Contributor Night – An experiment in Torino, Italy

The Meetup Torino began having monthly meetings in May 2015. In the Summer of 2016 we started thinking about having a second night dedicated to contributing to WordPress.

Some members have been attending steadily every month so we brainstormed ideas for meetings that would allow us to learn, work, and give back together.

After WordCamp Milano I really wanted to keep the momentum: people love Contributor Days and are usually enthusiastic when they discover they can contribute at different levels, so I expressed my interest in organising a new event called Contributor Night. The other organisers thought it was a great idea so I went and scheduled our first meeting for November 11.

The Goals

Learn about

  • Open sourceOpen Source Open Source denotes software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified. Open Source **must be** delivered via a licensing model, see GPL.
  • WordPress.org as an open source project
  • Make, its teams, its procedures.

Work on

Different Make teams, based on personal preferences and interests.

Nurture

We are lucky the have some very active members of a few Make teams in Italy and ideally we would like to have Italian leads at Contributor Days. Being more active in a particular team is the first step. Getting in touch with seasoned contributors is crucial to gain the confidence to become leads: this is a way to know that you have a support system to ask questions if you have any doubt.

Document

On WordPress.tv we couldn’t find intro videos to teams that leads usually give at Contributor Days. These are brief workshops that make it easier to get started than just reading the handbook by yourself. One of the organisers of the Torino MeetupMeetup All local/regional gatherings that are officially a part of the WordPress world but are not WordCamps are organized through https://www.meetup.com/. A meetup is typically a chance for local WordPress users to get together and share new ideas and seek help from one another. Searching for ‘WordPress’ on meetup.com will help you find options in your area., Oleg Belousov (@xtraboy), contributes actively and continuously to the WordPress.tv team and he has a setup ready to record all our sessions, so we thought that we could invite leads to Torino, record their sessions and make them available for everyone.

Contributor Night #1 – CoreCore Core is the set of software required to run WordPress. The Core Development Team builds WordPress. Team

In the past 12 months Italy had 3 Contributor Days and some of us participated in other Contributor Days around the world. We spoke with John Blackbourn (@johnbillion), one of the Core Developers, a few times about our idea to have these meetings and recording them, he gave us positive feedback so we invited him to be our first guest. He delivers Intro to Core sessions that cover the basics of how the project works, what are the teams and then goes into contributing to core.

Evening program

  • Intro to Core
  • Setting up people with VVV
  • Learn/Work (depending on your level of knowledge)
  • Questions
  • Networking

Attendees

We had 15 people: approximately 50% were WordPress professionals curious about the project and wanted to know more, 50% were WordPress developers that potentially could start contribute to core.

4 people were very active: submitted patch, reported bugs.

Even people that did not actively work on core gave us very positive feedback about the evening: seeing how things work and be able to ask questions to an expert in person got people interested and excited about contributing.

What didn’t work so well

  1. We don’t know how the Meetup group is composed. We don’t know if we are mainly developers, designers, bloggers so maybe starting with core sounded a bit intimidating even though we wrote some “reassuring” copy. This is a a larger issue that we have to address in the long-term and we are planning a survey for 2017 to create a better event calendar for everyone.
  2. We planned this 10 days before the event: it didn’t leave much time to promote it properly.
  3. In the same week there were 3 WordPress events: regular Meetup, Contributor Night, Global Translation Day. For some of us this is a dream come true, almost a week long WordCampWordCamp WordCamps are casual, locally-organized conferences covering everything related to WordPress. They're one of the places where the WordPress community comes together to teach one another what they’ve learned throughout the year and share the joy. Learn more., for others it was maybe too much. The jury is still out on this, cause so far only 2 persons publicly expressed this concern on a 680 people group: this brings us back to #1.
  4. Some people didn’t understand what VVV is and couldn’t make it work on their computers. Maybe we needed to give more information about it before the event. Just pointing people to a tutorial is not enough: it will help with the installation but it doesn’t give “the big picture”.

What worked very well

  1. The team lead: there is no doubt that John is an expert and he is able to deliver very effective presentations, that take in consideration also language barriers and different skills levels.
  2. The “show, don’t tell” approach that we all love at Contributor Days.
  3. The small number of participants: it was easier to learn but also network. The regular meetups are very big and being few people, with a relaxed atmosphere, a bit of food, jazz in the background made the evening very pleasant for everyone.
  4. Having other experienced contributors in the room: Cristiano Zanca (@cristianozanca) helped a lot with VVV installation and explained some things that got a bit lost in translation 😉

What’s next

In December we will have only the regular evening, cause everyone is very busy with end of year celebrations and obligations 😉

In January we will start with a more structured calendar:

  • We will alternate technical and non technical teams
  • We will ask more leads to come to Torino: we are thankful to agencies that sponsor their employees time. For some teams we have Italian leads, where we don’t, we will reach out to bigger companies and hopefully this will also inspire some local attendees to become more involved and ultimately become leads.

We will document this experiment:

  • On the Community blog, we feel that this could help other Meetups organising events.
  • On WordPress.tv (we will also pingPing The act of sending a very small amount of data to an end point. Ping is used in computer science to illicit a response from a target server to test it’s connection. Ping is also a term used by Slack users to @ someone or send them a direct message (DM). Users might say something along the lines of “Ping me when the meeting starts.” the different teams to tell them that there are “Intro” videos that they can add to their handbooks if they want).

Takeways and Thanks

  • Yes to more active evenings! We can potentially all make WordPress, seeing how it works makes the whole process friendlier.
  • Yes to understand who is in your Meetup group. This will help with the communication and the event organisation.
  • Thanks to John Blackbourn from coming to Torino to help us kickstart this new chapter of our Meetup activities.
  • Thanks to Human Made and Toolbox Coworking for respectively sponsoring John’s trip and the venue.