WordCamp Europe 2016 Recap – Good times with friends

WordCamp Europe 2016

WordCamp Europe 2016 is over – well, not quite for me, according to a saying that says it’s not over until you blog about it. A year after my first WordCamp, it was coming back to the continental WordCamp which certainly raised the bar for those to come.

WordCamp Europe (a.k.a. WCEU) this year was held in Vienna, Austria from June 24-26, with an announced attendance count of about 2400 people – the largest WordCamp yet. It also had Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little, both co-founders of WordPress, attend their first WordCamp together in years. And it also had all the six lead developers of the project as well. It was held only a few days before the first beta of WordPress 4.6. It also had Wiener Schnitzel and other Vienna gourmet food per the location. A lot of perks here, so the expectations were high, and they were certainly met, maybe even more.

Arrival and Pre-WordCamp

I arrived in Vienna on Wednesday, two days before the WordCamp itself would start. There were quite a few events planned in advance and I also wanted to take some time to explore Vienna where I had not been before. Walking out of the gate at the airport, I heard someone call my name – it was Annette who I had met last year and who I see regularly at my local WordPress Meetup in Cologne. I hadn’t expected to meet someone that early – it turned out that she was waiting for a friend and had also seen through Twitter that I was on my way as well. A few minutes later we were joined by Aloisia from Sweden and fellow Germans Florian (check out his great photos) and Ulya who had actually been on the same flight as I had been. We shared a taxi to the city, and each of us got to their hotels / Airbnb.

The Food…

After getting settled in the Airbnb (which I shared with Sven who would arrive a little later during the day), I met up with Annette and Thomas to grab something to eat. We went to B-Mäx as a German TV chef had recommended that place – and it certainly was worth every penny. The meal, including a starter, was only 7,90€, prices almost like McDonald’s, but quality like a higher class restaurant – I had no idea how they are able to do that. After lunch, we bought a prepaid SIM card and then walked over to the Museumsquartier, the location which would house the WordCamp. We were soon joined by Christian and Elisabeth from Germany and hung out there for the afternoon. We also met Adam, who had arrived from Florida earlier – turned out that he was born in Michigan, so I had plenty to talk about with him (I have an American host-family in Michigan).

For dinner, we of course wanted to get an original Wiener Schnitzel (for those who do not know, “Wiener” is the German term for “Viennese”), so we went to the Figlmüller – the place for Wiener Schnitzel. It was delicious – and accompanied by a not-less delicious potato and lamb’s lettuce salad mix. I actually wasn’t sure which part of the meal I liked better. We finished the night with a beer at the MQdaily, a small cafe at the Museumsquartier. I had planned to prepare for the upcoming days (WordCamps usually mean a lack of sleep), so it was good that we called it a day not too late, around 1am.

Prepared and Pumped

The next morning I woke up. The next afternoon I woke up. I had actually slept more than 11 hours which I haven’t done in months. For some reason, I was really happy about that – it’s the little things, and now I knew I was up for great times. Even though WordCamps are always an amazing thing, you’re easily worn out by the lack of sleep you usually have – not this time! I was pumped for WCEU 2016.

At about 2pm Sven and I attended the volunteer introduction as we were part of the team that would take care of the warm-up evening later in the day. After the introduction we walked over to a close-by park to join the WCEU picnic, another one of the warm-up events. It was great to see Francesca from Italy again, as well as meeting new people from all over the world there. After some food there, some of us went to Cafe Mozart – for more food obviously, as we were looking forward to have an Apfelstrudel.

We later walked back to the Museumsquartier and relaxed there with a few other Germans, waiting for the warmup evening to start – yes, the German bubble was there again. The warmup evening was a very loose event – it was essentially a get-together for the attendees of the WordCamp, right in the square of the Museumsquartier, to get to know new people, chat about WordPress and other stuff. I met several new people that night, among them @rarst who had almost cancelled his trip because he had been sick – I’m glad he didn’t. Again, it was a great night with several acquaintances and a decent amount of drinks – no hangovers, no lack of sleep. Awesome. The next day would finally be WCEU time.

Day 1

I was ready for WordCamp Europe 2016! We went to see the opening remarks and got right into the action with a session on a more “Connected WordPress” by Gary Pendergast. After that, it was good to see Dominik and Pascal again, German / Swiss Core committers (Dominik is also the release lead of version 4.6). We talked a little about recent development and about the fact that it would only be five more days until Beta 1 of version 4.6 (which also means at that point no enhancements or features will go in anymore). In the conversation, Pascal pitched me a secret that one can transform an enhancement into a task if it doesn’t get ready in time. Dominik gave him a cautioning look for it. Well, now I know! 🙂 (To clarify, please don’t.)

