Thanks to everyone who participated in the discussion about reimagining online events last week! It’s inspiring to see so many people willing to embrace the opportunity that this global crisis brings, and diving in to find better ways for the Community Team to succeed at our mission.
Some of the ideas shared included: WordPress video watch/discussion parties, panels, workshops, trainings, language-specific events, topic or vertical based events, television program or news formats, events for underrepresented groups, online contributor days or contributor team events, social events, and Q&As.
There was general consensus on the question of length, with a suggested limit of 2-3 hours per day, as well as support for not using the term “WordCamp 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.” to describe our online events any longer. We think these are both smart moves, though of course we’ll need to figure out what to do about naming the events currently being organized. But that’s probably another post.
Our foundational mission and nonessential expenses
It’s important to respond to uncertainty or change from a point of stability, so we want to highlight that the mission of the Community Team is to help people learn to use and contribute to WordPress. We further this mission by connecting WordPress enthusiasts and inspiring people to do more with WordPress.
As WordPress community organizers, all of our work should support this mission. When we’re considering whether to spend money on something, we make wiser decisions when we consider whether that expense is necessary to achieve the mission.
As we move away from all-day online events, there is less need to pay professional vendors to help produce our content. Considering the program’s financial situation, it seems wise to end programmatic support for online AV vendor expenses.
WordCamps with a date on the schedule or under budget review, that planned their events with the understanding that they’d be working with a professional vendor should be able to go forward as planned. Those that have not yet reached the budget stage, and have no signed contracts with vendors, should pause and reconsider whether they really, really need a professional AV vendor to effectively share content with an online audience.
If it’s necessary to hire a professional vendor for an online event component that furthers the mission, then opening a call for sponsor(s) is the best way to cover that cost.
Likewise, we have paused plans to spend money on sending swag, T-shirts, or other typical WordCamp collateral. It’s important to change our frame of reference for what’s necessary to make online events, away from the WordCamp model. Just because we did things a certain way for WordCamps, doesn’t mean it’s a high priority for online events.
We are in an experimental event space for the first time in many years.
Our sponsors have been with us every step of the way in this challenging year, and it’s important not to ask their financial support for nonessential expenses. The value proposition of online sponsor booths is shaky, and we’ve always prided ourselves in partnering with our sponsors. Looking ahead, we must examine how much funding we need to create events that meet the goals of the team, and let that determine how to best coordinate with our community sponsors to deliver value and further our mission.
It’s also impossible to provide the kind of stability that underpins Global Community Sponsorship right now. The 2020 program will be suspended for now, and later this year there will be a call for a working group to re-examine its potential for 2021. We’ll work with global sponsors to manage the transition gracefully.
Experiments and measuring success
Experiments are exciting and important, because they help us go beyond what we thought was possible. But if we’re going to try new things, it’s equally important to identify whether or not the experiment was a success. We’ve used a standard attendee survey for a while now in WordCamps, which is probably too long for shorter online events and doesn’t do much to help us identify whether or not participants learned what they hoped to learn, in a session or workshop.
Since learning is part of our core Core is the set of software required to run WordPress. The Core Development Team builds WordPress. mission, it seems wise to create a different survey for online event organizers to use in assessing an event’s success. The pre- and post-workshop surveys used by the Diverse Speakers Workshop could be a very successful template. If you’re interested in helping with the effort to create a survey template that any WordPress community organizer can use, please leave a comment on this post!
It’s also great when organizers share their observations about what’s compelling and what didn’t work as expected, so we can all learn from each other. If you have a story of a success or failure you’d like to highlight for the broader community, please join our bi-weekly team chat or, for longer-form shares, request an author’s role on this blog from a community deputy Community Deputies are a team of people all over the world who review WordCamp and Meetup applications, interview lead organizers, and generally keep things moving at WordCamp Central. Find more about deputies in our Community Deputy Handbook..
It’s exciting to see WordPress community organizers rising to the challenge of adapting to new circumstances, even with circumstances as unpleasant as these. If you have any questions or feedback on this post, please share them in a comment below!
Please also comment if you are interested in working on a new attendee survey that online events can share, to compare the success of different event types.
Thank you to those who gave feedback on this post: @angelasjin, @courtneypk, @kcristiano, @hlashbrooke