Contributor Day

So you want to host a contributor day at your WordCamp. Awesome!

The Global Community Team thinks contributor days are great and would love to see more WordCamps hosting contributor days. Below is an outline of what to expect and what to plan for.

Roles

Contributor Days generally need two people to lead things: one to organize the logistics and one to organize the contributor teams (see below) and lead the day of the event.

Event planning is not easy for everyone, so it is easiest to combine the organization of the contributor day logististics (venue, food, etc) with the WordCamp logistics.

As far as organizing the day-of, the best person will be someone local to the community who has contributed to WordPress before, regardless of their area of contribution. Further below, we will provide information on exactly what that role entails and how to lead individual areas of contribution.

Before the Contributor Day

Contributor days should be free. While everyone gets value from contributor days, it is important that new contributors feel welcome and invited. Paying to contribute makes them less interested and is not great anyway because we are asking them to give up a day for WordPress. That means you will need to build the cost of the contributor day into your budget, including venue, lunch (see below), and any other expenses.

Contributor days are for everyone, on every experience level. Even someone who knows very little about WordPress can contribute by answering support questions. The exception is, perhaps, focused WordCamps (i.e. Developer WordCamps) where attendees are expected to know a bit about development, and thus the accompanying contributor day can be mostly developer-focused. Even then, it is useful to have a plan in case new contributors arrive who are not developers. Make sure you emphasize this point in all your communication with potential attendees.

Attendance will be higher if the contributor day is after the WordCamp, not before. During your WordCamp, you will be able to heavily promote the contributor day, resulting in more enthusiasm for WordPress. Attendees feel most excited about WordPress right after a WordCamp. Use that excitement to encourage them to attend the contributor day.

Post multiple times about your contributor day. Your WordCamp blog is a great way to get the word out about the contributor day. Many people will miss the first blog post… and the second… post four weeks ahead of time about the contributor, then three weeks. At two weeks, start allowing sign-ups (see below).

Post a separate sign-up form for your contributor day. WordCamps that have combined the sign-up for the WordCamp itself and the contributor day have been disappointed with the lack of attendees. It is standard in free software for contributors to “over commit and under deliver”. The same is true for contributor days. A second sign-up form requires more effort – and explicit effort – from a potential attendees and will give you a better idea of how many people will attend.

If possible, allow attendees to “just show up” to contributor day. Sometimes this is not possible due to venue requirements, but encouraging attendees at your WordCamp to “just show up” will increase attendance and, again, lets you promote the day during your WordCamp.

Remind attendees to bring their laptops (or tablets). It seems logical, but many people do not realize they will need their laptops (or a tablet) to contribute. Remind them both on the website and in any emails about contributor day.

The Contributor Day

Attendance will be lower than planned. Because contributor days are free – and sign up is free – attendance will be lower than your sign ups. This is true with all free or inexpensive events.

Do not start your contributor day before 10 a.m. Expecting attendees to wake up in time for a contributor day the morning after a WordCamp after party at even 10 a.m. is hard. We recommend starting at 11 a.m. or even noon, with your free lunch at 1 p.m. or so.

Provide a free lunch. It is an added cost, but a worthwhile one. Of course it is not always possible (due to budgets) to provide a free lunch, but if you can, it is  very helpful in convincing people to attend. Typically, pizza or something simple that can be ordered when you know how many are in attendance is the provided lunch, but we would suggest something more creative like sandwiches or burritos. If you can not provide lunch, you should at least provide a snack and beverages.

Likewise, provide free coffee, water, and/or soft drinks. In the U.S., Starbucks provides cartons of hot coffee at a reasonable charge. Water is also invaluable to have on hand in the form of cheap bottled water or an easily accessible drinking fountain with cups.

Pick three or four areas to focus on. There are a lot of ways to contribute. Unless you are planning on having a very large contributor day, it is best to focus on a handful of ways to contribute. The standard three are core, support, and docs. Depending on available contributor leads and location, you may wish to include theme reviews, meta, or polyglots as well. Each team has a page on how to contribute at a contributor day. The contributor leads should rely heavily on those pages if they are not familiar with contributing to that area.

Give a preview of the focus areas. Each contributor lead should introduce their focus area and talk a little bit about what people will be working on if they join that group.

What areas can people contribute to?

There is a complete list at make.wordpress.org, but below is a list, along with links to how to get started with that team at a contributor day. For each team you are planning on supporting at your contributor day, you will want to have someone familiar with contributing to that group and familiar with the contributor day page (a group lead). Different groups will do different things, but your group lead should be prepared for both experienced contributors and new contributors.

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  • Core – There are generally two different groups at a contributor day: those who have contributed to core before and those who have not. It is usually best to split the core group into two, letting previous contributors work on new contributions and teaching new contributors how to contribute. You will probably want two leads here, but it will depend on attendance at your WordCamp. For new contributors, you need to go through a number of things, most of which are listed in the sidebar of the core contributor handbook. Be sure to cover how to use trac, what makes a good ticket, how to setup a local development environment (if needed), and general best practices (coding standards).
  • Support – Most contributions here will be to the support forums. You should go through what the support team does and focus on answering questions in the support forums. Be sure to give information on stock answers and help users setup a WordPress.org account.
  • Docs – At contributor days, docs contributions are generally editing and improving the theme and plugin developer handbooks. However, some people may want to improve the codex or contribute examples to the developer hub. Talk to a docs contributor ahead of time to make sure someone is around to give out Editor status on make/docs.
  • Theme Review Team – A full walkthrough on how to review themes is important. Likewise, be sure to contact a TRT admin so they can be around during your contributor day and can assign tickets to new contributors.
  • Mobile – The mobile handbook is generally up-to-date. For contributors to either the iOS or Android apps, they should have a knowledge of development on their respective platform. Following the handbook at that point should not be hard.
  • Polyglots – Contributing string translations to a current localization of WordPress is a great way to get started. The document linked to walks through how that should be done. If you are hosting a WordCamp in a language that does not have a full translation of WordPress (or related projects), it can be good to set one up ahead of time with the polyglots team and kick off your translation work there. The first step there will be requesting a new locale.
  • Meta – The meta team is programming-based, for the most part. The WordPress Meta Environment (based on VVV) is the best way to get setup and contribute to the open sourced projects that the meta team manages, including wordcamp.org, global.wordpress.org (rosetta), jobs.wordpress.net, developer.wordpress.org, and apps.wordpress.org.
  • Accessibility – Generally, we group the accessibility team with core so they can contribute their testing or programming expertise to core tickets with the “accessibility” focus.
  • Training –
  • Community – (Including speaker workshops)
  • Design –
  • Marketing –
  • Security –
  • Plugin Review –
  • WordPress TV –

Tip: Here is a quiz on this article. Read quizzes page if you have any questions about quizzes and how to navigate them.

Additional Preparation

Now that you’ve handled all the big ticket items for the day, there are just a few small tasks that you need to take care of. These are basic things that don’t take too long to do, but are necessary for the day to run smoothly.

Website setups

Ideally, you want WordPress to be installed and setup for all of the teams before they arrive in the morning. This means that you will need to have the FTP and database details for each of the non-profits in order to run the WordPress install on their new domains. In some cases, your host may handle this for you, but if they do not then make sure to have it sorted out before the day begins.

Connection details

This is also important for your teams to all have access to on the morning of the event – the websites may be all setup with WordPress, but the teams will need the domain FTP details as well as the WordPress admin login details. Make sure to have all of that information available for each team. Often the best way to do this is to print out the info for each team and have the printed sheet available on their tables when they arrive.

Name badges

It’s a good idea to have name badges for all of the attendees (non-profit representatives as well as participants). The simplest (and altogether cheapest) way to do that is get sheets of stickers and a few pens so that when people arrive they can write their name on a sticker and stick it on their clothing.

Stationery

Aside from the name badges, it’s helpful to have some basic stationery available for the teams. If you can get a notebook and pen for each individual that would be great, but if not then one notebook for each team is also helpful. This gives them a space to sketch designs, plan UI flows, and generally take a few helpful notes. There’s a good chance that one of your sponsors can provide branded notebooks for this, so make sure to chat to them about that.

Maintaining Communication

When your participants sign up for the event, they will immediately receive a confirmation email and they will be able to find all of the relevant info from the event page itself. This is great and it takes a lot of the manual administration off your shoulders, but even so, it is still a good idea to keep in occasional contact with your non-profits and your participants in the weeks leading up to the event – especially in the final week(s) before the event takes place.

When participants sign up they will provide their email address, allowing you to send them any additional info they need. If they already have all the required information from the event page, then it’s good to email them all the week of the event to finalise everything and remind them of the necessary information.

The amount that you communicate with your participants is up to you, so stick with what you are comfortable with, bearing in mind that it’s nice for them to receive more personal communications from time to time.

If you go to the do_action Tools page in the doaction.org dashboard (once you are logged in as an organiser), then you will find a handy form that will allow you to email everyone who will be taking part in your event. You can filter the recipients by role and non-profit, so it’s very flexible and will allow you to keep in touch with people as much as you need.

Organising Hosting

Sponsors for the day are important, but one thing that we have not yet touched on is the fact that you will need to find sponsored hosting for the new non-profits websites. This is important as it allows the organisations the freedom to continue working with their new websites without further costs being involved.

How this works will very much depend on the country that you live in, but a good idea is to contact a local hosting company and discuss the options with them. Once again, make sure the potential host is aware that this is a charity event – in many cases, hosts have free hosting plans for registered non-profit organisations and will be happy to come on board for your event.

Some of your non-profits may already have hosting that they wish to continue using – that isn’t a problem at all and they are welcome to do so. In those instance you will need to get hold of the relevant connection details (FTP, etc.) in order to set up their new website.

A few country-specific options

There are a few countries where do_action events have been run before, so we are aware of free hosting options for registered non-profits. To that end, here is some handy information for those countries – if you organise a do_action event in your area and you become aware of a good hosting option for do_action events then let us know and we can add the info to this page.

United States of America

If you are in the USA, then Bluehost offers free hosting to any registered non-profits via the Grassroots.org platform. This is a good option as it means all you need to is direct the non-profits to this page and they can handle the rest themselves. Something to take note of here, is that the Grassroots and Bluehost registration process can take a few weeks to finalise, so make sure that you get your non-profits running with this as soon as possible.

South Africa

In South Africa, local hosting provider, Hetzner, are happy to provide sponsored hosting for registered non-profit organisations. You can contact them directly and they will help you with sorting things out.

Finding Sponsors

Now that you have got this far in planning your do_action hackathon, you will notice that the costs for this kind of event are actually relatively low. In fact, the only real costs are for the venue hire and the catering – both of which can often be reduced due to this being a charity event.

When it comes to finding sponsors for your event, it’s best to go with local companies as they know your community the best and can get involved in more practical ways. That being said, the criteria for do_action sponsorship are the same as for WordCamp sponsorship – you can find more details about this in the WordCamp Organiser’s Handbook.

In return for sponsoring the event, you can offer sponsors anything that makes sense for this kind of thing. Some suggestions are:

  • Displaying their logo, link and company description on the event page.
  • Publicly thanking them on social media.
  • Openly thanking them at the event itself.
  • A chance to give away their swag at the event to the participants.
  • Their logo projected on the screen for the day.

This is all up to you to work what makes the most sense for your event and your sponsors. In general, however, sponsors are often happy to be involved in a charity event like this with very little return on their investment.

Handling Catering

Because do_action events are full day affairs, you need to provide food for your participants. This usually involves the following:

  • Breakfast (or at least a selection of something small, like muffins, to start the day off)
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Tea, coffee and snacks throughout the day

If your venue is a co-working space, then there’s a very good chance that they will be providing tea and coffee throughout the day for you, so discuss that with them. Other than that, you can organise any kind of food you like, but be aware of potential dietary requirements of your participants and cater accordingly.

While the teams will be hard at work the whole day, it is nice to take at least a small break for lunch. With that in mind, it’s great if your venue has a designated area for meals so that your participants can get some time away from their screens. If the venue does not have that as an option, however, then don’t stress – make sure the food is the type of food that can be eaten while standing and you won’t have any problems.

Depending on the size if your event, catering can get quite expensive, so it’s a good idea to make sure your caterers are aware of the fact that this is a charity event. In many cases, that will allow them to bring their costs down quite considerably for you in exchange for a mention as a sponsor of the day. That is perfectly acceptable and actively encouraged.

Getting Particpants

So you now have your non-profit organisations selected (and added to the event data on the site) – the next step is to start getting people involved in the event. It’s generally a good idea to open up participant applications at least a month before the event, but preferably longer if you can spare the time. This is because some people often take a long time to decide if they want to be involved, and it also gives you plenty of time to contact local freelancers and/or agencies to see if you can get them to sign up as well.

If this is your first time running a do_action event in your area, then it does often mean a lot of cold-calling to get people to sign up as participants, but once you have done this event at least once then you will find that people will sign up a lot quicker each time. A good idea is to get the word out to your local WordPress meetup members.

To open your event up for sign-ups, all you need to do is change your event status to ‘Accepting participant sign-ups’. Once you have done that, there will be a new form at the bottom of your event page that will allow individuals to do the following:

  1. Select the non-profit organisation with which they are going to work.
  2. Select their role on the team.
  3. Fill in their details (name, email address & phone number).

Once they have done all of that and submitted the form they will immediately be added to their selected team in the role that they chose. They will also receive an email confirming their involvement and informing them that the event organiser will be in touch with more details closer to the time. They will also be reminded to read the Participant’s Guide to get an idea of what is expected of them now that they have signed up.

Participant Roles

By default, each non-profit build team has the following 7 roles available:

  • Project Manager
  • Content Creator
  • Social Media Manager
  • Designer
  • 2 Developers
  • Quality Assurance Tester

You can, however, change this for each non-profit, so it is infinitely flexible. If there are additional roles that you feel should be made available then let us know and we’ll add them as options.

Keeping track of sign-ups

While you won’t be notified of every new sign up (as that would result in a lot of email spam), you will be able to see a list of all of your non-profits as well as the members of their build teams on one page. If you login to this site and go to the ‘edit event’ page then, below the standard event details, you will see all of the relevant information about who is on each build team. You can check back on this page as often as you like in order to keep tabs on how things are going.

A note about Project Managers

All of the build team roles are treated exactly the same in terms of the information that they receive, except for the Project Manager on each team. Because the individuals in the Project Manager role are expected to contact the non-profit organisation some time before the actual event, they are given access to those contact details, as well as the details of who is on their build team. This is given by linking them to the non-profit’s page on the site, which is password protected. On that page you will find the non-profit’s contact details as well as the build team list and all of their contact information.

The password for these pages defaults to do_action, but a random password is generated for the page when the Project Manager signs up and that password is included in the confirmation email that they receive.

A note about vetting participants

Because the participants are automatically added to the teams, you could feasibly have sign-ups from people who are in no way qualified to fill the role that they have chosen. While this is unlikely (as people are probably not going to sign up for a job that they are not suited for), it can happen. If you are unsure about a particular applicant then spend some time searching for them on the internet to see what you can find. If you see some clear red flags then get in touch with them and ask them about it, but remember to always give them the benefit of the doubt. The vetting of participants is up to you as the event organiser.

Participant’s Guide

While minor details may vary depending on the location of the do_action event, there are a number of things that all do_action participants need to take note of.

Structure of the day

Your event organisers will be in touch with you about starting times, but the general structure of the day of a do_action hackathon is that you will start work in the morning and work through until about 5pm. Meals will all be provided for you and the day will end with each team presenting their work to everyone else followed by a celebratory supper for everyone in attendance.

What is expected of participants

All participants are expected to be at the hackathon for the full duration of the day. You will also be required to bring your own laptop (and power cables!). The venue will provide internet for the day, so you won’t need to worry about connectivity.

If you sign up as a Project Manager for one of the build teams, then you are also required to contact the non-profit organisation before the day in order to get specific requirements from them and do some pre-planning for the event. You will be provided with the contact details for your chosen non-profit organisation (as well as those of your entire build team) once you have signed up.

What participants will be provided with

To keep you going for the day you will be provided with food, coffee, tea and snacks throughout the event. You will also be provided with a reliable internet connection, a fresh installation of WordPress, and all the login details that are required for you to begin working.

How the non-profit organisations will be involved

The non-profit organisations will each have at least one representative there on the day. As the build team for their new website you will work directly with them, but your Project Manager will act as the liaison between the non-profit and the rest of the team. For a portion of the day (usually an hour or two), the non-profit representatives will be removed from your working space and will receive training on how to use WordPress effectively. This is to give them the skills to continue working with their new websites, as well as to give the build teams some space to work without the non-profit directly involved – we have found this to be hugely beneficial for the team as well as the non-profit.

Gathering Non-profits

Once you have your event details live, you can use the page to promote your event and show people what it’s all about. The initial use, however, will be to gather applications from local non-profits – something that this site will handle for you.

When you are ready to start gathering applications from non-profit organisations, then you simply update the status of your event to ‘Accepting non-profit applications’. Once you have done that, a form like this will appear at the bottom of your event page:

 

When a non-profit organisation fills in this form, it will add them to the system as a private post, as well as send them an email confirming their application.

Once you have gathered enough applications, or your cut-off date has been reached, then you can change the status of your event to ‘Selecting non-profits’. This will display a notice on your event in place of the form stating that you have closed applications and are selecting the non-profits organisation with which you are going to work.

How you select your final non-profits is largely up to you (but read the note below for some guidelines), but once you have done so, you need to make sure that all of the non-profit organisations are added to your event in the pre-defined meta field. Once you have added them all then all you need to do is update your event status to ‘Accepting participant sign-ups’ – this will open the event up for people to sign up as participants (which is explained further in the next section).

You will notice that all of the available build team roles will be added to each non-profit automatically. If you feel that one of your non-profits does not need all of these roles, or would benefit from some additional role, then you can go ahead and edit that list and individualise it for each organisation.

A note about selecting non-profits

The criteria for selecting your non-profits are rather broad, so this is very much in your hands. We do, however, strongly recommend the following as guidelines:

  • The selected organisations must be registered non-profits – this will work differently depending on your country, but it is an important way of sorting out which ones are serious about their work, and which ones are more temporary.
  • They must be local to your area – this is for practical purposes as it means that they will be able to attend the event itself (which is a requirement).
  • They must be in need of a new website, rather than just wanting something new and shiny even though their current site is perfectly fine.

Other than that, you are welcome to make your own calls with the non-profits that you select.

Publishing your Event

Once you have your venue & date secured then you are ready to publish your event info on the doaction.org site. The advantage to publishing on the site is that a large amount of the manual admin work for the event is taken off your shoulders. Specifically, the site handles the following for you:

  • Accepting applications from non-profits
  • Accepting sign-ups from participants (once you have finalised your non-profits)
  • Supplying people with all the info they need (including a map to the venue)
  • Publicly thanking your sponsors
  • Generally getting the word out about your event

In order to add your event to the site you need to be added as an organiser – to apply as an organiser please fill in the application form here.

Once you have been added to the site as an organiser, you will be able to add your event along with all of the relevant details (date, venue and address) in pre-defined meta fields. You will also be able to add all of the non-profits that you will be working with on the day – however, if you allow the non-profits to sign up via this site (as outlined on the next page of this handbook) then they will already be saved as drafts for you to activate.

The URL for your event will look something like this: http://doaction.org/event/event-slug – you can use this page to promote your event and accept participant sign-ups.