One of my proudest professional achievements was selecting and wrangling speakers for three years of WordCamp Edinburgh. Over the past week, videos of 2017’s talks and most of 2018’s talks have been posted at wordpress.tv.
Selecting, and by definition, rejecting prospective speakers is tough. It takes patience, wisdom, balance, politics, and a table covered in post-it notes. It’s mentoring the mice, taming the lions, and clipping the wings of the seagulls. It’s remembering your backup speakers and your backup backup speakers. It’s working within a team of spectacularly talented lunatics who all get on with their roles – swag, catering, A/V – to deliver a deceptively seamless experience for attendees. It ends with a few days of putting 15k steps on your feet within a single floor of a building. And, yes, you’re doing this all unpaid and voluntarily, for a project which you can’t help but notice doesn’t value you for it anymore.
But if you and your team get the mix right, you get to sit down and watch people do things you never, in a million years, thought they would be capable of doing. It’s all worth it.
While I am proud of all the speakers and their accomplishments, there were a few whose talks left a lifelong impression on me. They include:
- Andrés Cifuentes’ 2017 talk about using WPML to create a site where survivors of ethnic cleansing and genocide shared their stories;
- Franz Vitulli’s 2017 talk on Twitter threads killing blogs, which some of you really need to watch (subtweet);
- Leah Lockhart’s 2017 talk on using WordPress on the front lines of Scottish local democracy, better you than me hen;
- Claire Brotherton’s 2018 talk about the state of play with Gutenberg accessibility, keeping in mind this was in the days ahead of release, for the joy of watching Claire complete her journey from a shy and petrified meetup attendee to someone who could get on a stage and tackle the most controversial issue in the project, no problem; and, of course,
- Rhys Wynne’s 2018 talk about integrating the 4.9.6 GDPR and privacy hooks and filters into plugins. Rhys was terrified about giving the talk with an emcee who helped to develop the tools (me), so I surprised him by showing up in a pink unicorn onesie. As you do.
Without a doubt, my favourite will always be Rachel Martin’s 2017 talk on blogging as therapy. Rachel lived through the Canterbury earthquake sequence in 2010, which, as she explained, became several months of nonstop psychological terror over the hundreds of aftershocks which followed. She began blogging to claw her way out of that terror. I didn’t know what to say at the end, other than thank you.
I’ve retired from WordPress community organising now, and who could blame me. How could I ever top that again?
We are people of enormous power and influence over the open web. I empower digital professionals to use that power wisely. I advocate for an open web built around international standards of human rights, privacy, accessibility, and freedom of expression. This is my personal site, and does not reflect the work or opinions of my employer.