This report is part of a series of articles on Denver WordCamp 2013, held Nov.16-17. The event attracted hundreds of local WordPress devotees who gathered to soak in a weekend of shop talk about the popular blogging platform. For reports on some of the sessions, see the index at right. → → →


Denver WordCamp 2013:
Spreading the gospel of WordPress

I

f you dabble in website creation, odds are you’ve bumped into WordPress. In fact, according to WordPress inventor Matt Mullenweg, nearly 20 percent of all the websites in the world are now running on the pervasive blogging platform. And Colorado is apparently no exception.

Corrinda Campbell

Corrinda Campbell

A sellout crowd of more than 250 web enthusiasts turned out last month for Denver WordCamp 2013, a grueling 1½-day marathon of presentations that ran the gamut from newbies to grand masters.

WordPress, an open source blogging platform, debuted just 10 years ago and has since rocketed to one of the most widely-used web tools in the world. It currently powers more than 70 million websites produced in more than 120 languages — including our own RockyMountainTechLine.com. WordPress sites are responsible for a mind-numbing 4 billion page views this year alone.

WordPress Camps are not new. The first one was held in San Francisco in 2006. Since then, the camps, organized by local volunteers, have been held on every continent except Antarctica. Some 350 camps will be held around the globe this year. According to Corrinda Campbell, a co-organizer of the Denver camp, this year’s event was the fourth held in Colorado since 2009.

“I got involved in the few weeks leading up to the 2012 event and staffed it with volunteers and ended up facilitating the event,” says Campbell. “That’s how I got started as one of the lead organizers for WordCamp Denver 2013.”

Campbell, along with co-organizer Drew Jaynes, also runs the Denver WordPress Meetup group. That group hosts regular meetings that attract hundreds of WordPress developers, designers and users anxious to discuss the latest tricks of the trade.

WordPress was introduced in 2003 by Matt Mullenweg, then a 19-year-old student from Houston, TX, and Mike Little, a software developer in Stockport, U.K., a town just south of Manchester. The two collaborated long-distance to expand upon an earlier blogging platform called “b2 cafelog.”

Matt Mullenweg

Matt Mullenweg

In the years that followed, WordPress continued to improve and expand, and in December of 2005, Mullenweg founded Automattic, Inc., which today serves as the company framework for the software. In 2007, Mullenweg was ranked number 16 on PC World magazine’s list of the “50 Most Important People on the Web.” At 23, he was also the youngest on the list.

The following year, WordPress.com was racking up 90 million page views a month and the company managed to raise $30 million in capital. The rest is history: WordPress today is the most popular content management system in use on the Internet … and Mullenweg’s net worth is estimated at $40 million.

Mullenweg also spawned the WordPress Foundation, a charitable organization he founded “to further the mission of the WordPress open source project: to democratize publishing through Open Source, GPL software.”

It is the WordPress Foundation that provides support for local WordCamps. All of the money from sponsors and ticket sales is invoiced and processed through the foundation. It also provides guidance, video equipment, promotional materials and other support services for local organizers.

Campbell is thrilled with the turnout for the Denver event and she is already working on WordCamp 2014.

“From the feedback we received throughout the day I believe we can declare WordCamp Denver 2013 a success,” she says. “This year we exceeded our attendance goals and provided a comfortable environment for people to network, collaborate and learn more about WordPress.”

Next year, she expects to grow the event by another 50-75 seats and possibly add another half day of sessions.

The 2013 event, held Nov.16-17 at the PPA Event Center, ran two parallel tracks on the first day — one for “Bloggers, Business and Beginning Users” and one for “Developers and Designers.” The second day was “Community/Contributor Day,” which brought both audiences together to discuss strategies to improve WordPress and ways to strengthen the Colorado WordPress community.

The popularity of WordPress stems from its flexibility: it is as simple as it is complex.

For a rank beginner, WordPress can jumpstart a blog or website with practically no technical knowledge at all. Its built-in themes and plugins provide an instant framework that can hatch a web presence in as little as a single day.

For experienced developers, access to the core structure and files of WordPress opens a treasure trove of customization opportunities. With PHP, HTML, CSS, Javascript and other programming languages, developers can make WordPress jump through an infinite variety of hoops.

Satisfying neophytes and coding virtuosos alike — and all ranks between — is a seemingly insurmountable challenge for a 1½-day conference. But Denver WordCamp 2013 delivered a creditable effort.

“If we can affect a change in how a person uses WordPress for his or her own website, or help a WordPress professional get to a new level, then we’ve done our job,” says Campbell. “And I feel that we accomplished that goal this year.”

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