Are WordCamps still camps?

Matt Mullenweg organized the first WordCamp ten years ago, in 2006. At that time, camps of all sorts were sweeping through the web dev community as a way to connect with others, share knowledge, and build community.

Camps vs. Conferences

What sets a camp apart from a more traditional conference? Camps are un-conferences: informal, attendee-run affairs. Speakers aren’t selected ahead of time, talks aren’t polished, everyone who attends can expect to participate in some way, whether that’s presenting a short talk or demo, volunteering, or voting for the speakers. Camps are kept simple – they’re organized quickly and easily and speakers are selected the morning of.

Because they’re short on amenities and simple to plan, camps are often free or affordably priced and speakers and organizers aren’t paid. But the ad hoc nature of the events and the resulting camaraderie among the participants means that almost everyone walks away with a wealth of new knowledge, new friends, and new ideas. Lots of newbie speakers get their first chance at presenting at a camp. Impromptu after parties are held at nearby bars and restaurants as the attendees unwind from the day’s activities.

The modern-day WordCamp

Compare the spirit and format of a camp with a typical WordCamp in 2016, and you’ll find a lot more similarities with a traditional conference than with a camp. Professional and polished speakers are selected weeks or months in advance. Attendees have little to no say in the speakers and topics selected. WordCamps have custom-designed name badges, awesome t-shirts, gorgeous web sites, fun swag, catered meals, and after parties with open bars or drink tickets included. The talks are recorded and sometimes even live-streamed. WordCamps are held in nice venues with an area set aside for sponsors to set up booths or tables.

In short – everything you’d expect to find at a traditional conference.

The only big difference between a WordCamp and a traditional conference these days is the price tag. The WordPress Foundation ensures that all WordCamps max out their pricing at $20 per day. Let me say that again. The most you’ll pay to attend a WordCamp is twenty dollars per day.

Which means that for forty dollars or less, you can attend a full 2-day conference complete with professional-level presentations, catered lunch (and maybe even breakfast), an after party with free drinks – and on top of that you’ll walk away with all the usual conference swag – t-shirts, stickers, cups and mugs, pens, notebooks, stress balls, bags, and assorted other goodies.

Who pays for WordCamp?

It quite obviously costs a lot more than $40/person to put on a conference, and you might assume that it’s the sponsors who pick up the rest of the tab. And you’re partly right. WordCamps absolutely wouldn’t happen without the support of the sponsors who foot the bill for everything from the venue to the catering to the after party.

But there’s also a big chunk of the cost being paid by another group that WordCamps couldn’t happen without – the organizers and the speakers.

I don’t know that we often think about it this way, but organizers and speakers pay out of their own pockets to support WordCamps. Organizers donate huge chunks of time and talent to pulling off a WordCamp, and that time and talent comes at a cost, especially for those who work for themselves or aren’t otherwise reimbursed by an employer for their efforts.

I’ve been the lead organizer for two WordCamps and on the organizing team for a third. We started six months ahead each time and while the time commitment is small at first – a few hours a week – it builds. And builds. Until the last couple of weeks before, there’s no time for doing anything not directly related to the upcoming WordCamp.

Speakers also shoulder a good amount of the cost of a WordCamp. On average it takes one hour to prepare every minute of a talk on stage. At most WordCamps presentations run 30-40 minutes long, so a speaker is looking at 30-40 hours to prepare their talk – an entire week’s work. If the WordCamp is in a city other than the one you live in, a speaker also has to cover their own travel costs – flights, trains, car rentals, hotels, taxis, etc.

I spent a good amount of 2013 traveling around to different WordCamps to present. My average travel cost was right around $1,000 per camp, and that doesn’t include the time I spent preparing my talk, the time spent traveling, or the opportunity cost of spending a few days in another city at the event.

What’s the big deal?

As long as there are organizers willing to donate hours and hours of time to putting together a conference and speakers willing to donate their time and cover their own travel, why does it matter if WordCamps are truly camps or traditional conferences offered at camp prices? A few things to consider:

Who’s providing value?

