[You ever find a great blog post in your drafts and think ‘damn that’s way too late to post!’? Sod it, YOLO!]

The inaugural WordCamp Asia was held in Bangkok Thailand from the 17th to the 19th of February 2023, and Crowd Favorite sent myself (Ant) and Karim to represent the business on this stage. It was an incredibly intense event, with innumerable meetings with peers from across the industry, many fascinating talks, side events, and of course Karim on stage presenting our vision for WordPress as a lynchpin for enterprise digital infrastructure. And that was just our little adventure – Bangkok is an incredibly dynamic and exciting city, and the WCAsia event was huge and fantastic, and the venue was amazing, and you get the idea!

We Begin on the Fringe – The Enterprise Gap

Before the conference itself had started, before contributor day even, we were booked in to attend The Enterprise Gap , where Karim would be speaking on stage, and joining a panel from across the enterprise tier of the WordPress community.

The event had been open to all, but not heavily promoted, and by and large the audience was agencies and hosting companies with significant enterprise engagement. Human Made had organised, Elementor and XWP were presenting, and all had already shared a degree of alignment. There was some slight lack of clarity going in as to whether this was about the enterprise level teams supporting each other, or more about helping lift the capabilities of smaller players in the region, but the former had been our understanding, and on the night that did seem to be the consensus.

The talks varied in focus – Miriam of Elementor gave a very broad overview of the enterprise landscape, Stéphane of XWP took us on a deep dive into the demise of cookies and how that would affect enterprise publishers, Ivan of Human Made demoed their collaborative editing block (which is very alpha, but very interesting), and our own Karim brought it home by highlighting how collaboration between the enterprise facing agencies, hosting, and product firms is essential for continued growth and competing with the big beasts.

The following panel was great – with everyone apparently energised by the talks, and particularly Karim’s. All favoritism* aside, I think Karim’s vision really struck a chord, and articulated the key concerns of the group brilliantly. It was especially great to see Myles, Miriam, and Noel essentially validate the analysis and direction we’d brought to the event, and take it further with enthusiasm.

I want to flag Petya’s input to the event; she basically organised it on location, emceed it, chaired the panel, and then the next day ran the translation group table at contributor day and then the day after did a talk at WCAsia. P is astonishing. Siobhan is also amazing, and she did a lot of the legwork earlier setting this up, but couldn’t come out.

*see what I did there?

Contributor Day (which we used mostly for meetings)

Neither Karim nor I have specific engagements with the groups that meet for contributor days – I’ve participated in WP Marketing previously, but the overall community focus and my commercial enterprise/agency focus have rarely usefully coincided. So instead we used the Friday mostly to catch up with contacts across the WP enterprise world. Through the morning I popped across to the event venue to get the details on my emcee duties (I received an invitation to emcee as I boarded my flight from London, which was nice!) and then headed over with Miriam Schwab from the conference venue to the restaurant we’d booked for lunch with Ariel (CTO cofounder) and Eran (VP Business strategy) of Elementor. We picked a good Kosher place, and which we all really appreciated (Kosher food at venue was poor). It was that exciting mix of the convivial and brass tacks commercial which somehow goes well with that kind of cuisine!

After a frankly terrifying tuktuk ride back to the hotel Karim and I fitted in a few more meetings with:

Piccia Neri – designer and speaker. I emceed her at WCEurope last year, she’s a wealth of experience and accessibility expertise.

Gerard Smith and Ricky Blacker from WPE – we explored their approach to the APC region, who we worked with out there as partners, and how we can add heavy lifting to the regional agencies they partner with. Very engaging discussions and good for increasing our ‘surface area’ with this potential important (if sometimes less than perfectly aligned) partner.

Phil Morris and Andrew Fleming of WordPress.com VIP. Yeah, this was a very interesting one. (I reached out to Greta Van Raam at VIP about a week before WCAsia and she connected us with VIP people attending the event. This was a VERY interesting chat – we booked out the conference room at the hotel so we’d be able to keep the connection discrete, and the response we got from Phil in particular was very encouraging. He heads strategy and operations for VIP, and has a background going years back in Sun Micro Systems and setting up data centres. His attitude to partnerships is very much in line with the one Greta expressed (a move toward VIP being a peer of its partner agencies, rather than a patronage model) and he very much agreed with Karim’s widely accepted proposal that we need lightweight standards for interoperability, and a concerted effort to engage with enterprise markets.


We then headed over to the speaker party where I managed to catch the last of my speakers (Raushan Jaiswal from Nepal – awesome guy), and chatted briefly to Alberto Medina from Google. Alberto is great, but he’s always a bit difficult to connect with before a big talk, so I circled back to him at the end of the camp.

