WordCamp Retreat Soltau – Our Recap of a Very Special WordCamp

Leefke Krönke Last updated on 23.10.2020
7 Min.
RAIDBOXES  Team #WCRetreat
Last updated on 23.10.2020

As a sponsor of the very first WordCamp retreat we went to Soltau on Friday (at 4 am!) with seven colleagues, one Wapuu, two slush ice cream and three hundred homemade RAIDBOXES muffins. To anticipate our conclusion of the event The #WCRetreat blew us away and exceeded our expectations by far! The presentations were super diversified, the hotel and the food were great, the weather was bombastic and the whole atmosphere was great. That's why we want to send our enthusiasm out into the world and review the event once again.

But before we go into more detail about the highlights of the WordCamp Retreat in Soltau, let's first deal with the question: What does "retreat" actually mean and what does it have to do with a WordCamp?

The development of the WordCamp retreat format

According to Oxford Dictionary the term Retreat "a quiet or secluded place in which one can rest and relax." The WordCamp Retreat lives up to this importance in every respect, because the location - the Hotel Park Soltau - is located far away from the big city turmoil in the beautiful Lüneburg Heath.

At first the WordCamp Retreat had the working title "WordCamp in the Green", which also describes the basic idea well. After the new format was discussed and accepted, a group of community members agreed to organize the WordCamp Retreat. Hats off for this mammoth task, because the planning took a total of 1.5 years and cost the organizing team a lot of time and nerves!

WCRetreat Terrace
The beautiful terrace of the WordCamp Retreat Location

What makes the WordCamp Retreat so special?

The special thing about the WordCamp Retreat is that all participants, speakers and volunteers spend the whole weekend in a hotel, which is also the event location. This has created many more casual opportunities to get to know the other participants. So during the (super tasty!) meals, on the site and during the sessions and activities, you saw familiar faces and met new people at the same time. So a great "class trip atmosphere" was created relatively quickly.

At regular WordCamps it often happens that after the last session the participants flock in all directions to go back to their hotel, have dinner or explore the city. All this is omitted at the WordCamp Retreat.

In addition, the WordCamp Retreat offers various leisure activities before breakfast and in the afternoon. According to lead organizer Sven Wagener, the idea behind it is that the participants mix together in new groups. While there are special sessions for developers, designers or marketers at regular WordCamps and the groups tend to keep to themselves, this separation does not exist for leisure activities. For example, one could make new contacts during a photo walk through nature or work out together in sports.  

#WCRetreat day 1: Spontaneous GDPR Q&A and WP quiz

On Friday morning we arrived at the Hotel Park Soltau at 8:00 a.m. after a four hour drive. After we had checked in and set up our sponsors' stand, the official welcome session started right away. Each participant was allowed to introduce himself with his name, his city and three hashtags. Our data protection officer Virginia had of course described herself with #GDPR. Thereupon came the idea of Udo Titmiceto join Virginia in GDPR offering a Q&A on the to fill a slot that has become available. No sooner said than done - the spontaneous presentation started shortly afterwards:

Session: Data Protection in Times of GDPR – Q&A

The spontaneous session on the subject of the basic data protection regulation was not the usual introduction to the subject. After all, most of them have already dealt with itGDPR . Instead, Udo and Virginia answered questions from the round and the discussion was held together. There were questions about business cards, handling MyFonts, tracking services and concrete duties of freelancers, among others. Even if you have already GDPR dealt with this one, there will certainly be one or two takeaways for you. You can watch the session online at WordPress TV .

Session: WordPress On-page Optimization – Technical & Structural

Daniel Pardella has given valuable tips in his session on OnPage optimization on how to build up your site technical and structural correct. The focus was primarily on the advantages and disadvantages of certain page structures as well as load time and code optimization, rather than classic SEO. Especially the little tips like "Don't forget the bottom line" or how to update your articles correctly were very helpful. Also Daniel's Talk is already uploaded to WordPress TV.

Session: WordPress Breaks Time (and How to Fix It)

Another interesting presentation was given by Andrey Savchenkowho has shown how WordPress breaks time. The main takeaway of his session: Since the WordPress timestamps based on PHP 4 and different from UNIX timestamps, you should never change the timezone. Then it can happen that the times of your posts are displayed incorrectly or planned articles are published at the wrong time. The recording of Andrey's session, do you find here.

