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Whistler welcomes WordCamp

Bloggers, social network enthusiasts make their way to Whistler to talk shop



It all started as a simple tweet on Twitter. But before Duane Storey knew it, the idea of hosting a WordCamp right here in Whistler had picked up momentum, and was quickly snowballing.
Storey has taken on the task of organizing the first WordCamp Whistler with John and Rebecca Bollwitt.
"We were talking about doing something sort of fun and extravagant, and we were like, 'Well, why don't we do a WordCamp up in Whistler?'" Storey said.
"It's a short little hop from Vancouver, and with the 2010 Winter Olympics being hosted partly in Whistler, we thought it would be a really neat opportunity to really showcase the location for people who may not have been exposed to it before, especially since WordCamps have a global audience and we'll probably have live streaming of the events on the Internet, with people tuning in from places not anywhere near Whistler."
Despite the name, WordCamp isn't your average writers' conference.
"It's definitely geared towards social media and blogging, with an emphasis on people who use WordPress as their blogging engine," Storey explained.
The grassroots conferences focus on everything related to WordPress, which, for the technologically unsavvy, is a simple, user-friendly engine or framework for easily writing and manipulating content for a website.
"So if you had a website that was powered by WordPress, you'd simply have a really easy to use back end that sort of looks like Microsoft Word or something simple, and you'd be able to type in your entry and change the title and publish it," he said.
At last count, over 4 million blogs are hosted on the WordPress website, with many more users downloading versions and using the framework independently.
Though many traditional media platforms, like newspapers and television, have been struggling as of late, Storey points out that newer mediums, like blogs, have experienced a correlating boost.
"One of the common criticisms now is that we've sort of lost the unbiased nature of the media in a lot of places, especially south of the border, and so I think blogs represent a grassroots way for people to get the word across," Storey said, adding that social media is faster and more direct.
WordCamp meetings focus on sharing knowledge about this state-of-the-art industry. Groups vary in size anywhere from 20 to 400 people, and they take place all over the world.
But this will be the first time a WordCamp has made its way to the Sea to Sky region, and Storey said it was immediately a popular idea with the tech-savvy group.
The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is playing host to the conference, which Storey hopes will attract almost 100 participants from the Sea to Sky region, the Lower Mainland and even the States, ranging from the most casual, at-home blogger to some core developers.
The keynote speaker is the "Blog Evangelist," otherwise known in the WordPress community as Lorelle VanFossen. Other speakers include Andy Peatling, Dave Olson, Dale Mugford, John Biehler, Quentin Muhlert, Morten Rand-Hendriksen and Tris Hussey. They'll each be offering up their expertise on a variety of topics, including configuration, content management, and integrating new media onto WordPress sites.
"It'll touch on basically everything related to WordPress, all the way from development issues to installation issues to how to make your blog better," Storey said. "...We've tried to target it to as many user bases as possible so everyone will get something out of it."
Aside from the learning opportunities offered at WordCamp, Storey points out that there will be plenty of chances to network, as well, especially during their social events. The conference kicks off on Friday evening with a "Beer for Bloggers" event, and on Saturday evening the Longhorn Saloon will host the official Molson-sponsored social event of the conference.
Traditionally, bigger technology conferences are quite expensive to attend. In contrast, they've tried to keep WordCamp Whistler affordable, with tickets starting at just $35, which includes a full day of conferences, lunch, and a WordPress souvenir.
"With WordCamps, the onus has sort of always been on corporate sponsorship, with the goal of keeping ticket prices low, so that it doesn't keep individual bloggers away, because you want all of the people to be able to come who want to attend, not just the people with deep pockets," Storey added.
So far, the conference has generated a lot of interest, and registration numbers were promising as of last Friday afternoon. Though they've managed to attract sponsors for the first WordCamp Whistler, despite the troubled economic times, the support hasn't been as strong as the organizers had hoped.
"Everyone's sort of watching the purse strings at this point."

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