Phew…I finally get down to writing my post on WordCamp India (#wci on Twitter). This was held on 21-22 February 2009 (the first day of WCI was clashing with the second day of freed.in) at the Adobe India office in Noida. WordCamp is conference similar to BarCamp (except for the ‘un’ bit) for WordPress users. The organizers hit jackpot by getting the founder of WordPress Matt Mullenweg himself to come for the event – along with top blogger Om Malik of GigaOm fame. We had free WiFi courtesy Adobe so a lot of us did live tweeting / live blogging there. (Signing on to that network was another story. We all had to read agree to a long EULA, sign up for a guest account on the Adobe network. All pretty cool, when you consider that their network was rock solid.) Guess what? Our collective effort made it the most discussed topic on Twitter throughout the world on both days! You can check out all tweets tagged #wci related to WordCamp India on Twitter. I’ve also uploaded photos from WordCamp India in my photo gallery here (mostly contributed by Prashanth), and you can see photos clicked by other people at WordCamp India here.
WordCamp India – Day 1
Reached the Adobe office somewhat late because I had trouble finding where it was. Once you know what it looks like it’s kinda hard to miss because of the funky color scheme the building has (see picture above). The souvenir we got turned out to be…pencils. Now that was a dampner. But they were also giving out WordPress tattoos, stickers and badges. I had one tattoo of Mozilla Firefox on one cheek (from MozillaCamp Delhi). At WordCamp, I got some WordPress tattoos, the other cheek was populated soon.
Some called me ‘cheeky’ (pun intended), but everyone did recognize me as ‘The Tattoo Guy’ – including Matt Mullenweg. I was also wearing multiple multi-coloured badges. You see, when these goodies are distributed people jump on them as if they’re hungry refugees getting aid from the World Food Programme – as evidenced by how greedily they were ‘attacking’ the box where the badges etc to be distributed. Yet, not a single person apart from me bothered to actually wear these. (Even for that matter, nobody other than me used the stickers given at MozillaCamp Delhi.) Love it? Flaunt it! When you’re a user of an open source project it is your duty to be an evangelist. There is no corporation full of moneybags to sponsor any publicity. YOU, as a user of open source software, have to contribute in any way you can.
(This is the same sick mentality as those who order multiple Ubuntu CDs via ShipIt – or forget multiple, even single CDs for that matter – and never bother to distribute / use them. Morons. A lot of money goes into that programme. The least you can do is have a conscience and not misuse it if you plan to sit on the CD like a hen for eternity.)
On Day 1 there were around 200 people who were attending – most of them bloggers. I found it surprising that hardly any developers were present. Sessions on Day 1 were:
- Keynote session by Om Malik; welcome session by Twilight Fairy: I missed both these because I reached the venue late.
Implementing a radio site using WP (by Shreyas): This session was about how RadioVerve customized WordPress (the website currently runs on that). I refused to listen to this session on principle – because he had used Comic Sans font for displaying code in his presentation.
- How to get started after installing WordPress (by Abhijeet Mukherjee): This was a useful session for those who hadn’t used WordPress – and quite surprisingly there were quite a few of these folks. The presentations touched base with the most important stuff and was a good beginners’ guide to WordPress.
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(Partial video of Matt Mullenweg’s “State of the Word” session)
State of the Word (by Matt Mullenweg): Matt Mullenweg spoke of how WordPress started of, it’s current state, and where it’s headed. The quick history lesson included screenshots from a bygone era when WordPress was young, goofy photos of Matt, photos from other WordCamps, statistics et al. There was this one photo of Matt from when he was in high school – and very geeky looking.
Implementing SEO in your WP blog (by Abhinav Gulyani): Totally lame session. It prompted a many to comment that screening of speakers should have been done at WordCamp, apart from inspiring many caustic tweets. I’d have given a howlarious picture here if it wasn’t for SlideShare not working properly. Even the presentation he used was copied from here!
You can see the presentation which Abhinav gave here. That bring me to my other point – too many people seem to be using boobs to get a point across. Now now, I’m not complaining against hallowed traditions such as booth babes at CES (or any expo) but inserting pictures of Ah-Tah every second slide doesn’t make sense. That guy didn’t even have the balls to show this slide! (As soon as he came to this slide, he switched to the next one and ended his presentation.)
Optimizing Google AdSense on your WP blog (by Amit Agarwal): ‘Labnol’ gave an excellent presentation on pointers to keep in mind while monetizing your blog. Since everyone wants money this session was a hit – with ‘studious kids’ taking down notes on what to do.
WordCamp India Quiz (by me!): Thanks to Abhishek and Mayank, who allowed me to hold this session. I conducted a quiz mostly on WordPress and Twitter, with a few questions on blogging in general. You can download the WordCamp India Quiz presentation here. Unfortunately there were no prizes to give away so the audience was kinda not enthusiastic – and Ubuntu went nuts trying to connect to the project, I think because there was a KVM switcher. What I was seeing on my laptop wasn’t what was appearing on screen and I had no way of interacting with elements shown on project via laptop. I could run the presentation somehow. Hit a snag when I wanted to conduct the 6by9 round of WordCamp India quiz (the questions were – 1. Codenames of WordPress releases 2. Blogs currently owned by Gawker Media) So I had to show it directly from the laptop while running around the seminar hall. (Note to self: Send a letter to the developers of Xrandr containing loads of choice expletives.)