You likely attend WordCamp for one of two main reasons: to absorb all the great talks or to participate in the hallway track. If it’s the former, it’s the speakers who are providing the content and the value through their carefully prepared talks. If it’s the latter, it’s the organizers who are bringing together the people you want to connect with and providing the space to do so.

Is it fair that the people bringing the most value to the event are the ones paying the most to put it on?

Who gets left out?

Because of the high cost of participating in a WordCamp as a speaker or an organizer, people who can’t afford to pay that cost are left out. If you’re lucky enough to be employed at a job where your employer is willing to cover your costs or at least some of your costs, you can afford to participate more. But others are stuck covering 100% of that cost themselves and it can quickly grow unaffordable.

The other hidden costs

The pressure to put on a first-class WordCamp is strong. Speakers and attendees travel from other cities, states, and even countries to attend and you don’t want to let them down. Attendees have their expectations set for awesome t-shirts, delicious food, fun perks, exceptional swag, great speakers, an amazing after party – and on one hand it’s really fun to show people a good time and surprise them with stuff like lunch delivered by a guy in a banana costume.

On the other, it’s super stressful to have to pull together an event on par with a professional conference on a strictly volunteer basis.

The value of travel

WordCamps are intended to be local events featuring mostly local speakers. The guideline for a WordCamp is that 80% of the speakers should be local. But even that guideline seems to acknowledge that there’s inherent value in having in at least some speakers from other cities, both for the WordCamp and for the speaker. I don’t think that the WordPress community would have grown as strong and as large as it has if we were all staying in our own hometowns all the time.

Travel is a great way to see how others are solving the same problems you have, share new ideas, and pollinate new brains with knowledge. If there were no value in bringing people together who otherwise wouldn’t meet because of geography, we wouldn’t have WordCamp US or WordCamp Europe.

Nonprofit doesn’t mean nobody gets paid

The WordPress Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit and that seems to be the main reason that organizers aren’t paid any compensation for their efforts. But as someone who works regularly with nonprofits, I can tell you that plenty of people are paid for their work for nonprofits.

I think we tend to believe that paying nobody levels the playing field and makes it possible for anyone to step up. But that completely ignores the fact that it costs to step up – it’s not free to organize or speak. And that some people are much better situated to cover those costs than others. And I think we’ve seen the consequences of that – we see the same small group traveling to speak at WordCamp after WordCamp while everyone else is left out of that opportunity.

When you’re doing something that provides value for others at a considerable investment of your own time, it’s reasonable to be paid, because your time isn’t a renewable resource.

I wasn’t at all prepared for the way the first WordCamp I organized took over my life and time – as a consequence I was flat broke for three months afterward and even struggled to get my rent paid.

How do we define ‘better’?

Does paying speakers and organizers make WordCamp better? I think that really depends on how we define better. We seem to already have some truly top-tier talent speaking and organizing, so there’s not much chance that paying speakers or organizers will result in higher-quality events.

But helping out organizers by lessening the financial burden can help to prevent burnout and gives a chance to the people who want to participate but simply can’t afford to. Helping to cover the travel cost for speakers at other camps means those who are self-employed or whose employers don’t help them cover costs get just as much chance to travel as those who are lucky enough to have their costs covered by their employers.

And those chances help bring more diversity to the speakers and organizers and help to make WordCamps more sustainable over time.

How do we fix it?

I see two possible ways we can go.

First, we could continue down the path we’re on where organizers of WordCamps are under pressure to out-do each other and themselves and make each WordCamp bigger, better, and more amazing than the last one and speakers are expected to be top-notch, well-prepared, professional, and polished. But we can’t keep chugging along down this path while shoveling more and more burden on organizers and speakers without offering some kind of compensation to help offset the costs. It’s unfair, it leads to burn-out, it limits the people who can meaningfully participate, and it hands over ridiculous amounts of value to attendees for $20 a day. If that’s the kind of event we want to put on, then attendees need to be prepared to pay more of the cost.