Session: Time Management and Time Tracking

The lecture by Zeth Odderskov gave us a completely new perspective on time management. Zeth has revealed how he managed to "waste no more time" Right at the beginning we listeners should think about what we spend time with and what things we could actually cut. When Zeth showed us how he successfully monitors and analyses almost every minute of his day, everyone was visibly fascinated - a truly inspiring lecture. If you look at the Time Management Session If you want to watch Netflix on WordPress TV, be warned: you will have a hard time watching Netflix without a guilty conscience afterwards! 

Of course there were other great presentations on friday, which were also already available on WordPress TV or will be in the next few days.

Business before pleasure

After the last sessions, in the afternoon there was the opportunity to participate in various leisure activities (e.g. first aid course, jam session, dancing, ball sports). A popular leisure activity that accompanied the whole weekend was the solving of the Rubix Cube. The interest was so great that the workshop was offered on both days.

Board with activities
Board with leisure activities at the WordCamp Retreat

After the delicious dinner there was another highlight: the WP Quiz. Hans Helge Citizen has delivered the perfect quizmaster and even put the knowledge of the WP professionals to the test. By the way, our Senior Dev Matthias translated all quiz questions into English in a last-minute action, so that really everybody could take part in the event.

#WCRetreat Day 2: Contributing, BarCamp & Karaoke

Saturday morning we (well, let's say two of the colleagues) started the day with early morning sports. Milou de Kleijn made us sweat a lot at boot camp.

After breakfast the motto was, "Contribution Time!". Johannes joined the hosting team, Jakob pushed his first patch for a WP core bug and Leefke was helping as a volunteer.

Our BarCamp lectures

After lunch the BarCamp started. There were so many session pitches that even an extra room was opened that was not originally planned. There we were also allowed to give two lectures:

Jan and Matthias examined 4WordPress .9 and 5.0 from a performance perspective. Due to the active questions a great discussion was created.

Virginia has again addressed the issue of data protection and answered specific questions about GDPR it. As there was unfortunately no official recording equipment in the room, our BarCamp sessions will unfortunately not be shown on WordPress TV. However, we have filmed the lectures ourselves. As soon as we have put the material online, we will share the link on Twitter.

Here is an overview of the other BarCamp sessions. There was really a great mix of presentations:

Schedule of the WCRetreat BarCamp sessions
Schedule of the BarCamp sessions

The After Party - Good mood, BBQ and Karaoke

Also on Saturday, everyone could arrange the afternoon as they wished. Some retired to work, others were out and about in sports, in the hotel pool or simply sat together in a relaxed manner. In the evening everyone got together again for the BBQ and the after party. When it became slowly too cold outside, the party continued in the hotel bar. The highlight of the evening was a karaoke machine that Yoast's colleagues had brought along.

People sang until late at night, played darts and billiards and partied. When Ghostbusters was sung, a new RAIDBOXES song was created. ?

#WCRetreat day 3: The last sessions & time to say goodbye

Sunday morning was relatively quiet compared to the previous days. Could this have been due to the after party? 😉 In the morning there were still some sessions, of which we unfortunately couldn't visit many anymore, as we had to dismantle our stand and load the car.
All in all one could almost say that on Sunday there was a sad mood in the air because nobody really wanted to go home.

From the next table, for example, we heard the statement "This was really the most relaxed WordCamp here that ever existed", which we can absolutely agree with. After a last lunch together in bright sunshine, unfortunately it was already "Time to say Goodbye". 

Farewell event at the WCRetreat Soltau
Farewell event at the WordCamp Retreat Soltau

Conclusion: A thoroughly successful event!

The next WordCamps will certainly have a hard time ("no pressure", dear Würzburg-Team 😉 ) to get to the special atmosphere in Soltau. Anyway, we are very happy that we could be part of the very first WordCamp retreat worldwide.

In this sense, once again a huge thank you to the entire organizing team, the volunteers and the Hotel Park Soltau and all those who contributed to the success of the event. We very much hope that the retreat format will establish itself in the global WP community, "so please spread the word, everyone!

Some have already done so, so feel free to stop by there as well!

As Head of Content Marketing, Leefke always has the RAIDBOXES magazine "wp unboxed", the newsletter & the social media channels in her sights. That's why she always knows the latest developments in the WP community. Unfortunately she is rarely to be found in Münster nowadays. But Hamburg is said to be rather nice too.

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