WordCamp Jacksonville 2019 – Recap

WordCamp Jacksonville 2019

WordCamp Jacksonville 2019 was held at Keiser University close to downtown not far from the St. John’s River. The schedule called for almost 40 speakers, 60 sponsors, and over 200 attendees.

As I always say; “It’s Never a bad day at Wordcamp”, Jacksonville was not going to make me a liar for sure. The camp really turned out to be a gathering of great minds, community-centered connections, and everyone seemed to have an eco-friendly attitude.

Getting to Jacksonville

Jacksonville Bus

I decided to “Go Green” by taking the Megabus, which would mean I could sit back and relax instead of fighting Florida drivers. The bus was very economical and the ride went really quick.

When I arrived at the bus station, I grabbed an Uber and rode past the University where the camp would take place the next morning on the way to my hotel.

What a surprise! I had been there before over 20 years ago to take my state boards for my medical licensing and now in a completely different space mentally.

I had an aha moment and the Uber driver agreed that many people have been reinventing themselves over the past 20 years to do what they love, not just what pays the bills. The irony that WordPress can let people start their own business easily online just all came together and I was so happy to be a part of it all.

Friday Night Party

WordCamp Jacksonville Party

The Thank You party was at 7:00 pm at the Aloft Hotel downtown. It was a casual, low key event to mix and mingle with the other sponsors, speakers, and volunteers. I recognized Sandy Edwards, our Orlando Ambassador, and the Orlando WordPress Coordinators right away.

There were drinks and finger food served along with seeing lots of friendly faces. I ended up meeting some really great people in the industry. And I know these will be lasting relationships for camps to come.

The party ended right around 9:00 pm and I was pretty hungry. So I ventured out to find somewhere to eat which turned out to be harder than expected. Jacksonville is pretty much a “party town,” and everywhere I turned it was either a bar that served burgers or a pizza stand.

The town was very alive with party people as it was Friday Night.

I found my way to one of the historic hotels on Jacksonville Beach; the Casa Marina looking to sit down for a nice dinner. The rooftop restaurant was given 5 stars on Google, so I decided to give it a try.

The locale is known for its rich history of dazzling parties and celebrity guests. The Casa Marina is also known to be haunted. And the food was good while the view was incredible.

Casa Monica

Day 1 of WordCamp Jacksonville 2019, Saturday, June 29th

Jacksonville Organizers

Getting up early for WordCamp certainly is not my favorite thing, but I did manage to be one of the first ones there. The Organizers Stephanie, Laura, Frank, Karena, and Jessica were busy at work getting badges and organizing the Volunteers to get ready.

Setting up was easy with Sandy by my side. More than just gaining knowledge and networking, one thing that WordCampers come for is swag, and GreenGeeks provided plenty of it. We were set up in no time and ready to camp.

People started to trickle in right at 8:30, and traffic in the Happiness Bar where we were located was steady throughout the entire day.

Everyone loved the story of how the Wapuu was created. After James Tryon’s session, “WHAT’S A WAPUU?” we ran out of most of our shirts. The GreenGeek mascot “Spex” was certainly a big hit. We ran out of the most popular T-Shirt sizes by the end of the day.

After a delicious taco bar lunch, I needed to stimulate my brain. So I took time to attend “What does your brand look like in a voice-first world?” by Chip Edwards.

Learning more about SSML (Speech Synthetic Markup Language) for Google Voice and Alexa was just what I needed to get my geek on. I highly recommend watching his video when it is released on WordCamp TV to see how to be smarter than a “smart speaker”.

Chip Edwards

WordCamp Jacksonville 2019 videos should be out before the end of August.

KidsCamp Jacksonville

KidsCamp was taking place along with the other sessions within the University instructed by William Jackson and Aida Correa. Kids attended ranging in ages from 7 to 14 years old can get practical skills on how to think and prepare for the future in the tech field.

Jacksonville KidsCamp

This year, the schedule for KidsCamp was jammed packed with fun and kid-friendly design and development skill-building activities. One activity involved a treasure hunt, and GreenGeeks held the precious Pirates Diamond that they sought after!

After the day was complete, the kids were so exhausted many were falling asleep in the happiness bar. I am sure they were content in knowing that they just had created their very own WordPress website.

End of Day 1

By the end of the day, I was pretty exhausted myself, especially from chasing down the “Pirates Treasure” because every kid wanted it for their own. There was talk of going to a “Midnight Bowling Party” and I knew I would never make it to midnight.

All I wanted to do was put my feet up and relax. It was going to be a low key night for me to recharge and prepare for the next day. I am so glad that I did as I think I was fast asleep by 10:00 pm.

Day 2 of WordCamp Jacksonville 2019, Sunday, June 30th

Up bright and early at 5:30 am, I prepared for checkout. I grabbed some coffee and a banana from the complimentary breakfast graciously provided by the hotel and caught an Uber over to the University by 7:30 am.

There were not as many people as the day before, probably the midnight bowlers were “rolling in late.” But by 9:00 am, it was back to business as usual and sessions were at 100% occupancy.

By that time, I had the urge to get my geek on once again. So I attended Steve Schwartz’s  “How An Attacker Sees Your Website – A View Through The Eyes of the Hacker”.

Steve Schwartz

Wow; mind-blowing…he gave an amazing demonstration of ethical hacking with real-time illustrations of how fast you can get hacked including tips on how to avoid it.

Gaining access to your site content, credit cards, hotel keys, or even your neighbors stealing your Wi-Fi were just a few examples. I highly recommended checking out his video and never using your global password while enjoying a latte at the local Starbucks using free Wi-Fi unless you want it extra hot, extra foam, with an extra hack.

Closing Remarks and Prizes

Closing remarks were quick and simple headed by Stephanie and Frank thanking everyone for attending and making 2019 such a great turn out.

GreenGeeks was first up to give away prizes. Five one-year hosting packages were given out. Next up was Pam Edwards from Create My Voice with the free Alexia Voice and runner up goodies.

GreenGeeks Winners

The After Party

The After Party was held at Wicked Barley Brewing Company. There was a pretty decent turnout, and all enjoyed a buffet of Pulled Pork Sandwiches, veggies, and varied side dishes.

After the party, everyone was ready to get back to their homes, families, and pets. Overall it was a great time.
Jacksonville After Party

Final Thoughts

WordCamp is for everyone!

It’s fun, affordable, engaging, and a great networking hub. Most importantly, you are surrounded by down to earth people who are looking to learn, get inspired, and meet new friends.

As a sponsor, you not only support WordCamp; but you also support the open-source community, which is so important.

I was so honored to be a part of it and look forward to many WordCamps to come.

Thank you, organizers, volunteers, sponsors and attendees. You are why these events are such a success.

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