WordCamp Chicago – Not Just For Boys

It’s weirdly easier to get to a WordCamp out of town. That was my first thought on Sunday morning as I tromped over to the bus stop. While I know Chicago well, enough to know the futility in trying to drive to the event and the ease of a direct bus, I had been forced to miss Saturday due to Shabbat. That and distance. Had I still lived down in that area, I’d have walked, but now that I’m up in Rogers Park, it’s a bit much to walk to DePaul.

Chicago Skyline

Still, I can’t say I wasn’t an excited nervous mess at 7 AM. After all, this is my second WordCamp: WordCamp Chicago.

Last year I wanted badly to go, but I’d picked up Indians/White Sox tickets for the same day, and I have priorities, man! The Tribe lost, too, and that pushed back my meeting of the illustrious Rennicks by a year. Happily, no one’s friendship suffered the wait, if Andrea and my freaky twin thing was any measure by which to judge in Montreal.

The first presentation I sat in was @RachelBaker’s on how the developer is the project manager. I admit, most of my reason for this was I ‘know’ her in that online sense, but it was something that interested me too! One of the things I suck at is selling myself (reason #103 why I am not a consultant), but project management has always chapped my ass at work. Mostly because I don’t understand what they’re asking. “How long will it take you to do something you’ve never done before? And you have 4 weeks.” We always push development to fit a timeline, which is in part why many products suck. We should really design at the speed of innovation, and not innovate at the speed of our users. You can’t support someone if you’re not ready.

Thankfully, hers was more a lessons learned and how to be responsible for what you’re responsible for, and I feel like I learned a lot! After that was an SEO chat by @theandystratton, which was awesome. There are no easy fixes. But then, like with Montreal, I walked out and started go hang. The Genius Bar was crowded, and one young woman looked lost, so I offered to help her and we fixed her Sitemap woes (inconsistency with www and non-www in her domain), and discussed theme optimization, caching and design for a while.

For lunch, I went for a walk, since it’s been a long time since I hung around DePaul, and afterwords I networked. By accident. I sat down, a guy asked me what I did, we chatted, another guy turned out to be someone I’d helped in the forums, and we chatted. When they left, Otto and JJJ showed up and we all sat together chatting, getting surrounded by more and more people, until I hit that moment that had made me love WCMTL.

Rifting on things with people. Live. Finding out they’re all just as consistent as we are online. Talking about SEO, bullshit, gender discrepancy, avatars, and everything else.

I don’t know how to explain it better, but being in a group of people where, even when you disagree passionately, still respect you and your opinion is … Gold.  I was with people who I felt respected me and acknowledged me (even though I have a lack of core commits) because I think and can use my brain.  Unlike the days spent in my corporate job, I rarely run into people being a misogynist git in WordPress (and when I do, even the men jump up and shout ‘Unmutual!’).  Not that I’ve not had the asshats, but they’re rare, they’re easy to spot, and the community tends to shun them pretty effectivly.

So, to tangent a bit, when people ask me “Where are the WordPress women?” I want to point at myself, at a couple other women I know, and go “We’re here!”  Part of this problem of ‘where are the women’ is that women ‘sell’ themselves different.  It’s culture, to a degree, but most of the women I know who are tech goddesses are actually pretty modest about it.  “Oh yeah, I did invent this awesome thing you use every day.”  They whatever it and move on.  I feel weird, because my Dad was the sort to tell me ‘Toot your own horn, but toot it correctly.’  Don’t brag, but do be proud of your skills.

So women, even if you can’t code, or are more modest about your coding ability then your male counterparts, you are a woman of WordPress.  You’re a guru!  You’re a maven and a genius too.  Don’t be afraid to jump in thick with the boys.  Even if you’ve been burned by the guys before (this is nothing against men, I’m not a misanthrope), WordPress isn’t a boys club.  They’re going to respect you and, for the most part, ignore your gender and treat you like a person.  Everything should be like WordPress.  And on the flip side, men and women, just because a woman is being demure about her l33t skilz doesn’t mean she knows nothing.  Remember, everyone works a little differently, so keep an open mind and check your assumptions at the door.  A suit doesn’t make you an smarter than a skirt.

Basically, I had fun, I hung out with men and women, gay and straight … you get the idea.  Come on down to the next WordCamp.  You’ll learn a lot about WordPress, but also about yourself and how you think.  Nothing will challenge you more than hearing blokes like @JohnJamesJacoby and @otto42 espouse an idea you feel strongly against, but in a way you find yourself kinda-sorta agreeing with, but not really?  Oh, that is such a wonderful moment.

I forgot to take pictures, too.  Oops.  You can read a live blog at WPCandy (whom I forgot to introduce myself too officially, but not really, hi, guys).