For the latest episode of our blog series on WordPress Communities, we are happy to interview Ahmed Khalifa from the WordPress Edinburgh Community.
Huge thanks to Ahmed for taking time to talk with us and share his experience.
Who is the Edinburgh WordPress community?
We are a team of 5 people who work together to organising events for our local WordPress Edinburgh.
Our local meetup has been going for approximately 5 years and I have been involved with it for 3 years. We have grown a lot during that time, and we recently had to move to a bigger venue to accommodate between 35-50 people per month.
Every month, we make sure that we have either a speaker to speak to our attendees, or we sit together to share the latest news and help each other out on particular problems that anyone is having with their WordPress sites.
Having an established local community has also allowed us to hold 3 WordCamps within the last 3 years. Judging by the feedback from the attendees, each event was a success and the Edinburgh WordPress community has gotten stronger as a result, which allowed us to help even more people within the WordPress community, both local and further away.
What is your background, what should our readers know about you?
I currently run my own WordPress SEO consultancy business, which came at the back of 10 years experience in the online industry at various full-time employments. Even though I already had the relevant experience up to the point of starting my freelance business, being involved with the WordPress community has played a big part in my personal and business development.
On a personal level, I am also hard of hearing and I run a deaf blog where I share stories and also advice for people dealing with various challenges that comes with being d/Deaf and hard of hearing.
I’m a big advocate of creating different type of content to share knowledge, connect with people and help them to be a better version of themselves. That’s why I write blogs, create podcasts and create YouTube videos.
Without them, it’s difficult for anyone to connect with their audience.
For how long have you been using WordPress? And why you’ve chosen WordPress?
I remember toying with the idea of having my own website around 2008 when finishing off my education qualifications. I’ve experimented with a number of different CMS, but I quickly felt more comfortable with WordPress.org.
I remember making the time in the evening after work or after attending lectures at university to learn more about this fascinating software which allows you to create a website.
Because at that time, having a website sounded like a really cool idea for someone who is not a developer.
All those late nights and putting time aside to learn were important experience as you learn how everything works; organising hosting, creating content, learning basic HTML, installing plugins and themes.
Even though I have made many mistakes, these were “important” mistakes to make as then you learn what not to do afterwards. I always believe that you won’t learn anything new if you are are afraid of making mistakes, so this experience was important for me to understand how WordPress works.
And that’s why I always advise everyone to learn how to use WordPress by getting their hands dirty and play with it.
Yeah, you can learn online by reading articles and watching YouTube videos, but that will not get you anywhere until you start “breaking things” and being brave enough to make mistakes.
How did you get involved in the WordPress community?
Despite using WordPress for many years up to that point, it wasn’t until I volunteered at WordCamp Edinburgh 2015 that I first step foot into the community. I wanted to know what it was like contributing, learn more about the community and also be around smarter people than me who knows more about WordPress than me.
So I figured volunteering at a WordCamp would be a great way to do that and that was a great experience for me.
That moment was the catalyst as I have since attended almost every monthly meetups since then, connected with a number of people in the local community and from afar, and (somehow 😅) ended up helping with organising events.
It also opened my eyes to attending and speaking at other WordCamps too, something which I never would have done before.
None of this was planned, and I think that was important. You just go in there with an open mind, don’t create huge expectations for yourself and have a good time. You just never know where that will take you, and my 3-year experience in the community is a testament of that.
Today you’re playing a key role in the WordCamp organization, tell our readers more about the biggest challenges, the innovations and the new trends of the WordCamp Edinburgh.
Because it’s a volunteer-run event, it is a huge challenge to make sure that everyone is able to put the huge amount of time and energy required to make the event happen.
A lot of people don’t realise how much time and effort that the organising teams at all WordCamps provide in the background to make the event happen. So getting a committed and hard-working organising team to work together is essential for all WordCamps.
Since there had been hundreds of WordCamps across the globe over the years, you don’t want to be “just another WordCamp”. The most important thing to do is to make sure you make your own mark on it and try to differentiate yourself.
And it doesn’t have to be an expensive task either.
For example, at WordCamp Edinburgh 2018, we have decided to have the after-party at the same venue as our talks, provide foods and drinks there instead of at a local bar (which means less expenses and also less noise), and then go to the Christmas market together.
And that was fun!
So think about how to make your WordCamp different than others, even if it’s something like…having a petting zoo! (You’re welcome 😁)
For you, what’s the magical recipe for a successful WordPress WordCamp or Meetup?
Most people assume that you need to have a huge budget to make the event a success so that you can buy the best food, the best swag, a huge venue, etc.
But that’s not always the case.
At any WordPress, big or small, it’s the people involved that make the event what it is. And that means everyone the attendees, speakers, sponsors, volunteers and organisers.
It’s up to you as organisers to lay the groundwork, create the right environment and set the scene where everyone can thrive and feel as comfortable as possible. That’s the key to making it work and making sure that everyone has a good time.
Again, it doesn’t have to be any extravagant. Even making sure that the talks are accessible, dietary requirements are met and code of conducts are mentioned can all play a part in creating a positive atmosphere.
I would also strongly advise in attending and volunteering at other WordCamps. It will allow you to expose yourself to different ideas, connect and learn from other organisers, and understand how much effort is required to make it happen.
This will give you a better knowledge for you and your own organising team.
What does Edinburgh WordPress community has in the pipeline?
We are looking to invite more speakers to speak at our meetup, whether it’s local or further away, to speak our attendees and be part of our community.
As much as it’s great to have the same organisers and attendees at the meetup, it’s always good to freshen it up by having someone from outside the group to come and talk about a topic that will interest us. From our previous experience, this tends to generate good discussions and it is also a great way to meet more people from within the community.
But even if we don’t happen to have speakers, we are looking for ways to continue adding value to the attendees, such as by holding “website surgery”, where they can bring in their laptops and show everyone a problem they’re having which they need help on.
At the time of writing, we have not decided when to hold the next WordCamp Edinburgh, but the meetup is a great way to continue that momentum within our local community. The challenge though is to keep it consistently high quality and deliver value.
We also have a great relationship with WordPress Glasgow, which is less than an hour away from us. I have had the opportunity to speak at their event and also attended their Contributor Day, the first in Scotland, but we will be looking to see what else can we do together over the coming years.