Seven years ago today, the First WordPress D.C. Meetup that was focused on a continuity of community took place. Tomorrow the first WordCampDC kicks off. It's been a heck of a journey.
I've been gone from the community for a few years. I know the community has continued to evolve and grow, but for the first 3 years of its existence, I was honored to serve it as one of the organizers. Looking back, there are a number of things that stand out to me about those early days of WordPress DC.
The DC community has helped many people grow. Many people took on larger roles in the WordPress community in part due to the involvement in the meetup. Committers, Lead Developers, Training Team Leads, Speakers, Meetup Organizers, Meetup Organizer Organizers, Code Contributors, Testers, Theme Reviewers, Accessibility Team Leads and Support team members. You would be hard pressed to find a community that has done more for WordPress.
I know of countless people who got jobs because they started networking at the WordPress DC meetup. Early on, we stole from the PHP meetup the idea of asking "Who's hiring, Who's looking" at the end of the meetup and giving people a moment to introduce themselves.
Early on, the decision was made to focus the main monthly meetup on users of WordPress, with the idea that designers and developers can always learn more about users and for many of them, networking after the meetup could be even more valuable than hearing yet another talk about custom walkers. We did hold a number of special events especially aimed at developers and designers though. We tried "Brown Bag Lunches", Saturday afternoon pre-release testing sessions, Friday Night's with (sadly, only one since he was only in town one night), and "Happiness Socials" focused on helping each other with issues.
The collaboration the meetup had with the broader DC community helped WordPressDC standout. The Open Source BBQ become the summer event that everyone looked forward to.
This isn't to say the meetup group was perfect. It took us a too long to realize that our speaker roster was heavily male, and leaned young. Thankfully, we realized it before it poisoned the community. In many ways, it reminds me of one of my favorite tweets. We fucked up, but then we tried not to make the same mistake again.
Finally, the friendships that grew and developed can't be understated. For many of us, The second Tuesday of the month became a highlight that we didn't want to miss. Many people I met or got to know better through the WordPressDC community are people I still consider friends today.
Happy Birthday WordPressDC. Tomorrow, we celebrate with the first WordCamp DC!