Conference Day 1 – Emceeing, random meetings, dinner of the gods

As I’d boarded my flight from London Heathrow, literally as I sat at the gate, I got a flurry of slack messages across different channels asking me to emcee in Bangkok. I’d said I’d be happy to be a reserve waaaaay back in December, so I knew it was a possibility, and day one was it. I was emceeing for Petya on remote culture, Topher on successes of Hero press, and Raushan on digital marketing strategies. I also jammed in a few extra 1 to 1 meetings with local/regional agencies, and some ex HM types looking for new roles and advice/ support.

Because of the way emceeing was being run (I have opinions on this) I saw the talks preceding mine to ensure a good handover.

Petya – Leading with Cultural Intelligence – strategies for breaking the invisible boundaries of global business

Such a great talk – go see it – from Petya exploring specific scientifically defined dimensions of cultural difference that can be usefully explored to improve the way colleagues from across different cultures can work together. I know CF is not a ridiculously distributed company, but we are remote and we do come from a range of cultures, and this talk shows a great framework for engaging with that difference, celebrating it, and working to give us all a great experience. Loved it!

Such a good talk

Topher DeRosia – Success stories of HeroPress

I love Topher to bits and he does a lot of good for the community – he’s almost the storyteller in chief, the keeper of the tales, and he’s a super warm person. Go see it to be reminded how lovely the WordPress world can be.

Carl Alexander – A look at serverless WordPress

This immediately preceded a talk I was emceeing so I needed to be in the room, but OMG it was amazing. So ok, right out of the block – we all know there are servers and it’s a stupid name! But still and all, this was the talk of the event for me. Maybe not the slickest, maybe not the best attended, but I learned more in this 40 minutes than I expected, and this talk is well worth looking at. Carl’s invested heavily in this, but he recognises the limitations too.

Carl Alexander explains serverless WordPress. Really well!

There was actually a bit of a buzz leading up to the talk (quite a few people talking about what they expected to hear at the Enterprise Gap event and around the meetings and parties the day before) and it didn’t disappoint. Here’s the video of the talk (go look, even if you’re not in devops or are comfortable with backend stuff, you will get a lot of this, and it will help in the future as serverless spreads). And here’s the slide share or whatever it’s called these days.

Rauchan Jaiswal – WordPress Marketing: How to Leverage Digital Marketing to Increase Sales

This was a really well put together talk on the basics and even some good strategic elements on a few key areas of digital marketing. It was a real pleasure to meet Raushan, to learn his story, and to emcee his talk, and I think he’s going to do really well. He’s focussed on the travel industry in India and Nepal (he’s from Kathmandu), and honestly, I got a buddy in Kathmandu now! That’s awesome! Go see his talk on youtube.

Ok so following the event we had a VERY brief amount of down time before the WPEngine social event on the roof bar back at the hotel (which was nice – I caught up with Taco from Yoast and Johnny Harris, who I am reliably informed is now back at XWP after being laid off, but who is actually working for Google on WordPress core. Yeah I know…). Then jumped in a cab with Karim and Daneille to go and have dinner at a little place Joe recommended with Myles and Francesca from XWP. It was nice.

Conference Day 2 – Ant oversleeps, Karim does his thing, we have more meetings, and then it’s all over!

Karim can speak to Matts Q&A – I missed it. My jet lag finally caught up with me and only released me from it’s grip at 10:30 am, less than an hour before Karim was on stage at the venue 30 mins away. I made it just in time to sort him with a good photographer, and then we went into his talk.

Karim Marucchi – Successfully Marrying Open Source and Large MarTech Stacks

People, he was awesome.

Karim and large diagrams
Karim and Noel in dialogue at WCAsia – That’s Alberto Medina next to Noel

You know how it really matters to ‘read a room’? Karim has read the whole damn industry with this one and everyone who works at our level was there to hear, and to contribute. The talk was great and the Q&A session was superb too, and you can see the video here introduced by Robert from Inpsyde, with really useful supportive contributions from Noel Tock of Human Made.

Jonathan Wold – Business Models in the WordPress Ecosystem

Jonathan Wold explores the various business models in quite some detail.

I like Jonathan a LOT. He’s always great to talk to, one of life’s natural analysts. In this talk he’d taken a really rigorous approach to analysing all the various business models in WordPress and exploring how people succeed and fail in each. Well worth watching here on Youtube.

Piccia Neri – Colour is an opinion (…And don’t let anybody tell you that their opinion is better than yours)

4 frame montage of Piccia’s talk, showing the 3 different colour blindness types

Piccia always does opinionated, beautiful, and fun filled talks, and attending this one was a little treat to myself. It was useful too though, and had some great examples of design issues with colour. Take a look at the talk here.

And that was it – then it was closing comments, and then the after party. I did get to spend time with Carl Alexander, Alberto Medina, Thijs of Yoast, and Alex Frison of Inpsyde at these events, but what happens at the after party stays at the after party! Ok so if you want to know more, please let me know!

Crowd Favorite doing WCAsia in style

Written by meeware

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *