Proposal to improve the organizing experience for online WordCamps

Over the past year WordPress event organizers around the globe have learned so much about the process of organizing WordCamps, meetups, and other events online because we had to do that to keep going. Now that we’ve had a year to come together in this new way several of us have seen common obstacles. Timi and I met earlier this week to discuss those obstacles and how we might make organizing online WordCamps a better experience for all.

Getting through the obstacles 

Though there are a variety of obstacles that stand in the way of ideal online event organization there seem to be three things that are prominent for many 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. organizers.

Tools

We are spoiled for choice when it comes to online streaming tools. Because of this, organizers are using the tools that appeal most to them and their organizing team. This is great for personal choice, but makes it difficult to document the technical process to make the recording, broadcasting, and communicating part of the conference less time intensive so organizers can focus on what matters: content.

Documentation

The Community Team has spent years creating a handbook, training, and documentation for organizing our in-person events, but after a year of the WordPress community organizing exclusively online events, we haven’t created a lot of methodology or documentation to guide organizers through the specifics of all it takes to organize an online event. This knowledge gap, combined with not recommending specific tools has made this process harder to build extensive documentation for. 

Money

Organizing an online event is a lot of work. Technical work that many of us don’t have the experience to carry out. In the beginning of the pandemic, we solved the technical hurdle by hiring live streaming professionals to do the technical work for our events while organizers were able to focus on content. Since we’re not charging for registration with online events, it left sponsorship as our singular funding source. It’s not financially responsible, or in the long term possible, for WordCamps to continue paying for professional streaming producers and still maintain the values and expectations of the program.

The proposal

What we’re proposing is that we (community organizers, deputies, and members of the community team) select a small number of tools for both pre-recording speaker sessions and live presentation of speaker sessions, as well as select any ancillary editing and communication tools so we can document more completely the event process. While doing so we’d increase the knowledge base of our organizers and volunteers, decrease our dependence on paid production, and reduce the amount of fundraising needed to sustain this program while it continues in its online-only state. At this time we are not proposing the specific tools to be used. We would like to hear from the organizers of all of our online events throughout 2020 to see which tools were most successful for them, while keeping in mind accessibilityAccessibility Accessibility (commonly shortened to a11y) refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people with disabilities. The concept of accessible design ensures both “direct access” (i.e. unassisted) and “indirect access” meaning compatibility with a person’s assistive technology (for example, computer screen readers). (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accessibility) and cost. 

What’s missing?

I’m a big fan of acknowledging that I don’t know what I don’t know. Is there more that should go into this proposal? If there are additional considerations, please share those in the comments.

How can you help?

If you were part of an organizing team for an online WordCamp, please share with us what worked, and just as importantly, what didn’t work for you in the comments below. If you have online event organizing experience outside of WordCamps we’d love for you to share that as well, but please let us know what type of event your recommendations are based on when you share them.

Who is making this proposal?

This is a joint proposal from @sippis and @camikaos with additional support from @courtneypk and @kcristiano.