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Atarim at WordCamp Asia 2023 – Our Recap

It was an absolute pleasure to meet countless users, long-time friends and make new ones at this year’s WordCamp Asia. 

I hope to see more of you back at WordCamp Europe in Athens (or again next year at WordCamp Asia in Taipei). 

Now, as we’re still coming down from the high that is attending events like a WordCamp – we took a moment to put together a recap of what our experience at WordCamp Asia 2023 was like: 

WordCamp Asia In Numbers

WordCamp Asia (to no surprise!) was a big success with over a thousand attendees in person and online: 

  • 60 speakers
  • 53 organizers
  • Over 80 volunteers
  • 29 people on the audio/video team

Our First Team Retreat

With us all attending the conference altogether anyway (as most of us hadn’t met in-person despite working alongside each other as if we have for years!) – we used the opportunity to fly to Phuket a few days before the conference in Bangkok. 

This was a really pivotal experience for us. Not only does it feel like we all finally spent time together outside of work, enjoying ourselves, but we all have a proper sense of the people we’re working alongside, the people we’re in the trenches with – working to bring our vision to life.

Here’s a summary from one of our lead developers: 

This trip with the team was the perfect opportunity to de-stress together. Imagine having a few days off with your professional team, without the pressure of deadlines – with the opportunity to talk about what matters beyond the 9-5.

It’s only when you step out of the office, you see a whole new fun side to the same people who work with you every day. At Atarim, we’re a small but focused, goal oriented and hard working team. We work remotely and hence meet each other mostly over virtual meetings.

The nature of remote work naturally makes us less likely to align on a personal level. This trip to Thailand together gave me the perfect opportunity to meet and properly get to know each other.

Our first destination was Phuket where we stayed for 7 days in 5 star hotel. I boarded my train from Surat to Mumbai from where I had direct flight to Phuket. It was a smooth journey and after landing in Phuket, I finally met everyone and we were so happy to see each other face to face. Everyone shared their journey experience.

On day 1, we decided to rest and spend some time in the pool to relax. After spending time at pool side, it was a time for dinner. It felt like a family reunion having dinner.

On days 2 and 3, we went sight seeing to Big Budha, Budha Temple, View point and ATV riding. It was the first time experience riding ATV, and I must say it was adventurous to do it. My colleague Shawn never rode bike, and hence it was his first rodeo, and it was fun watching him drive ATV.

On days 3 and 5, Vito booked 5 star beach side hotel. We had to spend time in the hotel or else there was no point in paying money for just staying at night. During these days, we not only enjoyed the stay but planned our WordCamp event. Vito basically briefed us on how WordCamps work and how to approach them!

On day 6, it was time to see James Bond. Not an actor bond, but there’s an island that is named James bond. Not sure why it was called James Bond, but it definitely felt like a Hollywood movie set. A small piece of land in the ocean was packed with tourist. It was such a nice location we decided to interview few of our team members and filmed them while they were sharing their experience working with Atarim.

The next stop was nearby island, where we went kayaking and explored the caves formed inside those islands. I felt I was on exomoon Pandora from Avatar movie. It was time for lunch after that. This was the first time I had my lunch on boat in an ocean. Can you imagine that? Many from our boat went swimming as well after exploring the caves.

After exploring ocean for a whole day, we returned back to hotel by 6:30 pm. Everyone was exhausted and went to bed after dinner. What a day it was.

On day 7, it was time to fly to Bangkok. We packed our bags, took some last moment photos and left for airport. Bye bye Phuket. We landed in Bangkok just in 2 hours and headed straight to hotel.

On day 8, it was contributor day at WordCamp, and we had to setup our booth for the next day. We took all our event stuffs and went to ICONSIAM mall where the event was organized on 7th floor. Apart from setting booth we didn’t have other things to do hence decided to interact with people around and explore the mall. By evening, it was time to return to hotel. Some of our team went to boat party organized by GoDaddy. They had so much fun there.

On day 9, we were preparing for the first day of WordCamp Although I had attended local WordCamps earlier, this was something next level. Seeing the arrangement and crowd was mesmerizing. Shift of managing booth started with Shawn and me, but this 2 hour responsibility soon turned to full day fun for me. After seeing my interaction with attendees, Jehrome was kind to offer full day shift. Along with presentation, we gave goodies and stickers to people.

This event allowed us to meet people from different part of the world and share ideas with each other. Not once I felt that I was among strangers and felt like there was a magic that connected all of us. The entire experience is difficult to put in words, but if there’s one thing I’d say, is that I was blessed to be there and be a part of the event.

The first day event ended at 5:00 pm, and it was time to get back to hotel, have dinner and get some good sleep.

My thoughts and lesson from this trip:

Having office trips is a very good way to break the monotonous life. We take a break from the tension and enjoy the scenery around us. These trips are preceded by a lot of excitement! It’s like an event that employees look forward to.

Teammates spend hours and hours seated beside one another and work relentlessly almost every day. However, for maximum efficiency, it’s crucial that each employee learns to become a team player. They learn and get accustomed to the professional ethics of one another, share ideas and solutions, and develop mutual respect.

Traveling with office mates allows us to talk about our feelings about work, discuss the challenges that we’re facing, and how we can deal with them. We can speak to our mentor outside of the usual professional setting.

The Elementor Live Show

This stream included Verdi Heinz (of Elementor), Vito Peleg (me), Asif Rahman (of WP Developer), and Vova Feldman (of Freemius).

