Tuesday Trainings: How to be an excellent discussion group leader

The Community Team is exploring a new way of connecting the WordPress community through recorded workshops and live, online discussion groups. In fact, you may have seen posts on the Community Blog lately, calling for Learn WordPress workshop presenters, reviewers, and discussion group leaders. These are all important roles in helping the WordPress community connect and learn from each other.

Today, we want to focus on the crucial role of discussion group leaders, and how they help communities grow and learn from each other. Similar to being a meetup group organizer, anyone can be a discussion group leader! 

What do discussion group leaders do?

Discussion group leaders bring everyone together by scheduling synchronous discussion times. When it is time to meet, they introduce the topic, and help facilitate the discussion. Questions that can be used for starting off the discussion will have been provided by workshop presenters. If the discussion strays too far from the original topic, discussion group leaders refocus the conversation. When conversations stall, a discussion group leader can ask a question to restart the discussion. 

Another important role of the discussion group leaders is to make sure everyone gets an opportunity to be heard. They keep an eye out for quieter participants who may want to speak, and help them feel comfortable in doing so. Similarly, discussion group leaders remind all group members to be mindful of time, so that the discussion isn’t solely held by one or just a few voices. 

What resources are available to you?

Discussion group leaders have an advantage in that they get to select the workshops for discussion! Each workshop will come with learning objectives, which can help viewers quickly understand what the workshop is about, and what the workshop presenter hopes you will learn from watching the video. Workshops will also come with some comprehension questions created by the workshop presenter. These questions are a great way to start a discussion!

Another resource could be other members of your discussion group. Even if you come to your group prepared with lots of questions and points for discussion, another participant might also have some excellent questions and discussion topics related to the workshop. Multiple perspectives will help all discussion group participants better understand the workshop material. 

Discussion Group Formats

The goal of discussion groups is to add community and interactivity back into the experience of watching workshops online. We want to create a supportive, safe space where people can connect and learn together and from each other. Because of this, discussion groups can take many different forms, and we invite you to be creative! Here are a few ideas:

  • Use Ice breakers or activities to learn about each other & create a sense of community.
  • Use the comprehension questions as a way to guide your discussion.
  • Invite everyone to share what they learned from watching the workshop.
  • Invite everyone to share any follow up questions that came up. Then, everyone can help answer each other’s questions!
  • Invite people to share how they will apply their newfound knowledge from the workshop.

The format of your discussion group isn’t limited to just one style. Get creative! Depending on the size, make up, and preferences of your discussion group, you may provide a variety of formats to help engage all kinds of learners. Don’t forget to review this handbook page which includes helpful tips and suggestions for online event hosting tools. 

Let’s brainstorm some of those possible styles now. What ideas for discussion groups do you have? Please share them in the comments below, along with any other tips for discussion group leaders!

Want to become a discussion group leader? Great! You can either start one as an organizer of your 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. group, or apply here

#tuesdaytrainings
#community-management #learn-wordpress

Tuesday Trainings: It’s not always easy to just say no.

As Community Team deputies and mentors, sometimes we find ourselves in the position of needing to say “No.” It’s just a little word. In English, it’s exactly two letters. It’s so easy, it’s the first real word many children learn to say. But sometimes, it can be overwhelmingly difficult to say. 

Today, we’ll focus on three types of “No” that we often come across in our daily work.

  • When someone is asking for our assistance or additional volunteer efforts.
  • When an organizer or volunteer is asking to do something that doesn’t fit within the expectations of our program.
  • When we’re rejecting an applicant (to speak, organize, volunteer).

Of course, there are many other reasons for us to say “No,” but these are the instances I want to focus on today.

“I don’t know, but let’s find out”

Before we dive into the big NO of it all, I do want to take a moment to remind you that if you don’t KNOW the answer, “No” shouldn’t be your go to. If you’re uncertain, please understand that you’re not expected to know everything. You just need to know when to ask for more help. When that happens to me, I like to say, “I don’t know, but let’s find out.”

Then I turn to my best resources, my fellow deputies, and community members. For you, that may be asking in the #community-team channel in the Making WordPress SlackSlack Slack is a Collaborative Group Chat Platform https://slack.com/. The WordPress community has its own Slack Channel at https://make.wordpress.org/chat/., sending an email to support@wordcamp.org, or asking a friend who is also working on the project. 

