WordCamp Europe 2023 – A different perspective on the biggest WordPress event

I’m writing this blog post while I’m still in Greece. This year, I experienced the WordCamp in a different role. In 2017, I’ve joined the organizing team and continued to organize all in-person events until last year. But for the event in Athens, I had a different role.

My first trip to Greece

As so often in the past years, I got the chance to visit a new country through a WordCamp. This was my very first trip to Greece and therefore also my first visit to Athens. It started on Friday two weeks ago. We spent some time sightseeing. Visiting the Acropolis was a must for me, and the experience as worth it! But Athens has a whole lot more to offer. Not only ancient and historic sites, but also great food.

Working remotely

Since joining Inpsyde in October, I now have the freedom to work from all around the world. And since Athens is only 1 hour ahead of Berlin, it was easy to get some work done from Monday-Wednesday. Some other Inpsyder arrived Wednesday evening, and we met for a nice dinner.

Thursday: Contributor Day

Just like in previous edition, WordCamp Europe started with the Contributor Day. I had to organize some things in the morning, so I also arrived after the groups were already found. I’ve joined the “Meta + WordCamp” table, trying to work a bit on the ticket I’ve started back at WordCamp Asia in February. But since I’ve been invited to talk on a panel, I also took some time to discuss the topics with two other panelists. Right after that I had to leave, to change the hotel. So over all, the Contributor Day was not as effective as I hoped it would be.

In the evening, I was invited to “The Social” as a speaker. It was a good chance to meet some old friends and make some new ones.

Friday: The first conference Day

Even though I was 10 min late, I didn’t miss the opening remarks. Wendie, the Volunteers Team Lead, dressed up as a unicorn, to prepare the audience for the opening remarks:

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Right after the opening remarks, I went to the first talk.

Test instead of guessing – generate more leads through growth hacking

This talk was given by my colleague Viola. Even though it’s not something I have to deal with in my job, it is a fascinating topic and Viola prepared it perfectly! You could feel that she burns for that topic, and you would not believe, this was her first talk at a WCEU (or any other event that size).

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After this first slot, I met again with the other panelists, and we finalized our topics for Saturday we want to talk about and also prepared some answers for questions, that might come up. After lunch, I attended a round of three lightning talks about AI.

Take your WordPress website to another level using AI translation

Dario gave a brief introduction into the issue of translations and why it’s important to translate a site into different languages, as it extends your potential customer base. He also talked about the different solutions there are right now to translate a WordPress site, and why it’s crucial for those solutions to integrate translations AIs.

Innovating inclusion: harnessing AI for accessibility

The second lightning talk held by Sarah focussed on accessibility and how AI can help to improve it. She showed some tools that can automatically test for accessibility issues of your website. She also mentioned a service that provides a WordPress plugin, but it is using an accessibility overlay, something I personally don’t recommend, as it most often can’t solve accessibility issues successfully.

Content creation with the help of AI

The final lightning talk of this round was held by the German community member, Silvio. I think it was his first WCEU talk, and you could tell he was nervous. But he shows a fascinating case study about an experiment, where he had a human and an AI writing about the same topics and comparing the conversion rates of the two pages, in which the AI beat the human. I hope this is not going to be a trend.

Women and non-binary folx of WordPress

After these talks in track 1, I rushed into track 2 to watch a panel with some amazing folx from the WordPress community, talking about their personal experiences as women or non-binary community members. There were some great ideas, one of them regarding Q&A after talks. They proposed, that they should be optional, and I really like that idea. I hope some upcoming WordCamps will experience with that.

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You say you support women in tech

The last talk of the day was held by Amy in which she shared some truly personal stories of being a single mom, woman in IT who also experienced domestic violence. She gave some really good tips for all companies that really want to support women in tech. This is the kind of talks I want to see at a flagship event.

In the evening, I was invited to multiple parties, but I only managed to join the “Pride” party, co-organized by Yoast and which I also attended in Bangkok.

Saturday: the second conference day

I started my second day a bit later and used the time before my panel to visit some sponsors and meet some more people. Then it was about time to get ready for my first panel (talk) on a WordCamp Europe.

WCEU Globals: future of WCEU

I shared the stage with Lesley, Taeke, Rocío, Moncho and Tess, the former Global Leads of WCEU 2020 – 2022. Unfortunately, Jonas couldn’t join us in Athens on stage. We talked about many different aspects of organizing an event this size and some of the things we would like to see in the future. I still don’t know if I would join a future organizing team, but I am open to become a mentor for future generations of organizers, just as all the other Global Leads.

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Right after the panel, we all went outside for the obligatory family photo. Look how many people attended this year’s event – and made it on time for the photo 😉

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After lunch, I mainly talked to other attendees and visited some more sponsors. Somehow I almost forgot to collect any swag. Then it was time for the final session.

Variations on a theme: 20 years of WordPress

Following the tradition of WordCamp Europe, Matt also had a session. He was joined on stage by Josepha and Matías. They talked about Gutenberg phases 3 and 4, the Community Summit, and showed some fascinating things that are coming in the future. There was also enough time for attendees to ask some general questions. When the question around multilingual came up, which is only scheduled for phase 4, the audience was asked, who does not speak English as a first language, and it felt like everyone raised their hands. Matt also told us to “learn AI deeply”, well kind of 😉 He also almost spoiled where WCEU will be next year ?

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Closing remarks

But announcing the next year is something, that always rounds up the event. But before that, the organizing team was called on stage, followed by all volunteers. Then the moment everyone was finally there, the announcement of the next host city. Here is the video. SPOILER ALERT! Don’t read the tweet text 😉

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So we are going to meet in Torino, Italy. I had the pleasure to visit Torino through their local WordCamp back in 2017. It’s a beautiful city with amazing food! So make sure to join us there!

The after party

As I had to wake up really early the next day to catch a ferry, I didn’t have the chance to be at the after party too long. I first met the other Inpsyders for a quick dinner and then joined the crowd for about 90 min. The venue reminded me a bit about Sofia. It was really loud insides, so many attendees just occupied the area before the main entrance and enjoyed the warm evening temperatures.

Some vacation

As this was may very first trip to Greece, and I also usually spend a full week for a WordCamp Europe, we booked for another week in Greece. We took a ferry to Ikaria on Sunday, and left for Kos Friday. Today we flew back to Berlin, full of memories.

A different WordCamp Europe

As this was my first WordCamp Europe not as an organizer, for quite a while, and it felt really different. Following the tradition, I did my Local Lead -> Global Lead -> Speaker cycle and can now retire. I won’t join the next organizing team, as there are some other things in my life that will be important in the time to the next WordCamp Europe. I might not even be able to attend myself. But if I can, I will either be courageous enough to apply for a regular talk, or at least apply as a volunteer, which I only did once back in 2016. So whatever the future will have for me, we see each other in Tornio … or wherever it will be in 2025 ?

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Bernhard is a full time web developer who likes to write WordPress plugins in his free time and is an active member of the WP Meetups in Berlin and Potsdam.

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