- Open house discussion with Matt and Om: Matt Mullenweg and Om Malik spoke about how they started of with blogging – basically a session where you could ask questions to them. They’d been giving press interviews when my quiz session was going on, so this open house was an opportunity for the aam junta to interact.
Then came the time for photo-ops. The level of patience that Matt, Om, and other ‘star bloggers’ like Amit Agarwal showed was commendable. They obliged anyone who asked for autographs and / or photographs – usually, both. Wearing those Firefox and WordPress tattoos got me quite a lot of attention. While everyone else was asking Matt “Can I get a pic clicked with you?”, Matt was asking me “Can I get a pic clicked with you?”. [big grin] 😀 (I’d gone to ask him about what direction Automattic was taking BuddyPress and BBPress. He said that by the end of 2009 they’ll either stop development of BBPress or revamp it radically. BuddyPress is still in RC1 stage, of course.)
WordCamp India – Day 2
Day 2 got off to a lazy start with the turnout dropping significantly. Those who didn’t come on day 2 missed a lot though. Socializing (networking, if you may) was much more on day 2 because of the smaller set of people who turned up (but largely because people were getting bored waiting for the event to start).
- WordPress as CMS for business sites (by Ravish Ahuja)
- Turning your WordPress blog into a business (by Ankesh Kothari)
- Personal galleries and social networks with WordPress and Adobe AIR (by Aditya Mukherjee): He didn’t make much sense. Seemed as if he had too much coffee and was as strung out as Tweek is. (“Oh jeez, this is too much pressure man!”) You can see his presentation here.(About the previous two sessions, I hadn’t paid much attention to those. You see, I had problems installing Adobe AIR on Linux before going to WordCamp. I was at the Adobe office, so I casually tweeted about it. I got a reply from Adobe guys who were present there within minutes. I downloaded and installed AIR again with some apps…and it worked without a glitch! Earlier, I always had to authenticate using gksudo whenever an AIR app was launched.)
- Writing WordPress plugins (by Kartik Bala): Interesting session for developers, but there were hardly any in the audience. (= “many people slipped away to have a cup of coffee”)
- WordPress.tv (by Matt Mullenweg): Matt spoke about the WordPress tutorial site WordPress.tv. He arrived late in the day – after lunch – for this.
WordPress feature suggestion contest: Attendees were asked to fill up sheets giving suggestions about what can be improved and / or included in WordPress in the future. Mitesh Ashar suggested better inline debugging tools. He won the first prize – a calculator that runs on water. (You fill up tiny little cells with water – I dunno if it’s hydrogen cell.) I suggested that WordPress should have built-in support for video uploading and embedding. Right now, embedding videos is a convoluted process in WordPress. First you upload the video on some site, then install a plugin which allows you to use WP shortcodes to embed those videos. I suggested that if something like Vimeo (which provides an upload API) could be used then a blogger can upload a video and embed it from within the WordPress interface. I got the second prize for this – one of those mugs which changes colour when you pour hot liquid into it. Which is nice, except for the colour. Mitesh wanted the mug, so we decided to exchange our prizes.
Edit: Automattic actually implemented my suggestion! They have recently launched a new upgrade for WordPress.com users called VideoPress. w00t!
- Adobe AIR (by Adobe representatives): If found this session interesting* but many others didn’t. I think this is partly because another Tweek-kid was giving a jittery presentation, but the content was good. They spoke about Adobe AIR as a platform.*I wasn’t influenced by the fact that I got a chocolate for answering a question. (“What does ‘AIR’ stand for?”)
- Panel discussion on ‘Will blogs replace mainstream media’ (moderated by Rajiv Dhingra of Watblog, NOT; participants were Matt, Om, Madhavan N [Associate Editor, HT], and one other minion editor from Times of India): Quickly turned into an Om vs The Jholawallahs fight, with the ‘mainstream media’ guys so totally not getting the point of blogging. Matt Mullenweg got totally bored and hardly participated in this session; towards the end he couldn’t bear it any more and started signalling to the organizers to end the discussion.
- Interactive talk on intellectual property rights and amended IT Act (by Pavan Duggal, one of India’s foremost lawyers on cyber-law): By far the session second-best speaker at WordCamp, after Matt Mullenweg. He was open to questions from the audience and brought up some really interesting questions. He also discussed a few interesting case studies on cyber-law in India.
Soon it was time for goodbyes. The event came to an end with a group photo, and lots of business card / Twitter handle exchanging. It was a real pleasure meeting up with so many bloggers all across India – even more to interact personally with Matt Mullenweg, the guy who started the software project which this blogs runs on (just like millions of other ones in the blogosphere). Amit Agarwal has uploaded a large group photo on Flickr in which practically everyone who was present on day 2 is there (the photo is tagged with names).