WordCamp US 2023 is now behind us! I had high hopes coming into the event. And I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed.

It was my first “flagship” WordCamp. And it certainly had the look and feel of a large conference. Attendance was high, with people buzzing about the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.

There are typically numerous recaps of these events. Some will recount a play-by-play of each session. Others will focus on a particular aspect.

I wanted to do something different. So, this recap aims to capture the vibe of the event. I’ll cover everything from the venue to the surrounding neighborhood. There will be plenty of WordPress talk as well.

Here’s a review of the sights, sounds, and learning opportunities from WCUS 2023!

National Harbor Was a Great Choice

Most folks probably haven’t heard of National Harbor, MD. It’s a relatively new development on the banks of the Potomac River. And it sits across the water from Washington DC.

The scenery is beautiful. I found myself walking around the area several times a day. It was easy to find a peaceful moment by the river.

There were plenty of shops and restaurants to visit. I particularly enjoyed the little BBQ spot a stone’s throw from the venue. Yes, my diet took a backseat to a few cheat days.

And the Gaylord featured a setup of comfy Adirondack chairs overlooking the water. This offered a nice respite from all the chaos within the conference.

The Gaylord is a massive facility. The views inside and outside are jaw-dropping. There was plenty to see and do without leaving the premises.

There were a few sticking points, though. The Exhibitor’s Hall was on a different floor than the conference sessions. It was a bit of a trek to go back and forth.

The hotel’s inflated pricing was also a challenge. It’s not uncommon for hotels to jack up the price of goods. But items like water were several times their real-world cost. I wish I brought a few more snacks and drinks from home.

And yes, I took a ride on the Capital Wheel! It offers a great view across the river. And you can catch a glimpse of the Washington Monument. I give the ride bonus points for being air-conditioned.

Overall, I loved spending time in National Harbor. I think it served the WordCamp US attendees quite well.

Looking for Speakers outside of WordPress Worked

WordCamp US organizers looked outside the WordPress bubble for a few speaker sessions. I wondered how that decision would be received by the community. It seemed to be a hit with attendees.

I attended sci-fi author Ken Liu’s Saturday morning keynote. Liu is one of WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg’s favorite writers. It’s easy to see why after hearing him speak.

Liu’s perspective and message captivated the audience. He shared many personal stories – both beautiful and painful. He spoke of how his grandmother’s sacrifices shaped his view of love. He then recounted the racism he faced as an Asian American during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also delved into his existentially bad case of writer’s block. He poked fun at the AI bot he developed that failed to help him break free. And finally how he found his way back to storytelling.

Liu’s talk was powerful. It was the most compelling presentation I’ve seen in person. I can see it inspiring me personally and professionally.

These types of sessions don’t apply directly to WordPress. But they do offer growth opportunities. It’s something that can benefit everyone. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of them in the future.

Enthusiasm Was the Common Theme

There were smiling faces everywhere I looked. I saw them on Contributor Day. I found them in the hallways between sessions. And I most certainly saw them at the WCUS Pride Party.

Contributor Day was very well-attended. I was among many first-timers. I was impressed at how well the various team leaders guided us. No question was too small. And everyone was welcome to pitch in regardless of skill level.

That feeling spread to the sessions as well. It seemed like each talk I attended included some great discussion.

I think this level of enthusiasm bodes well for WordPress. Attendees seemed eager to connect. But they were also there to learn.

The community is vital to WordPress’s growth. Thus, it was great to see its vibrance throughout the event.

A Peek into the Future

I was very excited to see the final WCUS keynote presentations. They featured WordPress Executive Directory Josepha Haden Chomphosy and co-founder Matt Mullenweg. Each looked at different aspects of the future.

Haden Chomposy provided actionable advice to keep WordPress thriving. Mullenweg then demonstrated some upcoming features for Gutenberg. They then joined forces for a question-and-answer session.

The keynotes drove home that WordPress is more than software. It relies on its community and ecosystem. WordPress suffers if these areas fall short.

WCUS Was a Worthwhile Experience

I enjoyed every aspect of WordCamp US. The location was outstanding. The sessions were informative. And the opportunity to meet others in the community was just what I needed.

The people I met are what stood out most. For example, meeting the rest of the WP Minute team in person was great. We build relationships online. But there’s still something special about gathering in the same place.

It also reinforced the importance of in-person events. We’ve lost several regional WordCamps since the pandemic. I hope they start coming back.

Sitting down and having a conversation can do wonders. It helps to bridge differences and brings people together. We could all use more of that.

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