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beCamp: Charlottesville's Annual Unconference (website powered by ButterCMS)

Posted by Jake Lumetta on September 19, 2018

This is a guest post contributed by Ron DuPlain who is a beCamp conference coordinator.

beCamp is like any of the best conferences you've attended. Multiple sessions at a time take place throughout the day, with a generous lunch break. The topics are relevant, current, and thought-out, whether presentations or round-table discussions. The differences? It's local to Charlottesville, it's free to attendees--including refreshments and meals--thanks to sponsors, and the entire agenda was created the night before by conference attendees.

That evening, 100+ optimists show up to meet each other, often for the first time, and pitch ideas. It works, every time. Attendees leave the event with inspiration unlike anything they expected, better than anything they expected.

Two things happen when attendees organize the agenda:

  1. Whatever topic of most interest to the room is the one currently in discussion.
  2. Whoever has perspective on the topic has an opportunity to take the floor.

To empower attendees, you make the crowd your event's program committee, filling in everything else with a lot of up-front organization and sponsorship. We have a retrospective at the end of each event, and together as organizers and attendees, we iterated on beCamp's implementation for 12 years to create something unique to Charlottesville. People know the beCamp experience, and we as event organizers stay true to it.

So focused on the event itself, however, we found that our online brand was nowhere close to the event's brand. This year, current and past organizers set out on a brand refresh to create a new online experience.

Charlottesville's own developer-led agency Braid stepped up to provide a new beCamp site. Part one of Braid's plan: propose and design the first logo and style update for beCamp in its entire 12 years. Part two: implement a new website architecture using "universal JavaScript" techniques; the team selected ButterCMS as a "headless" content management system for this new site.

We are grateful for the tools that we've had over the years, but this new approach provides several key benefits:

  1. The new site enables greater collaboration around content, because people writing copy can focus on the content alone. There's a separation of concerns: the headless CMS shows individual pages and fields with simple formatting; these pages are styled by the site's source code separately.
  2. Credentials are easier to manage. WordPress is popular with good reason, but you soon end up with too many similar accounts: WP login, a hosting login, and a separate FTP credential. "What's my password again?" ButterCMS gives you a single login with an API key.
  3. Braid setup the project to require a single dependency for the developer: JavaScript's npm. The README provides a few simple commands to get up and running. This simple, modern developer workflow led to two non-Braid pull requests showing up within the early days of the project.

Thanks to ButterCMS for being a premier sponsor of beCamp 2018.

beCamp 2018 is September 28 and 29 in Charlottesville, Virginia. All are welcome to attend.

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