Or we can take a completely different path and make WordCamps truly the camps they were intended to be. Relieve the pressure and shed the expectations. Let the attendees pick the speakers and topics the morning of, brownbag our lunches, forgo the t-shirts and swag, and pick up our own bar tab at the after party. Create events where the attendees are buzzing with ideas and excitement instead of complaining about the chicken salad or the t-shirts that ran out. Make it less expensive to organize or speak so that more people can participate. Open doors to the people who’ve never spoken before and let them blow our minds. Expect every attendee to contribute in some way so that we’re all producers rather than consumers of the events. Democratize organizing and speaking the same way that WordPress democratizes publishing.

I vote for a return to true camps. How about you?

24 thoughts on “Are WordCamps still camps?

  1. It sounds to me like the “pressure to out-do each other […] and make each WordCamp bigger, better, and more amazing than the last one” is the main reason for the fallout you’re describing. And that feels largely self-imposed.

    Are there WordCamp guidelines that prevent organizers from putting on a true BarCamp and call it a WordCamp? If not, take the global sponsorship money, set one up, and see how it goes. I doubt it’ll tank.

    Also: Thank you for organizing WCLA the last few years!!

    1. You are absolutely correct in that those expectations are self-imposed. And there is nothing in the WordCamp guidelines to prevent organizers from organizing a camp-ier WordCamp. You illustrated that beautifully with WordCamp Ventura which still stands out in my memory as one of my most favorite WordCamps of all time – because it was small and focused on the content and not fancy and gave us all a chance to really connect with one another.

      I think that mostly what keeps more organizers from organizing camps like that are the expectations set by the community. I hear WordCamp veterans describe WordCamps to newbies all the time as ‘professional conferences at really cheap prices’. That’s a lot to ask for and I just wanted to make people more aware of that.

  2. Konstantin nailed it. It reminds me of weddings and or bar/bat mitzvahs, where families are always trying to 1up..or 10X or 100K up versus really staying true to what the event was created for in the first place.

    My plan for 2016 is to have it be a good solid camp, with learning/sharing done by all, new friendships being made, ole friends reconnecting & to strengthen the community as a whole.

    Thanks for the post Natalie.

  3. This is a great post and some good food for thought. In reality, you could say both are great options in different ways for different audiences. And maybe in a perfect world there’s a place for both.

    I have seen them change quite a bit since I first started going to them. Not quite as local, camps competing with others to be the best, and circuit speakers that make me think of the conferences I have gone to for years outside of WordPress.

    I’m not saying these are bad things, but like you said, do we go in the direction of this change in WordCamps, or what. I’m sure there are a lot of differing opinions. The fact of how they have changed for me has resulted in myself not going to as many. But that’s just me.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  4. This is the post I’ve been wanting to write for the last 4 years but never found the right frame of mind to put together. Great job Natalie!

    You are absolutely spot on: WordCamps ceased to be “camps” a long time ago. They are now full fledged professional conferences in all but price and financing, and that’s a serious problem.

    I’ve had conversations with various parties about this over the years, and the resistance to accepting that WordCamps are now something entirely different seems solidly rooted in cognitive dissonance and an idealistic view of how things could be rather than how things really are.

    WordCamps have become problematically dualistic: On the one hand, they are conferences for anyone and everyone who works with WordPress, and are cheap and approachable for those who have just started and are just dabbling with the platform. On the other, they are meeting places for those who work with WordPress in a more or less professional capacity and those for whom WordPress very much is a job and a career. Serving those two communities with the same conference is absurd and impossible.

    As a result of this, WordCamps are filled with a mishmash of basic talks and advanced talks, and it’s hard to figure out which is which. They provide a confused message and serve to confuse the audience.

