WordCamp USA 2016 Trip Diary

Here is a recap of my WordCamp USA 2016 tour.

Day #0

Vivek and I left Pune quite early, around 3 PM, for a midnight flight. I just wanted to keep my record of never missing a flight, or for that matter, a train/bus/ferry/space shuttle. ?

It was my fourth US trip, but for the first time, I traveled on a direct flight between India and USA. It turned out to be a nicer experience for me.

Day #1

We reached Newark early. Local time 6:30 AM.

We spent almost an hour in immigration queues.

Immigration officer tried to pull my leg by saying that he can only grant a visa for 3-days. But by now I am quite comfortable with their sense of humor, so I requested him to make dates as Dec 2-4. ?

Of course, the officer granted me a visa for full 6-months. I wish I could skip immigration queue on next trip to Pressnomics which would be happening within six months duration!

On Airport, we tried to find a good local SIM, but all offers on Airport were overpriced and useless.

We decided to take public transport for our AirBnB accommodation in Brooklyn. It involved a change at New York Penn Station. I stayed in that area during my last WCUS 2015 trip, so I was familiar with the neighborhood.

So when changing trains there, we visited Perfume Valley Gift Shop to buy Lycamobile SIM. We purchased same SIM last year too.

The Mustafa uncle, the shop-owner, who hails from Pakistan, greeted us with tea. We had a chat for a long time.

From there we went to Brooklyn. We had a very pleasant experience with AirBnB. If you visit Brooklyn/Manhattan next time, you may like to stay with this AirBnB listing.

In the afternoon, I had a fever, so I stayed in bed till evening. ?

For dinner, Harshad and I visited Archie’s Bar & Pizza. As I was not feeling well, I had food only and left early to sleep.

Day #2

The day started with a meeting with a friend and prospective client in Manhattan. It was raining badly, but we managed to reach client office on time. ☔️

In the afternoon, me, Harshad, Vivek, and Vishal (Vivek’s friend from New Jersey) had lunch at Spicy Village. I had no idea that time that I will end up eating a lot Chinese and Japanese food on this US tour!

From there we went to the Broad Street for another client meeting. As there were almost 2 hours left for the meeting. As it was raining badly, we couldn’t roam around. I never hated rain so much! ?

There was a Starbucks nearby, but it was almost full. And considering total 3-4 hours we were planning to spend, we instead settled in another coffee shop called Cosi.  It has a bad rating on Yelp, so as expected, the was almost empty. So we got a big table, and nobody bothered us for 4-5 hours we spent there.

So pro tip is – if you want to spend a lot more time in a coffee shop, without drinking too much coffee, look for the one with the bad rating! ?

After our client meeting, Vivek went to see Charging Bull and World Trade Center nearby. Harshad and I saw it all last year, so we stayed in the coffee shop, finishing our work.

From there, three of us went to Ponche, a Mexican restaurant for dinner with Peter Wilson from HumanMade. I think this was Peter’s first trip to New York. Peter was excited about watching Hamilton – a musical show next day. You can read Peter’s experience here.

Day #3

Today was the day to leave for Philly. ?

We took a bus which cost only $8 per seat. Had we booked a round-trip, it would have cost us only $6 per seat one-way. But as our plan about return was not sure, we booked a one-way ticket only.

Later on, I found that the bus company allows trip rescheduling for just $1 per passenger and as late as 2-hours before departure time!

While waiting for the bus, I quickly grabbed some Chinese food. This time it was rice. It was much better and tastier and cost only $5!

Love Chinatowns in every city for delicious and affordable food. ?

We reached our AirBnB in Philly around 2 PM. It was raining then. But our AirBnB home was nearby, so we choose to walk. Later we were pleasantly surprised to see the WordCamp US venue closer than expected!

It was raining when we reach Philly. So we stayed indoor till evening.

In the evening, Vivek and I went to dinner with Jeffrey and Arlen from XWP to Ralph’s Italian Restaurant. It was recommended in a WordCamp US blog post.

I enjoyed dinner, but as the place was bit overcrowded, it was a bit harder to have a conversation there. I saw some people wearing WordPress swags so may be the WCUS blog post made this place overcrowded! The power of WordPress you see!?

Day #4 – Post Status Publish Day

Vivek and I started the day with breakfast a Tony’s Deli. This place was near Post Status Publish.