Don’t simply say “No” just because you have the power to. But when you need to say “No”…

Saying “No” to doing more

As volunteers in this program, we ask a lot of you. In addition to the work that brought you into the WordPress project in the first place, you may find yourself volunteering, speaking, organizing, mentoring, working as a deputy, leading a working group, or even leading a whole team of volunteers. And it seems like the more you do, the more is asked of you. The more dependable and hardworking you are, the more people will ask. 

It’s important for us all to know our limit. To know when we should stop. And to know when we should decline additional commitments. This is the one that is most challenging for me personally. But I’ve learned my lesson. When I know I’m doing enough, saying “Yes” to more work will lead to burnout.

If you have enough (or too much on your plate) the best way to say “No” to more work is to be transparent about it. Tell the requester that you won’t be able to do the job the way it deserves to be done. Here, saying “No” saves you from being overworked, and it saves the requester the frustration of having the task done by someone who isn’t fully available. 

If you want to help in a smaller way, and you have the bandwidth to do so, you might try:

  • Suggesting another individual you think would do the job well.
  • If you’ll have time available in the future, let them know when that will be.
  • Offer assistance that DOES fit into your schedule, but make your boundaries clear.

Saying “No” to something that doesn’t fit within expectations

As mentors and deputies, you hold a lot of knowledge about the way the program runs, and the expectations and guidelines that have developed over the years. But even more importantly, sometimes you have insight into why we have these expectations and guidelines in place. 

While we’re currently doing a lot of experimentation in the WordPress events program, it’s perhaps harder than ever to say no. With all the new things organizers are trying out, considering the health and safety of our community and the financial stability of the program, as well as remaining consistent with the values of the project, there’s still a lot to say “No” to. 

If an organizer or deputy wants to do something that you know doesn’t match the program’s expectations, you need to say “No”, and often there is no easy way to do it. But here are some things that can help you prepare to deny a request.

  • Do some research. Has this request been denied in the past? If so you can share that information.
  • Be transparent. Don’t say “No” without sharing the expectation or guideline that led you not to approve something or someone.
  • Understand the values behind the expectation. Is it a fun, but unnecessary expense? Share that we run the events program to focus on lean budgets that benefit attendees with education and collaboration. 
  • Be prepared with backup. You don’t have to do it alone. It’s always reasonable to get a second opinion and ask that person to be there to say “No” with you.

Saying “No” to an applicant

Based on the feedback I get from speaker applicants throughout the program, this may be the one that’s hardest for many of our organizers and community members. Saying “No” to someone who WANTS to speak, volunteer, or help in some way.

I don’t think any of us want to disappoint others in our community, so it can be really emotionally challenging to send out rejection emails, or have those tough rejection conversations. When we sign up to help the community, we don’t sign up to intentionally hurt people by rejecting them.

Year after year, I see organizers procrastinate on sending out speaker rejections until it’s too late. Year after year, I have community members reach out to me to find out if I know when an event will notify their speakers. Or to tell me on the evening of an event that they applied, but were never accepted or rejected. 

It’s true that every once in a while someone was accidentally skipped over, or an email went to spam. But most of the time it’s that the speaker team just “forgot” or didn’t know how to say “No” kindly, so they just never got around to doing it. 

The truth of the matter is, that no matter how bad it may feel to be rejected, never hearing back is even worse. I’ve heard people express that it felt like they didn’t matter enough to be notified, that they thought the organizing team wasn’t doing their job, that they felt like they were being strung along. I’ve heard from people who weren’t notified that they went ahead and built a whole presentation for an event just in case the team was behind. 

In this case, more than any other, not saying “No”, not sending a timely rejection to that applicant to speak, organize, or volunteer is unkind. It can cause worry, anxiety, hard feelings, and a lot of wasted time.

Here’s what you should keep in mind when saying no to an applicant:

  • Saying “No” is a kindness, do so promptly.
  • Don’t be wishy-washy, be assertive and polite.
  • Reject them privately.
  • Offer them the option to ask questions.
  • Only encourage them to apply again if you mean it. 

Wrapping up

For most of us saying “No” isn’t fun. We don’t wake up in the morning excited to reject individuals and crush dreams, but it is a necessity, and avoiding it when it is inevitable or being unclear makes things worse. Remember, be kind by sharing honestly.

Do you have any good tips on how to make saying “No” easier? Any questions? Please share them in the comments!