    On top of this, the pricing for participants and lack of pay for contributors serve to devalue the WordPress brand substantially. Speakers form outside our community are unlikely to even consider our events because they see them as camps solely based on the price and the fact they are not getting paid or even refunded for travel and expenses. The signal that’s sent to the community at large is that WordPress really is cheap or free. That’s not necessarily a good thing in my book.

    I think the solution to this is to split our official events. We need to start putting on professional WordPress conferences for those who work with WordPress in a professional capacity. This is already done by outside contributors (LoopConf, Prestige, etc etc), and it needs to be done by the WordPress community itself. These conferences should cost what they are worth, be organized during the week and during work hours, and operate like standard professional conferences.

    In addition, WordCamps should be made into what they were always meant to be: Community organized events for learning and sharing. This would improve the events, lower the level of entry, and ensure that the people who come don’t feel overwhelmed by the in-crowd and the advanced talks.

    The critique that will be raised over this is that splitting events like this will result in splitting the community. I agree, but I think we are at a point where we have to accept that WordPress is a professional platform and start providing professional conferences to serve that crowd.

    WordPress has graduated to become a competitive professional CMS with enterprise capabilities. It’s time we graduate our events to suit.

    1. I think the solution to this is to split our official events.

      This seems to be a great idea, but I see a contradiction there and a potential predicament.

      “Official” in terms of WordPress basically would have to mean: approved by the WordPress Foundation who holds the trademarks WordPress and WordCamp.
      The WPF, however (as mentioned in this article), is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, which has not only served as reason why “organizers aren’t paid any compensation for their efforts”, but also why sponsors can’t do hardly any of the things sponsors usually do at conferences. (In fact they are to be seen as supporters rather than sponsors).
      After all, the charitable status of the WPF seems to forbid pretty much everything that would have to be labeled “commercial” at an official WordPress event.

      If “official” WordPress events were to be split into two categories now, the WPF would soon find itself in the position of being expected to grant “official” status to this or that event when at the same time those events would absolutely (and in the best meaning of the term) have to be seen as “commercial” and the WPF would have to stay out of any affiliation with them for tax-related reasons.

      (Disclaimer for the record: I am neither a staff member, nor a spokesperson of the WordPress Foundation.)

      1. After all, the charitable status of the WPF seems to forbid pretty much everything that would have to be labeled “commercial” at an official WordPress event.

        To be fair, as of January 2016, WC sponsorships are now being run through a subsidiary, “WordPress Community Support” which removes most of the limitations on sponsors that come with working with a 501(c)3. More on that on make/community.

  5. Great article. I want to agree with Morton in many ways.

    The need for professional gatherings — not on weekends — is a great idea. The role that WordCamps play in providing training and indoctrination into the WordPress way for new users/developers/etc is super important and must not be forgotten about. That said, for me I don’t need talks, t-shirts or fancy parties. I jsut want a place to hang out with other community members for a few days.

    And yes, I do think asking people to speak for free, really at their own expense sucks, I’m OK doing it. Providing free education to other developers is a small thing I can do to give back. Yes, it costs me a lot to attend these events, but I get plenty out of it.

    Also, an uncofrenced WordCamp sounds great. Sign me up!

  6. Personally, I’d love to attend local WP camps. But thinking about it, it could easily be accomplished via Meetups or something similar. In any case, I’d vote for lots of local camps. How about we just call it something else? WPCamps seems reasonable, or anything that doesn’t break any rules or trademark laws.

  7. This article hits close to home. Thanks for writing it.

    The money isn’t important. That is, it’s not the motivator, for me, to organize a camp. I can also relate to being super broke once WordCamp comes through town. I was in bad shape for two months and thought I might have to hit up a friend for a couch or live in my car. While I don’t expect organizers or speakers to be compensated their full wage, I think there’s more that could be done to help take care of them. And that’s what I’d as for. Something at least.

    I think this is especially important for those who run their own business and don’t work for large corporations who pay their employees’ regular wages even as they plan out a WordCamp.