As well as host Ziv Geurts (also from Elementor)…

for those who prefer jumping to specific sections, here are (at least in our view) some of the key moments of the stream: 

  • What inspired you to start building open source software for WordPress (or Elementor)? (4:44)
  • How did you go about launching your product and attracting your first customers? (7:50)
  • I have clients, build sites with Elementor and often build custom modules. How can I ship this? i.e. turn it into a plugin/product and ship it to users. (14:59)
  • How do you approach marketing and promoting a product in a crowded market? (20:52)
  • How do you decide on which feature requests to build? (27:31)
  • What are your thoughts on AI will go? What do you feel it the future for it holds? (31:39)
  • In hindsight, what were the challenges that you faced when you were growing your businesses & how you overcame them? (38:01)
  • Can you share some tips or advice for people considering starting their own products in the industry? (48:21)

Alternatively, enjoy the entire stream on YouTube here:

Highlights of Matt Mullenweg’s Q&A

It’s become quite standard for Matt Mullenweg’s presence at WordCamps to take place in the form of Q&A sessions. 

WordCamp Asia was no exception this year, with the difference being that he wasn’t able to make it in-person, so in suitable 2020-fashion – he joined remotely via video meeting. 

Allocating Resources and Funds for the WordPress.org Documentation Team

The first question came from Milana Cap, who asked about allocating resources (and funds) for tools, specifically for the WordPress documentation team as well as per project, etc. 

While Matt suggested that they would be open to paying for tools if there was the need to do so but – of course – encouraged that open-source solutions should be used in place of paid software. 

Ironically, this is something that Vikas of InstaWP and Alex of ScaleMath discussed after the event as well:

It really isn’t uncommon for community-organized events or events organized by companies in WordPress to use SaaS solutions for things that WordPress itself theoretically solves…

Yet our own community is leaning on other solutions which as Alex says, the fact alone that this happens is something that we should be trying to learn from vs. just ignoring. 

To that end, Matt also notably said: If I’m super honest right now, I’m pretty embarrassed about a lot of what is going on with WordPress.org. It is not up to the standard of what WordPress, itself, provides which is world-class software. 

Also met by different reactions. 

To us at Atarim, where we are all very big fans of WordPress – we find it clear that this all comes back to the positioning problem that WordPress has. People in the community themselves raising the argument like this one above are somewhat missing the mark when it comes down to this equating to the people at the heart of our community not using WordPress matched with an RSVP solution, or forms plugin like Gravity Forms at a WordPress event.

If we aren’t using our own products, clearly, this raises an opportunity to ask ourselves why – we’re leaning on other solutions. Of course, Twitter is a social network, so that comparison is a bit irrelevant. 

Software that isn’t open-source, i.e., SaaS solutions, have their place both inside and outside of our community – case in point, we are no longer solely a WordPress plugin, but that was simply as a byproduct of not being able to accomplish what we wanted as a plugin, not in any way a step away from our commitment and involvement in the WordPress community at large (in fact, if anything, the opposite). 

Matt’s Thoughts on ChatGPT Effect On Open Source

ChatGPT and other large language models and other things, I think, are absolutely the future, and we should be thinking about how we can leverage them to make ourselves more productive, not try to fight it. 

Matt also recommended reading this article in the New Yorker: ChatGPT is A Blurry JPEG of The Web which I would agree with. It’s a great read. 

The WordPress Onboarding Experience (Famous 5-Minute Install and Beyond)

When asked about the onboarding experience that WordPress currently provides, primarily the famous 5-minute install that is, Matt response indicated that the plan (at least for the time being) was for the WordPress onboarding process to be largely controlled/led by the different hosting providers. Something which makes sense since it largely depends on the user type, how they want to use Wordpress, what they want to use it for, their experience-level, all of which are components of the onboarding experience that it makes most sense to be controlled at the hosting provider-level. 

That being said, a bigger part of the onboarding experience that people are currently interested (aside from the 5-minute install, since this is already handled by most, if not all, hosts I’m familiar with) is the “first-time” experience people have with WordPress as a solution. 

The fact remains that right now, when you get a WordPress site set up, it is very much a blank canvas. 

This is something that we know from conversations with Vikas at InstaWP (which has received funding from Automattic) is something that they are actively looking into and potentially soon to roll out a solution that aims to address the “WordPress starting point” for new users, because if we look beyond ourselves, it isn’t all that easy. It’s easy to fall into the trap thinking that it is and that things are fine the way that they are, mainly because we’re speaking amongst ourselves and we’ve all been using WordPress for as long as we can remember. 

A Future for WordPress.org Plugin Statistics

Something which we were very pleased to hear (in relation to our plugin in the WordPress.org repository) is that Matt mentioned in response to another question that they are looking into the “lack of data” on the WordPress.org plugin pages, what data they can get (and share) with plugin developers. 

I imagine this is something that lots of plugin developers out there will be pleased to hear! 

Strengthening Our Focus On Partnerships

Vova from Freemius, Benjamin & Dielle from Stackable & Vito from Atarim (left to right)

This event, as any other, is a great reminder of all the talented people in our community collectively working towards making the web a better, more productive place. 

Others on the team & I met with a number of people we had scheduled to meet in advance of the conference – strengthening our focus on partnerships. Although we’ve grown accustomed to communicating over video meetings, I continue find that meeting in-person makes it a lot easier and more enjoyable to work together in the long-run. Every conference and WordCamps are no exception of course, are a great reinforcement that this is the case.

Want to see more of us and the rest of #WCAsia?

Here are some great places to look: 

Next up, some of our team is off to CloudFest at Europa Park in Germany (March 20-23) – we hope to meet more of you there! You can get free tickets on us here.

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