#tuesdaytrainings

Tuesday Trainings: Supporting Meetup groups during the pandemic

Many members of our community are stressed due to the challenges brought about by the pandemic. In these difficult times, local meetups can offer a great way to bring members of our community together and to help each other. Since in-person events are not happening these days, more and more WordPress Meetups are going online. In many ways, online meetups are easier to organize than in-person meetups, as they are relatively easy to organize. While many 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. groups across the world have embraced the online meetup format, others are still struggling to hold online events. This post offers tips, tricks, and resources for WordPress meetup organizers worldwide to revitalize their meetup groups during the pandemic with the help of online events. 

Reactivating a meetup group

Many meetup groups have not been able to organize meetups this year, due to the pandemic. A great way to reactivate an inactive group is by merely scheduling a check-in call as a meetup event. It need not even be an actual session – it can just be an informal discussion over a call. If you are an organizer of a group that has not had meetups in a while, try scheduling an online meetup as a casual call. You’d be surprised to see the number of attendees for such an event! Please note: Any meetup event with three or more attendees is considered a meetup, so you need not have tens of attendees to organize a successful meetup event. Our handbook page offers guidance on how to schedule and host an online meetup in Meetup.com. Once the group has a scheduled event, we’ve seen that it really improves the morale of both the organizing team and the group members, and that it really gets things going!

Playing around with Meetup Formats

In our first-ever Tuesday Trainings post, we discussed different online event formats that organizers can try out. The online meetup format offers a lot of possibilities for Meetup organizers. Apart from the suggestions listed in that post, here are a few types of events that you can try with your group: 

  • Organize routine catch-up/check-in calls with the meetup group
    While these calls (with no agenda other than to check-in) can be a great way to reactivate the group, it can also help to provide the kind of social camaraderie that we’ve been missing out on due to COVID-19. Such calls can offer an excellent opportunity to unwind and discuss everything non-work related, and might work well if you schedule them as recurring events (e.g., every third Friday of the month). For example, The WordPress Pune Meetup group has a recurring social call every Friday, that regularly gets a lot of attendees. 
  • Games and fun activities
    You can consider setting some time aside after every meetup to organize some fun activities. It could be anything from collaborating together on an online game, or having a quiz. You could take it a step further to organize an occasional dedicated meetup event (or events) to have these games. While it’s good to have casual games and fun activities for your meetup, please note that the focus your meetup group should still be on WordPress. 🙂 
  • Recurring event series
    Many meetup groups organize recurring event series for their meetup groups. It could be related to specific topics (e.g. Narnia WordPress BlockBlock Block is the abstract term used to describe units of markup that, composed together, form the content or layout of a webpage using the WordPress editor. The idea combines concepts of what in the past may have achieved with shortcodes, custom HTML, and embed discovery into a single consistent API and user experience. development event series) or interest groups (Narnia Bloggers Meetup series). As an example, The WordPress NYC Meetup Group has a regular Women of WordPress NYC event series, which holds monthly meetups, providing resources and support for women members.

We recently published a blog post to call for ideas on reimagining online events. Even though the blog post talks about online 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., you can find many ideas for meetup events in that post.

Finding a topic and a speaker

Many organizers struggle with finding speakers and topics for their online meetups. Posting surveys for your Meetup group to find topics that your members would like will help a lot with event planning. You can put up a survey to get suggestions from members, OR you could list topics, and ask members to vote. Similarly, setting up a poll in your meetup group to get potential speakers is also a good idea to get a list of people that would like to speak at your meetup group. You could ask newer speakers to start with Lightning talks of 10 minutes or super lightning talks (flash talks) of five minutes. It’s also a great way to engage members in your local community and to promote local talent.

Online meetups eliminate geographical restrictions, so you can now get anyone from any part of the world to speak at your meetup! If your Meetup group members want to listen to a session or a workshop on a particular topic, you could reach out to other WordCamp speakers or experts on that topic and invite them to speak at your local meetup. In case you face difficulty finding a speaker for one of your events, you could simply select a talk from WordPress.tv and organize a watch party!

With all that said, you don’t need an expert speaker to speak on a specific topic. Sometimes, experimenting with different event formats such as a panel discussion or merely an informal discussion based on a particular topic, or setting up a co-working session is a great way to engage with your meetup group members. 