  8. Ah this moment neither WP Meetups are pure community events in some cases, they’ve inherit the WordCamp format and most of them are conference events more than brain sharing events.

    This is much of our responsibilities as organizers: to run events community driven where everyones could participate and feel as an important part of it.

    I’m a WC and Meetup organizer and try to keep it simple and for the community but at some point this has become impossible according the WC guidelines, so we concentrate our efforts to have real WordPress camps at meetups, that at this time are the true sharing events for the community, where arise opportunities, collaboration, etc.

    Great article Natalie 🙂

    1. Heather — Ooh — I didn’t think of that! And, yes, my friend, this set-up sounds like you and the fam will be eating for days on end! Pudge — Yay!! I’m so glad we could help! We’ve got a few details on Buena Vista street that we can put together soon! It sounds like the Fiddler is going to be a lot like Jolly Holiday — breakfast pastries and sandwiches, then sandwiches and soups for lun.t/dinnercChrishal — Ha ha! I’m SURE I am!

  9. I love this post Natalie – and agree Morten that is very hard for a single WordCamp to serve both the professional and the “just dabbling” community.

    The idea of hosting a professional WordPress conference is something I would definitely attend.

    I’d also attend local community organized events in my area and would be interested in networking, sharing my knowledge and learning from others.

    I’m self employed and make my living exclusively in the WordPress space. I believe the future for consultants like me is to serve the growing businesses that are looking for enterprise level solutions. That community is already split from those dabbling in WordPress for hobbies and blogging.

  10. As a past organizer, the only person/event I wanted to “out do” was me and my own event. Sure I wanted people to talk about WordCamp North Canton at other camps… who wouldn’t? But “I” as an organizer wanted to make it better and or different every year… so all the pressure was on me to find and provide things that our attendees could benefit from.

    I feel if you burn yourself out organizing WordCamps then you should take a look at your committee. I had a great committee in place. They were hard-working and just as eager to make WordCamp North Canton great because most of them were directly connected and invested in our community. They took pride and ownership of our event… and that’s the key word here. “OUR”event, not my event.

    I love WordCamps. Attending. Presenting. Organizing. All of it. Sure attending/presenting is entirely out-of-pocket, but as stated in previous comments, what I get out of a WordCamps is so much more and so worth it.

    Until I read this article, the thought of being paid to organize a WordCamp never entered my mind. Being paid negates pretty much everything. Being paid makes you “have to” do the things for a camp. Volunteering to put on a camp makes you “want to” do things. There is a huge difference there.

    Like my friend Adam said “… a good solid camp, with learning/sharing done by all, new friendships being made, ole friends reconnecting & to strengthen the community as a whole.” That’s a WordCamp.

    1. I love WordCamps too – the entire community. In this community, I’ve found some of the most generous, amazing, wonderful people that I’ve ever met and am honored to count so many among my closest friends.

      I don’t know that I agree that earning some compensation in return for organizing makes such a huge difference to an organizer. Once you’ve committed to organizing the camp, so many things become ‘have to’s already – you can’t drop the ball, put things off, ignore what you’ve stepped up to do. Presumably, organizers would still self-select and be the people excited about the opportunity, looking for a way to give back, looking for a way to bring people together.

      And I don’t think that getting a little help making rent would change that much. The first WordCamp I organized was within my first year of working for myself when things were already kind of tenuous and unstable, and yes, some of that is on me for choosing to take that on just as I was establishing my business. But I was also completely unprepared for the amount of time it took away from my paying work and clients. Organizing a WordCamp isn’t something you can do evenings and weekends around a regular work schedule. So much has to be handled during regular business hours and that makes things tough, especially when that means forgoing income when you’re not receiving a regular salary.

