

Then it was time for that very workshop. 🙂

There were a whopping 30-ish people, which was just awesome! And I think that some of these people actually liked what I had to share. 😉

After two of them, I can (and do!) say that workshops are the best experience! For everyone in the room, including me as instructor/host. That is one of the reasons why I am so much looking forward to WordCamp Europe, where I will be giving a three-hours workshop about unit testing. 🙂

Lunch

The lunch time was a bit of eating, and most of the time working on getting slightly sunburned. 😀

Closing Remarks

And then it was all over. 🙁

Looking back at the last days, and the planning of the event, was quite emotional.

Almost everyone seemed to have really liked the event so much.

Good news is that the next German WordCamp is already planned. On September 22, 2018, WordCamp Würzburg will invite all of us—yep, that is you too!—to be part of a superhero event. 🙂

Summary

That weekend was awesome. No, that is not enough. I have to say that my English is not good enough to express my feelings about this WordCamp. The word “awesome” seems over-used, and doesn’t really work. It was much better, in every possible way!

I really was looking forward to this event. But I also really was sceptical about a few things, for example, having two two-hour blocks each day where there is no knowledge exchange planned. I absolutely love and value networking. And I really like freetime activities. But I also like to share and gain knowledge, about WordPress, and all the related things. So I simply went for the surprise open-armed. And I did not get disappointed. Not at all!

WordCamp and retreat absolutely does work well together! And yes, I really would love to go to another WordCamp Retreat. In Germany, or in another nearby country. Thinking about Germany specifically, though, I wouldn’t plan for (or want) the next edition of this WordCamp in 2019 already. 2020 is a lot better, for various reasons.

What about you? How did you like it? Do you have any specific questions about this event, or the format? Or anything else to share? Let me know in the comments.

See you in Belgrade!? 🙂

2 Comments

  1. Thorsten – Thank you for your words!
    I can not explain my feelings, the our basic idea: „All in on space“, „In the Green“ and „More relaxing“ worked so well. I am impressed by how quickly the people at WordCamp came to feel that we were in the planning as a basis. Just to go into the room to freshen up and not have to lug much luggage. You only went with the room card for breakfast, in the pool, hiking or in the evening in the bar. Nice to have time for each other. Nice that you liked it too, thank you for your words.
    I got the WP-Blues

    Detlef

    1. It was a great success, and nothing led me (or anyone, potentially) to believe that this was a first-time event. Well done, well done! But yeah, I understand that I took quiiite a bit of time, in the last one and a half years…!

      I got the WP-Blues

      Oh, I feel it too! 🙂

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