Keeping Meetups going

Reactivating a group by organizing online meetup group is only a part of the journey. Organizers would need put in a little more effort to keep the momentum going. The following tips will be helpful:

  • Onboard more co-organizers: Having more members in your organizing team is a great way to help your meetups stay active. Sometimes, existing members of the organizing team may feel fatigued. Newer organizers can step in, when members of the existing organizing team feel tired, so as to keep meetups going.
  • Work with other meetup groups to organize joint events: If there are other meetup groups in your area, you could work with them to jointly organize events. By joining forces with other groups in your area, you tap into a wider audience, thus expanding your community.
  • Bring your community to social media: Feel free to extend your community beyond your Meetup.com page. You can achieve this by aving a presence for your group in other social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and SlackSlack Slack is a Collaborative Group Chat Platform https://slack.com/. The WordPress community has its own Slack Channel at https://make.wordpress.org/chat/.. Some meetup groups even have corresponding groups in messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram. If you are comfortable creating and maintaining such groups, you can build connections within your community, and facilitate asynchronous discussions even!
  • Community initiatives: As they stay, communities that work together stay together. Doing recurring activities as a community – such as contributor days and hackathons could be very helpful in engaging members of your community. 

Are you looking for more training content? 

Check these out!

The WordPress Diverse Speaker Training group (#WPDiversity) has several workshops to help you in your journey to public speaking at online WordPress events, or for WordPress event organizers to support more diverse speakers at your events: 

Tuesday, July 28 & Tuesday, August 18: Who am I to be speaking? & Finding a topic that people would love to hear  

Wednesday, July 29 & Wednesday, August 19: Creating a great pitch
Wednesday

Thursday, July 30: (new!) What if someone asks me a difficult question?

Thursday, August 20: Workshop: Online Stage Presence

Tuesday, August 25, and Thursday, August 26: Open practice sessions.

#meetups, #tuesdaytrainings

Tuesday Trainings: Open-source and the GPL in Community Events

It’s #trainingtuesday!

As a local event organizer, you are expected to learn and share the correct knowledge of the WordPress license. While we (or at least most of us) are not lawyers, it’s important to understand the basic rules and philosophy behind the license, because they are closely tied to how we vet anyone for anyone representing WordPress, like speakers, sponsors, and volunteers.

In this document, we’ll explore the ways you and your local 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./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. participants can deepen your understanding of the WordPress license to build a stronger community together.

What is the GPLGPL GPL is an acronym for GNU Public License. It is the standard license WordPress uses for Open Source licensing https://wordpress.org/about/license/. The GPL is a ‘copyleft’ license https://www.gnu.org/licenses/copyleft.en.html. This means that derivative work can only be distributed under the same license terms. This is in distinction to permissive free software licenses, of which the BSD license and the MIT License are widely used examples.?

The GPL is an acronym of General Public License. The source code of the software licensed under the GPL is free for anyone to run, study, share/copy, and modify.

Why does WordPress use the GPL?

The short answer is: the license of its predecessor software b2 was also GPL. It’s a “copyleft license” – that means all contributions must also be open sourced.

The WordPress community has fully embraced the GPL not only because it had to, but also because it has benefited from the freedoms the license provides to all users.

Just like how community events are organized by volunteers, WordPress software itself is written and maintained by a team of volunteers. Plugins and themes in the WordPress.orgWordPress.org The community site where WordPress code is created and shared by the users. This is where you can download the source code for WordPress core, plugins and themes as well as the central location for community conversations and organization. https://wordpress.org/ directory are also 100% GPL, allowing authors the freedom to learn from each other’s code and collaborate. This is similar to the way we share how we organize community events and build upon each other’s experience.

WordPress Community’s 100% GPL Rule

One of the requirements for WordCamp organizers is to embrace the WordPress license. Products they distribute or promote need to be 100% GPL or compatible when WordPress-derivative works are involved. This goes the same for the speakers, sponsors, and volunteers at WordCamp.

Meetup organizers are also asked to uphold the principles of the WordPress 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. project, including the GPL. They should keep it in mind when considering co-organizers, sponsors, and hosted venues.

Helping Others Understand the GPL

If anyone asks you for a quick explanation of the GPL, you can always point them to the Bill of Rights section of wordpress.org/about page and explain these “four freedoms”.

Four Freedoms

If they want to learn more, the GPL Primer page in our WordCamp Organizer Handbook is a great resource. The links within the page are also very helpful.

Community Deputy Handbook also has a great resource called “Frequently asked questions about the GPL”.

Some people can get a better grasp of an idea when the information is delivered in a medium other than writing. You can assist them by explaining things using slides and story-telling (e.g. some meetup communities use a short presentation to open every meetup, which includes the four freedoms and how they affect the WordPress ecosystem). Or you can share this video: Matt Mullenweg: WordPress and the GPL.

