I am hooked

Originally published on Butterfly Mind, December 2015.

I did it. I spoke at WordCamp US. All those rehearsals, all that planning — they paid off. When I got up on stage, I saw my teammates’ faces in the front row and in the way back, and then I looked around the rest of the room, to the faces of all these WordPress enthusiasts, and knew I was among friends. It wasn’t as scary anymore. In fact — dare I say it — I had fun.

I think I am hooked.

WordCamp US was an incredible experience. The halls of the Philadelphia Convention Center buzzed with the babble of nearly 2000 WordPress contributors and users. The energy was electric. The best part, though, was not just the excited energy — it was the happiness. Up and down the halls, people smiled and laughed. I spoke with a colleague’s mom who visited the first day, and she was in awe. “Everyone is smiling and kind and helpful, and everyone is so happy to be here.”

It’s true. I saw teeth everywhere as people told jokes, as eyes met across corridors, as friends from around the world hugged when they saw each other again for the first time in months. I experienced my own joy in all those instances, when my coworkers cheered as I took the stage, and when I finished my presentation without fainting or making a fool of myself.

But as proud as I was of my first presentation at a WordCamp, I have to say that my most joyous times came when I was staffing the Happiness Bar.

The Happiness Bar at a WordCamp is a place where attendees can bring their laptops (or legal pads) and get help with their WordPress questions. This is what I do every day over live chat in my job as a Happiness Engineer at Automattic — help people with WordPress.com questions — and sitting at a table where I could see a user’s smile, look at their site with them, point at things on my screen to illustrate what I’m explaining, and have a real life conversation was incredibly rewarding.

I was nervous at first because while I know WordPress.com, I am not as familiar with self-hosted installations of the WordPress software, and I feared I wouldn’t be able to help. But the Happiness Bar was so well-staffed, there was always someone nearby to help. And just like at work, and just like Open Source software, helping at the Happiness Bar was a team effort. If one of us didn’t know an answer, there was always someone close by to ask.

Most impactful, though, was that everyone was not just available to ask questions of, they were excited to jump in and help. Nobody gave dirty looks if you didn’t know an answer — instead they took it as an “Oooh, I get to teach about something I know!” moment.

I loved WordCamp. I loved speaking. I loved helping at the Happiness Bar. And I was honored to feel and contribute to the energy of the WordPress community — a community that has built the free, Open Source software that now powers 25% of the Web.

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