Spend an hour on the internet, and you’re bound to run into some digital diarrhea. It ranges from comment section bloodsport to unfortunate font choices. It’s intimidating stuff for newbie bloggers and fresh-faced website developers looking to wade into that online ocean. WordCamp Maine, the state’s first WordPress-centered development conference, is all about supporting and educating both the wannabes and already-dids of website development. Kicking off at 11:30 AM at the Maine College of Art (MECA), with open registration on Friday, August 15, and running through Sunday, the conference’s list of attendees continues to grow. With the impressive rota of topics and speakers, it’s easy to see why.
WordCamp Maine was put together by twin powers Hotchkiss Consulting and Hall Internet Marking (HIM), both based in Portland. The faces directly behind the conference organization are Sam Hotchkiss, founder and principal of Hotchkiss Consulting and Parka LLC, Stephen Quirk, the man behind the chic Factory Portland website (factoryportland.com), WordPress developers Derek Smart and RC Lations, HIM developer Gary Thayer and Automattic’s theme designer Michael Cain. Hotchkiss and Quirk have worked in the past on BruteProtect, a web tool that protects sites from “botnet” attacks. “Botnet” refers to a type of malicious software (or “malware” if you prefer) that gets inside your computer (the “bot” in question) and turns it into a puppet machine, using the information however it wants to. With names like these steering the conference, there’s plenty to look forward to.
The schedule starts small with sessions titled “Content Creation 101” and moves onto more specific subjects throughout the weekend. Writing security code, managing data, and how to survive as a web developer in the current saturated job market are all touched upon. These are the essentials, but there’s fun hijinks afoot as well. The “Let’s Build an E-Commerce Store in 30 Minutes!” session, with speaker Patrick Rauland, is bound to catch the eye of any tech-savvy local business owner. It’s impossible to do it all at once, but the schedule is set up in a way that allows for attendees to pursue their preferred track of development education. Be forewarned it is sorted—roughly—by interest and skill level. Newcomers to WordPress may prefer the security fundamentals session to the advanced hacking one.
Keeping things informal is a big part of WordCamp Maine, and while networking opportunities may be present, it’s better to soak up the content instead. It’s different from other digital-focused conventions in this regard, where somehow wearing a really, really nice suit means you must know how to write software really, really well. WordCamp is more concerned with educating and connecting local talent than anything else—all the sponsors off WordCamp Maine are businesses based in the state. On the event website any visitor or potential attendee can become a sponsor by donating $100.00. Big change from what a larger software company might offer. Speaking of which, there’s going to be a Happiness Bar that’s open to any and all questions attendees may have staffed by members of the WordCamp team.
Best of all, the tickets are a decent $30 for general admission for two days (Friday & Saturday), and/or $20 for an all-day Saturday pass. Sunday is free, but space is limited: it’s Contributor’s Day, and is more for developers contributing to WordPress Core. Either way, it might be time for local developers to pull those website ideas out and see what happens. If you’re going to build a marmoset-hair collecting blog, it might as well be well-formatted.