This time last week I was in Barcelona, Spain, where I attended the WebVisions conference. WebVisions was great, there were a few really good talks I enjoyed, covering UX design, new CSS3 stuff, typography, and so on. I wrote about the conference itself on the Alyte Blog, you can read it all here.

I am a big fan of going to conferences – at the end of a good conference, I will have learnt something new, I’ll think about something if not many things differently, I’ll have had a chance to socialise with clever people and most importantly, I’ll be inspired and full of ideas, ready to get back into work!

WordCamps aren’t web conferences

Don’t get me wrong, WordCamps have their place, and vital if you work primarily in WordPress – however there is so much more out there to learn and be inspired about.

WordCamps are just about WordPress and from my experience both attending WordCamps and following them online, they don’t go out into much bigger, conceptual parts of the web.

Why web conferences are great

There’s a few reasons why web conferences surpass WordCamps in a few criteria.

You pay

You pay a lot more than a WordCamp – this means the conference has money to pay industry leaders to prepare and deliver kick-ass sessions. WordCamps are great because they are very community centric, and low cost conferences, but that means the sessions are only as good as the speaker wishes to volunteer & dedicate to the talk he or she is about to give.

It’s not so niche

The web is great and forever changing, there are some amazing things people do on the web, from design to business to psychology. WordCamps have to have something to do with WordPress, and that really does restrict the amount of stuff you can talk about at a WordCamp.

One thing I love about a lot of web conferences, is how broad subject matter is, and regardless of if you’re a blogger, publisher, building client sites – you’ll learn something practical.

Meet non-WordPress people

One great thing about web conferences, is that there are developers who work on the web, from ALL walks of life. People who work in enterprise, people work in government, huge agencies, everything!

It means two things

1) You get to chat to people and learn from people on issues that don’t relate to the platform you work on. For example, usability challenges are unique to all web developers, not to WordPress alone.

2) You can sing the praise of WordPress. Some conferences when you mention WordPress to other developers, you can get a scoff or a snide remark from someone, and often after 5 minutes of discussion their reasoning for how they thought of WordPress was unjustified, and they see the light of day 🙂

So go to web conference or two, you might like it

As much as WordCamps are important, to keep in touch with other people who use the same tool every day (WordPress), but if that’s your only source of “professional development” I think you’re missing out.

When I first got into the WordPress community, and started going to WordCamps, it struck me as odd how many people just go to WordCamps and that’s it. They’ve never been to Edge of the Web, or Web Directions South (two notable Australian conferences I’ve attended).

Some great conferences are run by Carsonified (Future of web design, web apps and mobile), WebVisions have conferences all throughout the world (Portland, Barcelona, Chicago and New York), WebDirections are an Australian operation, and well, there are plenty more.

I’d love to know if you think the same or differently, leave a comment!

Photo credit WebVisions Flickr