When we were leaving Tony’s after breakfast, I run into Vladimir Prelovac from ManageWP. Vladimir was with Jeff from GoDaddy.

Vladimir introduced us to Jeff as one of the early developers of ManageWP.  It’s a pleasure and honor to be part of a successful project like ManageWP.

It feels better when your client acknowledges your work! It’s very rare in India. So thanks for it Vladimir! ?

So with a good breakfast and good morning, we headed to the Post Status Publish.

Post Status Publish

The conference was first such event from Post Status club. As a member of Post Status member, I knew this was going to be awesome. It turned out to me much better than my already high expectations!

In fact, the event was so good that I forgot to tweet during from the event. ?

I attended many talks.

The first one about “Mergers & Acquisitions in WP Hosting ecosystem” between Joshua Strebel and Steve Lee was excellent. I wonder if such an M&A talk discussion can happen for agency businesses.

Bryce Adams showed his new SaaS app Metorik. It impressed many attendees. I was already impressed as Bryce gave beta test it some time ago.

After the lunch, I attended a talk about Marketing by Chris Lema. It’s always amazing to see him on stage. Beside the knowledge you can gain from the talk, watching him talk gives you ideas for you own speaking gigs! ?

The final talk was a discussion about “Life at an agency” between Tom Willmot and Scott Basgaard. As somebody who leads an agency, there were many things to learn for me.

Apart from talks, I had excellent time meeting with old friends and making new friends.

Towards the end of the event, we left early to attend WCUS volunteer dinner. The location was next to WCUS venue, and it was on our way back to the AirBnB home.

WCUS Volunteer Dinner meeting. John is missing in pic only.

Day #5 – WCUS Day 1

As we couldn’t attend the WCUS venue tour for volunteers yesterday, we had to reach venue early on. The venue was empty. Much more vacant than what you see in the picture below:

I attended few talks. The first one by Cory Miller. I attended his talk before and used his iceberg concept to fix some issues in my life. As this iceberg worked well for me, I decided to attend the same talk again! I think this was the first talk I attended twice in my life!

Another session I attended is on code review by Ryan Markel. As somebody who deals with bad codes as part of his job, I was happy to see so much interest in code-review topic!

Next, I attended “Answers by Pippin” by Pippin of course. Among other important questions, he also answered the most important questions for beer lovers like me! ?

Next, I attended one by Topher about his work on HeroPress. I liked this project a lot. ?

The next on the list was a session on blogging about Chris Lema. But I had volunteer duty to be room guard at that time. So I was outside room guarding the door and watching Chris speak from the window and “read” what he was saying on the teleprompter. I never thought teleprompter could be useful for a person like me too!

What I could have done better was to contact my room manager and take her permission to guard the door from inside! I did not know it was possible until next day. ?

As I reach the door early to take handover for my volunteer shift, I had an opportunity to talk to Chris one-on-one for good 10-15 mins.

Yoast joined in between. I spoke to Yoast for the first time, even though I am using his plugins from very long time.

I think it was a perk of my volunteering duty. I can’t imagine finding Chris sitting alone at a big conference like WCUS for a fair amount of time.

I still find it hard to break into people’s conversation, so I end up not talking to many people I want to speak at many conferences. So I want to talk to someone I wait till their conversations with others gets finished.

My friend Vova encourages me to be more assertive in public interactions.

I hope to be better next year. ?

After Parties

After the end of Day-1, we had options to attend one of many unofficial after-parties. We started with GoDadday party first. It was very well organized.

From there, Vivek and I went to LGBTWP meetup where rtCamp was also a sponsor. We ran into Matt Mullenweg at LGBTWP party.

From there we went to Envato’s after party where we spent a lot more time.

Just when I thought the day was about to get over, Jon and Shinichi arranged for another group party at Fuji Mountain – a Japanese Karaoke bar.

It was my first time in a Japanese bar and Japanese Karaoke. I did not know that Joe, Bryce, and Noel are so good with Japanese Karaoke. I think it’s a plus side of nomad lifestyle these folks chose! ?

In drinks, I tried Sake – a kind of Japanese wine for the first time. I liked that drink. I can’t recall the taste, but it kept me warm. The warmth was much needed for me in the cold weather I was struggling to adjust with!

Later I found Sake has an emoji too!?

Now I am planning to have all drinks which have emojis for them! They must be good to get an emoji for them. ?

Day #6 – WCUS Day 2

It was past 2 AM by the time I hit the bed last night. But I had to wake up early as today I had early morning volunteer duty.

