Sourdough: The Local-Community Starter Kit (proposal)

Local WordPress communities could benefit from having access to a basic business infrastructure that enables ongoing, non-event community activities. A local-community starter kit like this could serve as a catalyst to further democratize WordPress community organizing.

Background

We recently launched a non-event-specific WordPress community entity in Seattle. Modeled on similar initiatives in Kansas City and Portland, we felt the need for a virtual destination for our community that wasn’t tied to the Meetup.com and WordCamp event-management systems.

Members of our community rounded up a long-ago-registered domain name, found a web host, created a MailChimp mailing list, and launched a simple website that 1) guides folks to our local WordCamp, Meetup, and Slack sites and 2) offers a sign-up for the new Mailchimp list.

Some members of the community immediately raised concerns about the ongoing administration and governance of the new entity:

  • Who controls the domain-name registration?
  • Who has access to the website? and how do they decide which level of access other users have?
  • Who pays for the web hosting?
  • Who owns the email list?
  • Which email addresses are associated with the community’s social-media account logins and who has access to them?
  • Where do we deposit the check when a local sponsor offers to support the entity?
  • What is the entity, legally? We all know what a “community” is, but goverments and tax collectors don’t recognize it.
  • Ours is a friendly, professional, and responsive community, but what if an account holder became incapacitated? what if a key community leader moves? what if a bad actor were to get control of an account login?

These are all valid concerns, but they need not prevent a local WordPress community from creating a new entity alongside the current Meetup and WordCamp programs.

Proposal

I propose exploring the feasibility of a WordPress Community Support-backed program (tentatively called Sourdough) that would provide support for the creation, development, and administration of a very basic local WordPress community infrastructure.

Much of the proposed technical and administrative infrastructure already exists as support mechanisms for the current WordCamp and Meetup community-event programs. But there would be some additional development and, possibly, staffing needs, hence the request for WordPress Community Support help.

Like any good program, Sourdough introduces at least one new acronym, the LCO, Local-Community Organizer (or LOCO, if we want to allude to the sometimes crazy-making nature of community wrangling).

Program Components

The components of the proposed basic infrastructure:

  • a new role – Local-Community Organizer – much like current event-organizer roles; vetting for this role could be fast-tracked for existing Meetup and WordCamp organizers
  • a community email address (one address for all social-media and other account logins) accessible both to the Local-Community Organizer(s) and to super-admins at WordPress Community Support
  • a domain-name registration service
  • website hosting
  • a mechanism for granting access to the community’s website, email list, Slack administration, and social-media profiles to vetted community members (such vetting could be administered by the LCO at the local level)
  • access to WordPress Community Support’s money-handling capabilities for receiving sponsor funds and paying vendors
  • a virtual inventory system (could be as simple as a Google Docs sheet) to track swag, lanyards, print collateral, and other community property, which may reside in many different physical locations

A deluxe version of the infrastructure might also include:

  • a PO box or mailing service to give the community a physical address
  • a small storage facility for leftover swag, print collateral, etc., which could also serve as a receiving facility for exhibitor shipments to WordCamps and other local events
  • a group password manager like LastPass or 1Password to more precisely and securely grant and control access to community accounts

Program Benefits

Benefits to the local community:

  • one-stop shopping for local event and other community information
  • creates a portal for recruiting into the local WP community members of the broader local community (articles on how to get involved, what WordPress is, what a WordCamp is, what happens at meetups, etc., examples of which could be collected and shared at make.wp.org)
  • cross-promotion opportunities for existing community event programs
  • ability to build an opt-in email list of local community members who are interested in both current and future WordPress-related events, activities, and announcements
  • ability to showcase community members on the community website (directory or similar non-promotional listing, equally accessible to all community members)
  • non-promotional community blogging on topics of interest to the local community
  • create a community legacy archive documenting the background and history of the community and sharing its lore – sort of like the old “newspaper of record”
  • ability to engage event-averse introverts with a way to virtually and anonymously participate in the community
  • create virtually accessible local special-interest groups for folks not mobile enough to travel to meetups and other events (kids, seniors, disabled, etc.)
  • virtually augment the new physical Community Bazaar presence at WordCamp US
  • maintain a minimal community presence if there are not currently active Meetups or other events

Benefits to WordPress Community Support:

  • similar community-building and -nurturing benefits as existing event programs
  • proactively and preemptively manage potentially messy issues around account access and other local community-resource stewardship issues

Conclusion

I know how stretched for time community members are, so not expecting immediate action. I just want to get this idea out there and see what even-better ideas folks in the community might have on this subject.

#proposal