Knoxville WordPress Meetup

In August, I went to St. Louis to meet with members of my team at Automattic. Among the many fun things we did while there, we (some 20 of us) descended upon the St. Louis WordCamp. For the person-and-a-half who reads this blog and doesn’t know what a WordCamp is (of the maybe four people who read the blog, period), it’s an inexpensive conference at which people convene to learn about WordPress. Like any conference, a WordCamp hosts speakers who know a bit about what they’re talking about, and then others give of their time to volunteer to staff the event. Still others spend their time and money attending the event. In St. Louis, the audience seemed pretty varied. I spoke to people who simply wanted a little help setting up their blogs, and of course many in attendance knew a great deal about the guts of WordPress.

At the end of the day, WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg stopped by and did a Q&A, and during this hour or so of candid chat, a humbling thought occurred to me: These people had organized themselves around a set of products and services that I’m fortunate enough to have the privilege of working on. Let me frame that a little differently. Imagine you work for a company that makes widgets. One day, you learn that people all over the world are spending great effort and money from their own pockets to gather voluntarily and talk enthusiastically about your widgets. Even if you’re passionate about fabricating widgets, it’s still kind of amazing to think that people like your widgets enough to assemble and talk about them as if they were, well, important, valuable, enriching. It was a great feeling to bring away from that WordCamp.

For those not lucky enough to have WordCamps organized in their necks of the woods, there are of course WordPress meetups, which are less formal, typically free, smaller gatherings of WordPress enthusiasts and users. Inspired by my experience in St. Louis, I decided after my return home to set up a WordPress meetup of my own. And then I promptly let it sit untended.

My neglect was based on a few things:

  • I’ve never been to a WordPress meetup and don’t know exactly what goes on there or how to run one.
  • I’m generally very shy.
  • Although I’ve used WordPress off and on (mostly on) for many years now, I hadn’t done much recent development on the platform. Even my job with Automattic sees me working more on the non-standard bits of the code than on the core code. So although I’m in the position of someone who might seem to be something of an authority on WordPress, there’s still a whole lot that I don’t know. Accordingly, I fear that as the putative authority founding a meetup group, I’ll fall far short of expectations.

Bah, excuses, excuses. Today, I’ve bitten the bullet and scheduled the first actual meetup gathering for the group I hope to start. So far, three people (including me) are members of the group, and I’m the only one who’s RSVP’d. If you happen to be a Knoxville blogger, developer, or designer (or anything else) who’s interested in WordPress, I hope you’ll visit the meetup page and consider keeping me from being lonely at the event I’ve scheduled for a few weeks hence. If anybody shows up, we’ll do introductions, get a feel for where people’s experience/comfort with WordPress is generally oriented, and try to figure out where to go next.