My volunteering assignment was of room runner. A kind of backup resource. One of volunteer for our room did not show up, so I was assigned room guard duty.

As a WordCamp organizer, I liked this idea of having backup organizers. ?

Today, I got to know from the room manager that I could guard the door from inside too. So I attended two sessions when I was guarding. But I missed my friend Sakin Shrestha‘s session as it came at the time of my volunteering duty.

The first one was by Yoast on SEO. As I am using Yoast’s SEO plugin on all our sites, and following his work for a long time, I thought it would be all familiar. But I found few things new. I liked how Yoast & team is trying to make WordPress core more SEO friendly.

The second session was about The Dark Side of Democratization by Dennis Hong. This topic was entirely new to me. I liked what we covered. But I feel the issues, the dark side, is too hard to fix practically.

After lunch, I met Ryan Markel from WordPress.com VIP team. He showed me how they manage VIP and WordPress.com platform.

Hey, I just realized, I am writing this post from new Calypso interface from WordPress.com. Writing such a blog post in wp-admin default interface, with so many media and tweet embed slows down my almost three years old MacBook Air. Calypso is doing much better job, even though it has its shares of glitches.

Next on the agenda was “State of The Word” keynote by Matt. As always it was a house-full event with many announcements and changes.

If you missed it, you can watch it here or read its coverage by Brian Krogsgard at Post Status.

If you are concerned about what new release schedule looks like, or have questions about it, you may watch this follow-up video interview with Matt by Brian at Post Status.

After the end of Day-2, I went to Pennsylvania-6 for dinner with Jetpack team. Thanks Sam for the invite.

IMG_7912.JPG
Dinner with Jetpack Team

After the dinner, most of us went to The Academy of Natural Sciences museum. It was the venue for official WCUS afterparty.

It was the first time I saw a museum used as a party venue. It worked better than expected and people enjoyed a lot.

I started to feel a severe headache, so I left the party early. I need to get fit! ? ?

Day #7 – WCUS Contributors Day

I reached for contributors day almost on time. Maybe it was because of crashing early last night.

I contributed to the polyglot team and community team.

On polyglot team – I spent time translating some strings and moderating the one in the wait queue for Hindi/Marathi.

On community team – it was mostly discussions. One with James Tryon about Wapuu’s.

The other one with Andrea Middleton about WordCamps in India and WordPress in education. The second part is something we are working on for some time.

Matt talked about “Education in WordPress” during his “state of the word” keynote. I see this is an excellent move for the entire WP ecosystem.

Japanese Thali

For dinner – Joe, Bryce, Joey, Akshat and I went to Double Knot – a Japanese sushi bar. The place was excellent. We had a 10-course dinner. It was their chef’s menu.

In Indian perspective, it felt like eating a thali but in a serialized way! In an Indian Thali, you can jump from one item to another randomly. Here they were coming one after another. ?

It was an amazing experience. I wish I could recall names of at least some dishes.

In the end, I had Sushi for? the first time. I liked Sushi.

No Sake this time! We had some Japanese cocktails instead.

Around 11 PM, the Double Knot started to close, so we had to leave.

We tried to get something to drink on our way to AirBnB but couldn’t find any liquor shop.

I think Philly has some laws related to not allowing grocery stores to sell liquors. In some other US states, I buy it from grocery stores.

More Sake and Karaoke ? ?

From our AirBnB place, Bryce and Joey left for their hotel in some time.

Joe, Akshat, Harshad and I went to join other Jon, Shinichi and other WP friends at a Japanese Karaoke bar. It was like 300 meters from our AirBnB place. By the time we reached, the Karaoke party was finished.

So we settled in the restaurant and had few rounds of Sake with till everyone decided to leave! 🙂

Day 8 – Bye Bye

Today was the last day of our trip. I wake up bit late compared to previous days. By the time of AirBnB checkout, it was Harshad and me only.

We both had brunch at Reading Terminal Market. I had Again Chinese food!

From there we used trains to reach Newark Airport and flew back to the India with United Airline’s direct flight again!

Overall…

It was a great WordCamp and a memorable trip. This time for all good reason. ? ?

I am already planning to attend a lot many WordCamps next year including Udaipur, Bangkok, Mumbai, Kathmandu, WC Europe, Singapore, Tokyo, WCUS. And of course Pressnomics.

So see you soon! ?