ThemeConf, the mystery unraveled

Lets start here… to those looking to seed an awesome new conference, start with playbooks from the likes of the ThemeConf, PrestigeConf, and YoastCon organizers. They’re doing truly good, meaningful work.

What was [acf field=”event_name”] all about?

I just got back from spending time in Keswick (pronounced Kesik) this week and learned a ton about the future of WordPress theming. The venue was great, the town was something out of a fairytale, and the speakers were extraordinarily qualified (of course, you can catch the sessions from the livestream on the ThemeConf website).

The most important part of [acf field=”event_name”]

The most important part of the event though, was something that caused a bit of a hassle for anyone attempting a journey from anywhere other than the UK.

20150902116003Keswick sits deep within what Americans would call a National Forest. The area is so remote, it’s a 2-3 hr drive from any major city. It’s not exactly a town that was built for a conference, and that’s exactly why it’s the perfect place.

I wasn’t completely sold

I’ve got to admit, I was a bit hesitant to make the journey. If you know where I’ve been this year, you know that I’m no scaredy-cat when it comes to travel, but this particular location was difficult to get to for a right-lane-driver (I know, the train was a viable option, but still a bit of a haul). Even with the spectacular views from Walla Crag (post coming soon), and the natural beauty of the area (it really is spectacular), I wasn’t completely sold on the need to have the conference in that specific area. Jack and Tammie were adamant about it being important that ThemeConf was held in the area though (Jack happens to live in this wonderful town), and who am I to question such talent?

The beer that changed everything

It wasn’t until I got back to Manchester and had a beer with Michael Cropper (from the WordCamp Manchester organizing team) that things crystalized.

Keswick is a beautiful town because of its traditional beauty. Sure, there are plenty of new restaurants, pubs, and businesses, but there are also many traditional businesses. What I learned from Michael is that much of the high-tech communities are centered in London and Manchester. As you travel outside of those regions, high-tech communities decrease exponentially (especially to the North).

Spurring tech growth in the UK

The UK government understands that there’s a certain level of density and access to infrastructure that’s needed to grow tech populations, so they’ve attempted to help spur growth in the high-tech sector by creating projects like that to fund fiber around the country. But, growth can be stubborn at times, especially when it comes to Northbound propagation. Compounding the issue is the fact that many traditional business owners aren’t interested in being a part of the web. Specifically, many traditional business owners are apprehensive when it comes to trusting web developers.

Drawing attention to our craft

In short, the reason why ThemeConf needed to be, and should continue to be in the North, is because it draws attention to the web development craft— our livelihood– in a positive way. We were the ones spending money with traditional businesses and helping to support the local economy.

The communities in which we as web creators spend our time, energy, and money has a positive influence on our ability to sign new clients.

What we do as web professionals is meaningful to small business

Do you think small business owners talk? Yep. Will they talk about those ‘great web people that had a conference in Keswick’? You bet they will. For evidence of that, just ask a shopkeeper how they decided on a particular vendor. Word of mouth is paramount. We owe it to our craft & businesses that we serve to evangelize the benefits of the web.

Well done ThemeConf. Great event, and way to take a risk and be bold. Next year, hopefully the crew at ThemeConf will put on another event, and you too will make the pilgrimage.

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