WordCamp Europe 2023 – My key Thoughts and Takeaways

The 2023 edition of WordCamp Europe took place recently in Athens. I attended in a freelance/attendee capacity, and it was my first WordCamp since 2020. It was also my first WordCamp Europe since Berlin in 2019. It was so good to reconnect with the community I have spent a lot of time with over my career. I felt like I had dropped off the radar a bit, largely due to struggling with online meetups. So it was good to reconnect in person again and find out what WordPress had been up to in the last 3 years. Here are some of my takeaways.

AI is going to be a thing, I think?

Seriously if you had a bet on “would AI be mentioned in a talk”, you’d have left Athens a very rich person. It felt like every talk touched on Artificial Intelligence – either in the subject or in one of the post talk questions. I’m of the more optimist side of things – I talked about how I use AI on a personal blog post – and view it as a tool. The same way that Google is a tool, or PHP code completion tools are a tool.

So the general consensus seems to be “it’s here to stay, it’s going to get better, learn to use it”. Most big companies are leveraging it in some way, shape or form, and as a freelancer I’m looking at ways of using it. I probably won’t use it to generate code, but maybe as a pair programmer. Certain areas I can definitely see it’s use.

WordPress’ ongoing development – Openverse and WP Playground

In the keynote at the end of day two had a few insights into where WordPress is going. With a diverse continent like Europe with many different languages and backgrounds it is disappointing to hear that multilingual setups is still a few years away. Nevertheless the impressive side projects were there – Openverse and WordPress Playground.

Openverse is quite the resource – a collection of available stock photography ready to use on your website. I was aware of it but wasn’t aware just how big it was. I did my usual searches of places, and managed to get photos from even my local cricket team! Very impressive and it’s integrated into WordPress now, so be sure to check it out.

WP Playground is something quite cool – it’s a Web Assembly version of WordPress that runs in a browser. This can be great for testing out things and it’s something I’d be looking to play with myself, particularly to show off plugins or to show clients how to use something. It’s super impressive. Now somebody with more brains get Doom running in WordPress please. Or WP Playground running in Doom. One of the two.

Plugins need to change

One talk I wanted to highlight was David Artiss talk on “10 Things All WordPress Plugin Developers Should Avoid”. I found myself nodding along with a lot with what was said in the talk, particularly along with how plugins can dominate the dashboard and show themselves up too much, introducing clutter and just getting you to do things. I wouldn’t say I avoided all 10 elements he raised in his talk in my plugins, but I do do my best.

Other Talks I Enjoyed at WordCamp Europe 2023

This was what I wanted to highlight as they were the more WordPressy side of the talks I attended. A number of my favourite talks were a little broader, so although I didn’t feel it was relevant for this blog post (which covers more WordPress stuff), I wanted to highlight them.

  • “The Brand of You” by Vasselina Valchanova was a great talk as it aligned with one of my goals for my year in improving my personal branding. It re-enforced where I should be spending effort, as well as gave insight and actual timescales for rough time you should be spending on improving said branding. As a freelancer (and I think Vasselina is as well), finding time can be incredibly tough, so to get an idea on how long to spend is always handy.
  • Laura Elizabeth’s talk on “The freelancers’ guide to client onboarding” was super useful as a freelancer. In her talk she shared insight on how she gets clients to commit to a project and how to handle something which can be frustrating and time consuming. There are things I’m definitely going to take away from the talk to implement into my workflow.
  • Finally, I enjoyed Tim Nash’s “Art of the Code Review” to try and improve code quality. Although aimed at larger development teams, it is something I would need to look at how to implement as a freelancer. Or I can just hire Tim for a bit.

Final thoughts on WordCamp Europe 2023

Overall, this was one of the best WordCamp Europe’s I’ve ever attended. I had a great time reconnecting and left feeling inspired. Next year will be in Turin and I’m aiming to be there. Definitely a highlight of the year for me, and I encourage all WordPress professionals to attend at least once.

Header Photo Credit: Fotos de la WordCamp Europe 2023 by Nilo VĂ©lez, used with the CC BY-SA licence

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