  11. From what I’ve seen, the pressure to provide a highly-produced Camp event really is self-imposed. Deeply detailed Camp perks are things some organizers really enjoy arranging for, and even thinking of at the Camp prior. It’s hard to watch anyone be in a state of stress — I’ve had that reflected back to me, so I continue to work on simplifying where I can, learning from the last, letting go where I should, and getting better at masking and diffusing the unexpected stresses that can pop up during a complicated effort — like providing extensive services at and around a WordCamp.

    It’s disconcerting to watch a stressed organizer or volunteer wring themselves out to keep the thousands of elements in play and on track, especially when there are many extras involved that were by their choice. It’s concerning to hear before during, or after, that an organizer or volunteer has been significantly and detrimentally put out by their contribution.

    But the solution to that may already be in hand — that organizer won’t do it again. Or will do it leaner next time. Yet, even leaner, as these things grow, may not make any one Camp lean enough to keep it from being a sacrifice. I don’t think Camps are going to get less perkified over time, but rather more. Because the people who provide them enjoy doing it, and we enjoy the mini-vacays they shape around sharing, networking and learning.

    I think the danger is in losing our talented organizers, and that the solution is that *organizers should be sponsored*.

    There is an eco-system here with a delicate balance. The parties who make the money off the community do not want to see these events get smaller and less attractive. The organizers want to produce attractive events. The attendees want to be able to justify their time away from life and work. Camp attractiveness can come in many different guises, and organizers themselves each have their own Camp attractiveness brand. Tie their hands with regard to what they can do and they’ll stop doing it at all.

    It may not be the more and more necessary “conference”-making that will cause detrimental organizer attrition (because having fun providing fun and goodness attracts other people who want to help provide fun/goodness). It may be the rules that make doing this more complicated and painful than it’s worth. And that’s not an attractive spot to step into. And not fun to watch happen.

  12. Very interesting article. As a co-organizer for our local meetups and our WordCamp, I agree with some points made but also differ in opinion on others.

    Yes, organizers put a lot of extra work & time into making these camps possible and are not paid to do so. It is A LOT of sacrifice and time. In our group, we have many organizers to spread out the load some and everyone volunteers. Going in, everyone is told what it will be like and asked if they still want to volunteer. If they want to back out later, they can and someone else will move in and take over. Many of us do this to help grow and continue the community.

    As for speakers, yes, speakers must pay their way to come down, however, many camps fill up on speakers and have to turn speakers down. If speakers became paid as they do in traditional conferences, it would change to being professional speakers only, which cuts out some of the greatest talks I have ever heard given by new speakers. I speak at WordCamps all over the US. Often I make business connections just by doing a talk, which helps to cover some of my travel costs.

    Moving to an un-conference style is an awesome idea, and, no reason why it can’t be done. We talked about doing an un-conference track at our previous WordCamp. The hard part was making sure all the talks fit the code of conduct. We scrapped it due to lack of space. If organizers want to do this type of camp, they absolutely should. Whether it be just one track or it be all tracks, there is nothing stoping you from doing this.

  13. Thanks for your post Natalie. I found it quite interesting. As Bob Dunn said “…good food for thought. In reality, you could say both are great options in different ways for different audiences. And maybe in a perfect world there’s a place for both.”

    I think every community will be different. Personally, I always wondered why it was called “camp” and not a conference. I too have described Camp as ‘professional conferences at really cheap prices’.

    I’ve volunteered at 3 Camps and am cochairing the 2016 Seattle WordCamp. I’ve been a professional event planner (worked at Seattle Center, produced the AIDS Walk fundraiser, etc). I’ve seen what happens when the leader gets paid and the rest are volunteers. I feel that deciding to pay the leader(s) would be the wrong way to go. It sets up an “us and them” (paid and volunteer) and creates the need for even more money. There are many other ways to slice this puzzle. We have indeed set VERY high standards, at least in our community, a large, expensive city with a very active set of Meetups.