Later that morning I had a completely nonsense cameo on WP Sofa, a German WordPress podcast. After that I suddenly heard there was a new session “Decision making in WordPress Core Development”, a talk by Mike Schroeder (release lead of version 4.5), which hadn’t originally been on the schedule as it replaced another talk. It provided some interesting insights into Core development, a lot of it focussing on the specific example of the Shiny Updates feature project which aims at modernizing the WordPress updating processes (large parts of it were merged into WordPress Core for version 4.6, yay!). A little later, it was time for the annual Q&A with Matt Mullenweg – this time as an interview with Brian Krogsgard as host. By the way, the location was packed. Originally the WordCamp had been planned for about 1400 attendees if I recall that right, so we were almost a 1000 more. That’s also why it would take us several minutes in the queue to get our lunch.

In the afternoon, I met up with Juliette to talk about her efforts to get a feature project for plugin dependencies in WordPress going (she also works on the TGMPA project which is closely related). We had been chatting about this before as this is something I would truly welcome. However, I also see that it’s a huge task which must be well-thought and envisioned – it shouldn’t affect users as they would be confused by it, and it would also need to integrate with wordpress.org well – a major change in the infrastructure. We certainly have to be patient with this, but I hope it’s gonna get more feedback some time soon.

During the day, I had been looking out for Jeremy and Jonny, the two Multisite people that I have had regular chats with during the past few months as I’ve been contributing to the Multisite component of WordPress quite a bit. Jeremy, Core committer and component maintainer of the Multisite component, joined us in the plugin dependency discussion, providing some feedback from the Core side. After that we walked over to Leopold Museum, the other part of the WordCamp location, where we ran into Jonny who has also contributed a lot to Multisite recently. It was great to finally be able to talk to these amazing people in person to discuss our recent efforts and the future of Multisite, so that’s what we did for the rest of the afternoon. Unfortunately this would cause me to miss Caspar’s great session on plugin UI – fortunately he turned it into a blog post and I would recommend every plugin author to read it as well. Not only is he a great speaker, but the topic is also a reminder that we as plugin authors should integrate well into the WordPress ecosystem – and how we should do it.

Later we walked back to the main entrance of the venue where we were joined by a few other WordPressers, among them Daniel (maintainer of WP-CLI) who I had been in a call with a week earlier related to his Kickstarter project for a more RESTful WP-CLI, so it was nice to meet him personally now. They were looking for something to have for dinner. I asked whether they had already had Wiener Schnitzel, which they denied – guess where we went. Figlmüller all over again! After dinner we went to the SiteGround party where I met more people who have been doing awesome work on either the WordPress community or Core development – or maybe even both. I was there until around midnight, then I left to go back to the Airbnb. However, asking where Sven was at, it turned out he and a few other friends I already knew wanted to go to a bar right by our Airbnb. So I took another beer there before actually calling it a day. Again, great night with not too many drinks. Really, I’m not emphasizing this because I’m an alcoholic, but because at most recent WordCamps, people have been drinking a lot of beer every night. 🙂

Day 2

The second day of the WordCamp would be opened with an event not seen before. Helen Hou-Sandí gave an outstanding performance on the piano, introducing her session “Code is Poetry: A Musician’s Tale” which highlighted how music as an art has similarities to coding, and even more, how there are skills that you can benefit from in both these areas. The performance gave me goosebumps at times – it was a stellar moment of the WordCamp.

Helen Hou-Sandi opening day 2 of #wceu – goosebumps! #CodeIsPoetry

A photo posted by Felix Arntz (@felixarntz) on

Later this morning I attended two interesting sessions on the REST API both of which provided quite some value for me. There have been many introductory talks on it around for a while, but these two highlighted different aspects of it. The second day had more interesting sessions for me personally – I also attended and can certainly recommend Nacin’s session on maintaining legacy projects (guess which one he talked about), Daniel’s session with the title “My condolences, you’re now the maintainer of a popular open-source project” (I leave it at that, you should check it out on wordpress.tv) or Pascal’s session where he talked about the path he went, starting out as a blogger, to become a WordPress Core committer.

At the end of day 2, Petya hosted the closing remarks for the event. It’s incredible how they pulled this large event off. Remember, I was mourning about there were too many people for the location so that one had to wait for lunch quite a while – the second day, just like magic, the queue was gone. Neither the location nor the number of attendees had changed, but somehow the organizing team and the volunteers had managed to arrange lunch in a better way so that there were no queues at all! This is supposed to be a small example of all the lovely things they took care of to make WordCamp Europe 2016 a blast. Another example would still follow – as the closing remarks were not the end of day 2. We would still see the after party which I was really looking forward to.

