WordCamp Close-Up: Austin

WordCamp Austin 2012 will be held on May 19 at AOMA, deep in the heart of South Austin. It will feature 2 tracks of content on Saturday: one designed for bloggers and the other oriented toward power users and developers. The after-party will be held at Maria’s Taco X-Press on Saturday, where campers will be welcomed with open arms.

WordCamp Austin organizers took the innovative step of asking all speakers to submit their sessions publicly on the WordCamp site and then invited the community to vote on the content that most interested them. The final schedule will be posted May 2. Austin WordPress lovers seem to be confident in the end result, as tickets sold out the day registration opened.

This is the second WordCamp for Austinites – the first was a small event held in December of 2010 with 60 attendees. This year’s venue can hold up to 250, and organizers are already talking about how to find a larger space for next year.

Austin’s WordPress Meetup Group is one of the oldest and most active in the US. The current group was founded in 2007 by Paul Menard, and in those days consisted of six or seven WordPress enthusiasts who met at either the Halcyon Coffee House or the Ginger Man Bar. The meetup is now 983 WordPress enthusiasts strong. The group has had many different homes in the past 5 years, and currently meets at a co-working space called CoSpace.

Since 2011, Austin’s meetup group offers two meetings each month: the first Tuesday meeting focuses on the needs of the intermediate and advance WP users and on the fourth Tuesday, their “Hands-On WordPress” meeting is designed to meet the needs of the beginning WordPress users.

Pat Ramsey, the current lead organizer of the meetup group, has been active in the group since that first meeting in 2007 and is also a member of the WordCamp organizing team. The lead organizer for WordCamp Austin, H. Sandra Chevalier-Batik, joined the meetup in early 2009 with her husband Nick Batik – the duo started helping Pat as co-organizers in 2010. Jackie Dana, another member of the WordCamp organizing team, started helping organize the meetup in 2011.

When asked what she feels makes WordCamp Austin unique, Sandi commented,

We specifically designed our WordCamp Session Schedule to include almost as much networking time as session time. We design our monthly meetups the same way. The organizers feel that the more opportunity our members have to share both their enthusiasm for, and questions about, WordPress the stronger our WordPress community will be. WordPress is not only a great web development tool, it is fun. No matter where you are in your WordPress journey, there is always some new cool thing to learn and share.

If I were to identify the truly unique aspect of the Austin WordCamp, it would be the membership’s absolute ownership of the event. The WordCamp Austin attendees are not passive vessels, but active participants, who have come to share new information amongst friends and colleagues and have fun doing it.

With a meetup group this active and involved, WordCamp Austin can’t help but be a rousing success. Thanks to the whole organizing team for all their hard work (and the work yet to come) in putting together this great event for the Austin WordPress community.

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