Regional WordCamps

There’s been discussion in our community lately about expanding the number of regional WordCamps in the community program. In this post, I’d like to give some historical context about how the program came to include regional events, and then discuss how regional WordCamps fit into the goals of the community team’s programs. Finally, I’d like to gather opinions and thoughts about what kind of criteria we should set to decide on how to add regional WordCamps to the program.

A little history

First came WordCamp SF, which was the first WordCamp ever and became to be the official annual conference of the WordPress open source project. Over the years, WordCamp SF grew as WordPress itself grew (quickly).

Then we tried a new event concept: WordCamp Europe, a large regional event that brings together WordPress community members in Europe to share knowledge and create closer community ties. When discussing WordCamp Europe with the first organizers in 2012, we set very specific goals:

  • to organize an event that exemplified the values of the WordPress project and the WordCamp program
  • to encourage the growth of local communities in Europe (to prompt more WordCamps, not less)

In 2014, WordCamp SF finally grew out of its historic home in the (edit) Moscone Center Mission Bay and became WordCamp US. Unlike the WordCamp Europe tradition of moving to a new city every year, WordCamp US currently moves to a new city every 2 years. WordCamp US is also the event that hosts Matt’s annual State of the Word address.

The success of these two events begs the question: why don’t we organize more regionally-based WordCamps?

Community team program goals: ALL OF THE CAMPS!

One goal for the WordPress Community program is to have a WordPress meetup and annual WordCamp in as many cities as possible in the world. So while regional or national events have a purpose, they should never be a replacement for our focus on supporting the growth and health of local communities.

Regional events are big events, and big events are challenging. A lot of program resources (volunteer time especially) go into organizing both WordCamp Europe and WordCamp US. So as we start thinking about adding more regional events to the program, the question of “how is our volunteer time best spent” is important. For example, if we had to choose between organizing 3 more WordCamps in CountryX, or organizing just one WordCamp CountryX, then we’d always go with 3 more WordCamps in CountryX — because that directly helps us meet our goal of “a WordCamp in every possible city.”

Of course, just as WordCamps don’t replace year-round monthly meetup events — but instead hopefully help the local monthly meetup community grow — regional WordCamps can also help our program grow by attracting people who weren’t already active in their community and/or inspiring attendees to start communities in their hometowns.

Community team program goals: ALL OF THE PEOPLE!

Another goal in the WordPress Community program (which dovetails nicely with our goal of having a community in as many cities in the world as possible) is to make WordPress community accessible to as many people as possible, regardless of their financial status or other factors that might limit travel.

Having several WordCamps in a certain country every year makes WordCamp more available to more people, even if those folks are not able to travel. So more WordCamps gets more good quality content to more people, which is another good reason not to allow regional WordCamps (even one that travels from city to city every year) to replace an active local WordCamp scene.

The Question

What should a region have, to make a regional WordCamp possible and beneficial to the overall community? Here’s my first stab at a set of expectations:

  1. Multiple, active local WordPress communities: Regional WordCamps need a lot of local, experiences volunteers wherever the event is hosted. If there aren’t already more than 3-5 local communities in a region that have experience hosting WordCamps (at least one but preferably two in a row), then a regional event won’t be able to move around and share the work of organizing a big regional event.
  2. Multiple, experienced and available regional organizers: A regional WordCamp organizing team should represent and reflect all of the local communities in the region it represents. I’ve previously mentioned that regional camps should not be organized at the expense of multiple WordCamps being held in the region, so that means if a regional camp is going to happen, it should not be robbing local camps of all their prospective organizers.
  3. Further the goals of the community program: As with any event in our program, regional WordCamps should help the program pursue our goal of having more, better local communities and more, better local WordCamps.

What do you think about the idea of having more regional WordCamps, considering our community team goals? How about those suggested expectations? Please share your thoughts in the comments!