Per the tradition, during the closing remarks, the location for next year’s WordCamp Europe was revealed: The 2017 event will be held from June 16-18 in Paris, France – yes! Living so close to France, I have been there several times, but I’ve never been to Paris for some reason. So I was happy they chose that location.

The #WCEUBall

If you didn’t attend the WordCamp… yes, you read that right. The after party of WordCamp Europe 2016 was special as it would be held under the above hashtag. It had previously been announced and all attendees were asked to dress up – bring suits, dresses, bowties and all that. While this caused confusion with several attendees who didn’t want to dress up (especially because it was incredibly hot during the conference days), I really liked the idea. We were in Vienna, so a ball is the way to go here. 🙂 Of course, being open-source as we are, there was no actual dress-code. But at the event it made me happy to see how many people had actually dressed up.

And showed off their dresses before.

The party would turn out to be a lot of fun. It was the usual procedures, but all fancy. Chatting, dancing, drinking, posing for stupid photos – it was all there. I mostly chat to all the people that I had been hanging out with the previous days as well, only this time the conversations slowly moved from being development-related to beer-related to gibberish. Okay, you see what I mean. Jeremy, Jonny and I talked about Multisite some more, and during the first and second stage (dev → beer → gibberish) Jeremy introduced us to @nacin, it was great to meet him. A little later, the circumstances were already quite different as you might possibly recognize from these awesome pictures of a part of the German bubble.

Later that night, Matt also showed up and apparently had quite a few drinks as well. It was nice to meet Andrea, a German-learning Automattician from the US who told Thomas and me interesting stories about her history with Germany and how she used to make music together with Matt – switching between German and English in basically every other sentence was challenging as well.

By the end of the night, we got kicked out of the location. Vienna is apparently the city for a ball, but not for partying hard till dawn. 🙂 But it wasn’t too bad, no-one complained and we were glad to be able to catch some sleep – Contributor Day lurking.

Day 3 – Contributor Day

The next morning, although a little hungover, Sven and I got up in time and were looking forward for Contributor Day.

Now only three days until feature freeze in WordPress Core, I was excited to continue working on the latest enhancements to hopefully get some of them merged. Therefore I joined the Core team, although I was troubled after I found out that there was also a plugin review team for the first time. I really was interested in how that works as well – hopefully there’ll be another time at a future WordCamp soon. A thing I love about these large WordCamps is that, for any area of contributing, there’s at least one expert around to get you started. Our German strength there is especially the Polyglots team, with both Birgit and Bego having important roles there.

It was nice to actually work on Multisite directly collaborating with the people you usually just chat with. We still had 11 open enhancements to either finish in three days or punt to the next version of WordPress, so it was quite something to do. One of them was a little tricky because of backwards-compatibility issues, so we just asked around for opinions – that’s what a Contributor Day is so great for. By the end of the day, we had some of the changes merged – and I personally took away 5 props in a day, a record for me (which I actually broke two days later with 6 props in a day 🙂 ).

Almost at the end of the day, I had a short conversation with Helen, praising her piano performance from the other day and chatting about our passion for Nicki Minaj which was pretty funny.

After the Contributor Day, I met up with Thomas, Phillip, Annette and Christian and we went to a great place called “Ribs of Vienna” – oh my, the food was great and it was just so much! Everyone had three stacks of ribs and was free to choose distinct kinds of marinades for each – unfortunately they failed to bring me the ones I ordered (they only got 2 out of 3 right), so they left me the wrong one as well, promising to prepare the kind I had actually ordered in addition. So I had 4. I haven’t had so much food in a very, very long time. We were later joined by Birgit as well, but she ordered something else when she saw how full we already were. 🙂

After dinner, we walked up to the rooftop bar of the 25hours hotel that Adam had told us about a few days before. It was a nice and relaxed way to end the WordCamp, although I wasn’t satisfied with the cocktails they had, especially when considering the high price. There were actually quite a few people hanging out there that had also attended the WordCamp, like Ralf and Jan, Alex and Robert from Inpysde, and I also ran into Tom from Automattic who I had met a year before at WordCamp Europe 2015, so it was nice to get a refresh on him. It was actually similar with Ralf who is an active member in the WordPress Community, but he is a digital nomad travelling around the world, so I had only seen him at the last WordCamp Europe as well.

On our way to the rooftop bar, Annette, Christian and I walked by a violinist playing in the streets of Vienna. Annette liked this so much that she left us there and spent the rest of the night listening. Part of me wished I had remained there as well – see for yourself. The following is the best way to finish this post, so I’ll leave it at that. See you next year in Paris.

One thought on “WordCamp Europe 2016 Recap – Good times with friends

  • THX for your story… make me remembering our good times in vienna last year 😀 happy looking forward to WCLDN17 and WCEU17 😀

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