    There are plenty of UnConferences (not called Camps BTW) around our area. We’re already well down the path of being a Conference here in Seattle. We could change the name or leave it as it. But either way, we could lower the expectations AND raise the entry, if allowed. Having more money to put on the event would mean we could pay for travel based on need which might help us attract NEW speakers (instead of those on the circuit) who perhaps cannot afford to participate. Maybe we find a way to increase diversity in our speaker line-up too. I know we do a blind selection process.

    This article implied both t-shirts AND swag are the norm.We actually have not given t-shirts (except to volunteers and organizers) for some years. I thought we were spending the same budget on swag. I didn’t realize others do both.

    Because we’re in a very expensive city, box lunches cost $25+ per person. That’s already more than we’re charging to attend. This puts a HUGE burden on the organizing volunteers to do massive sponsorship recruitment. This year our team is exploring possibly NOT including lunch. We hear NYC did this successfully, arranging for nearby restaurants to give discounts for badges and that increased their networking.

    I started writing my thoughts before I read all the comments, then added in a few things. I’m up to Morten’s comments and they’re SO strongly relevant, particularly the “cognitive dissonance”. I absolutely LOVE Morten’s suggestion.. “We need to start putting on professional WordPress conferences for those who work with WordPress in a professional capacity….These conferences should cost what they are worth, be organized during the week and during work hours, and operate like standard professional conferences.”

    Thank you all.

  14. Great post,Natalie. Thank you for all you’ve done!

    There is a lot wrong with the current format of WordCamps. (Actually, I think there’s a lot wrong with the entire WordPress community, but that’s a story for another time.)

    Over the past 4 years, I’ve attended every WordCamp in my city. I’m sad to say that every single year, it has been more of the same; same speakers, same organizers (all are speakers too, they keep picking themselves?!), and more or less the same topics. In this case, it’s like they’re not even really trying to improve last year’s edition, but just rehash it.

    As for the cost: I never understood why Automattic can’t (won’t?) make a bigger contribution as a sponsor. Granted, I have no idea IF and HOW MUCH they contribute financially, but I’m sure they can add an amount to make it more professional and get some speakers that would attract more audience.

    Right now, WordCamps are like music festivals with mostly local bands. I see no reason why this couldn’t be changed to a bigger event with (to stay within this music festival metaphor), a big top 40 artist. Not necessarily top players like Taylor Swift or Metallica, but why not get at least a Maroon 5 or Imagine Dragons or something? Make it bigger than what it is now, because if the format stays like this, growth will only apply to quantity, not quality.

    Will be more expensive, of course. But that’s where Automattic could step in. And a ticket would be a little more expensive, but it could still be well below the hundreds of dollars that other conferences charge per day.

    Why not have BOTH types of WordPress conferences? Smaller, local ones, as well as bigger ones (serving a larger area)? The WordCamps we have now are somewhat in the middle, in my opinion.

  15. I think it’s great that the WordPress Foundation is committed to making WordCamps affordable for anyone who wants to attend. This really makes them the lowest priced tech conferences out there.

    They really are a conference. And while some organizers in other places have suggested you can run a “camp” style WordCamp, the reality is that’s not what the community expects anymore.

    They expect a full blown conference, and if a host city didn’t deliver that experience, the community would surely be all up on Twitter saying how that WordCamp sucked in comparison to others. Search your heart and you know this to be true.

    Now, I’ve never been on an organizing team, but I’ve helped by volunteering. I do know it takes many months to put everything together. I think it’s fair that effort should be acknowledged (to organizers) in some way, with either a stipend or something.

    What I never realized is that there appears to be a common thread, where organizers say they can’t take normal business during the month WordCamp is going down. (See the comments above and on Twitter). It stands to reason, that’s pretty stressful. It also seems like a lot to contribute for the community.

    There are people out there who can comfortably survive powering down their regular business for a couple months while they organize a WordCamp. But let’s not be callous about the fact that not everyone can comfortably do such.

    We pride ourselves on being “problem-solvers”. If the expectations have grown larger than they used to be (scope creep, if you will), and multiple people acknowledge that yes, it is stressful, and possibly a financial hit to organize a WordCamp, let’s figure out why that is – and maybe address that issue as a community.

    We’re stronger as a community when we work through issues together, not just as separate clusters.

  16. Background: I’ve attended 5 regional WordCamps, WordCamp US, and am currently one of the lead organizers for our first ever local WordCamp.

    Although I understand the desire to “power-down” WordCamps to make them more informal, I see it being a detriment to those that *have* to travel to attend a WordCamp.

    Until I volunteered to help organize a local WordCamp, the closest one was 2.5hrs away. That necessitates travel and (preferably) lodging for 1-2 nights. If I’m going to put forth that much effort, I want to know I can expect something reasonably well put together.

    I don’t need swag (although it’s nice), I don’t need booze (free or otherwise). But I would like to know that the presentations have been a little more thought out (both selectors and presenters) than a meet-up. Sure, there will always be duds, but pre-selecting speakers makes it less likely.

    Food is a similar situation. It doesn’t need to be fancy (Subway is sufficient), but it makes for a much more pleasant experience when I don’t have to go hunt it down (or bring it) myself (even if a discount is involved).

    The “sponsoring” of an organizer is intriguing. But I also understand the concern of how that could unintentionally change everything.

    I don’t like the idea of paying speakers because it creates a dichotomy of us and them. Instead of paying people to speak, what if we did things like open our homes to out-of-town attendees/speakers? And we do have and livestreams to make it convenient to see presentations from people all over the country

    And as far as two levels of WordCamps, to me it doesn’t fit with the WordPress idea of community and sharing. I like that people brand new to WordPress can get inspired by people that make a living from it.

    And even though I make a living from WordPress, even now, because of what I consider my priorities, WordCamp barely fits in my budget. I can’t justify the cost of attending professional design conferences and was so excited to find a conference where the price was right. I’m concerned that if WordCamps split, we would have affordable conferences that are all basic/introductory sessions for mostly hobbyists. But that the professional ones (where I could actually learn something) would become just as impractical for me to attend as any other professional conference.

    What it comes down to, is I like the existing WordCamp model.

    But those of us that like the model need to make it clear that it’s the community and structure that we like. That we’re okay if an organizer wants to keep the budget and effort small.

    And attendees/speakers should remember that for some people, it only makes sense to stick locally (and not always just for budget). While for others, traveling around the country is worthwhile. And that what is a good reason for one person may not be a good reason for you.

    Finally, organizers need to remember that every WordCamp is unique and they should do what works for them and their local community.

  17. As somebody who attended her first WordCamp 2 years ago, I have to say I was sooo flabbergasted first when I realized I could afford the WordCamp(conference). Then I was absolutely floored when I got there and got a T-shirt, lunch, heard lots of speakers and saw the nice location in Balboa park. Honestly, I felt it was totally a lot of bang for my buck.

    On the flip side, I don’t believe that organizers / speakers should bear the financial burden of a WordCamp on their shoulders. I was able to attend my first WordCamp at a time when I was just starting out and wouldn’t have been able to pay more than the $40 admission. I appreciate that. If the costs are hard, then yes, it’s time to change the style of WordCamp (conferences) to be less fancy. If possible we could work towards keeping the good content and reducing the perks.

    Perhaps more established WordCamp attendees could donate and pay more for admission as they see fit to help pay for costs.

    Whatever it is, WordCamp do offer a lot of valuable content to beginners and intermediates. If there is a way to keep both beginners / intermediate / advanced WordPress users / developers in the same WordCamp in the future that would be best as that allows those of us (like me) who are transitioning into development to sit in on more advanced talks and get a taste of what tech we need to learn next. It gives us a chance to mingle and see what we should aspire to.

    Anyways, that was a long message.. in summary. Thank you for organizing previous WordCamps and I will find and thank the organizers and speakers of the San Diego WordCamp this weekend for all their time.

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