Misinterpretation happens

It is common to see individuals and businesses make mistakes in understanding the principles of the WordPress community’s 100% GPL rule, such as:

  • Stating their derivative product is under the GPL but add extra clause(s) that limit the four freedoms
  • Choosing a split license and think that complies with the 100% GPL rule
  • Not explicitly indicating any license

It’s wise to have a conversation with them and try to sort out their misunderstandings, instead of seeing them as an enemy or calling it out in public. This may sound surprising, but more often than not, they’ll appreciate your help in correcting their wrong interpretations.

If you are not sure how to confront with others about the license violation, reach out to your mentor or Community Team deputies for assistance.

Translating Resources

If you are involved in a community where many of the members don’t speak English, consider translating the existing resources to communicate the idea.

#gpl, #tuesdaytrainings

Tuesday Trainings: Mentor Roundtable

For this Tuesday Trainings session I was joined by @kcristiano @brandondove @kdrewien @courtneypk and @vizkr for a roundtable conversation on mentoring WordCamps. Whether you’re an active 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. mentor or interested in becoming one there are some words of wisdom here for you. Join us for an hour and find out more.

For more information please check out these links:

Looking for more great training content? 

Check these out!

The WordPress Diverse Speaker Training group (#WPDiversity) has several workshops coming up to help you in your journey to public speaking at online WordPress events, or for WordPress event organizers to support more diverse speakers at the events you are holding:

Saturday, July 18, 5-7pm UTC: WordPress Meetups: Hold Your Own Diverse Speaker Workshop
Tuesday, July 28: Who am I to be speaking? & Finding a topic that people would love to hear
Wednesday, July 29: Creating a great pitch
Thursday, July 30: (new!) What if someone asks me a difficult question?

#mentors, #mentorship, #tuesdaytrainings

Tuesday Trainings: Signup for the Mentor Roundtable discussion

With this week’s Tuesday Trainings post from @kcristiano still fresh in our minds, next week’s Tuesday Trainings feature will be a roundtable discussion hosted by @camikaos (that’s me) and @kcristiano.

The conversation will focus on best practices for mentoring WordCamps and how to best support WordCamps in this time of event uncertainty. It is intended for existing active mentors in the 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. program, but open to those interested in becoming mentors as well.

The zoom roundtable will take place Tuesday, July 14 at 11am PST (6pm UTC) and is scheduled to last up to 90 minutes. If you’d like to attend please let me know in comments below. You will receive a calendar invite with zoom link by end of day Monday July 13.

Hope to see you there!

#mentorship-2, #tuesdaytrainings

Tuesday Trainings: Thoughts on WordCamp Mentorship

The 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. Mentorship program is invaluable; the WordCamp gets the experience and thoughts of an experienced WordCamp Organizer and the Mentor always learns something from each WordCamp they work with. The mentoring program can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can have contributing to the Community Team. 

Why do WordCamps Need Mentors?

The WordCamp program changes all the time. Not just in these unprecedented Pandemic Times, but even in ‘normal’ times the program is ever-changing and evolving. WordCamps can benefit from a mentor so they can understand and learn about the latest changes to the program and any exciting new addons that we have added.

WordCamp Mentors are a great sounding board for new ideas. Have a great idea you have never seen at a WordCamp? Run it by your Mentor. Talking (or slackSlack Slack is a Collaborative Group Chat Platform https://slack.com/. The WordPress community has its own Slack Channel at https://make.wordpress.org/chat/. chatting an idea) will help define it and make it happen.

With a mentor you will have a person to reach out to and help you through the rough times. It’s crunch time and you need an answer right now! Don’t panic – that email you sent to support@wordcamp.org is not being ignored, that slack 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.” you dropped into #community-events isn’t being ignored either.  It’s just that those are monitored by volunteers who are focused on everything instead of a single thing. Your WordCamp. Your mentor is your connection to WordCamp CentralWordCamp Central Website for all WordCamp activities globally. https://central.wordcamp.org includes a list of upcoming and past camp with links to each., they’re there to answer your questions and keep you on track in planning.

What should a mentor do?

A mentor acts as your guide to a successful WordCamp. “Guide” is the key word. A good mentor will create a safe space for your team to explore ideas, keep on track in planning, and become innovative without the fear of innovating yourself outside of the expectations for WordCamps. It’s also the mentors job to ensure that the event follows program guidelines, and expectations.

Perhaps most important of all, a mentor listens. Even when you have an idea that seems crazy or out of the box. Even when you want to try something no other WordCamp has tried before.  They listen, talk the idea through, and see what it will take to make it happen. You could be surprised what we can work out when we work together.

If a WordCamp starts having worries about money, the mentor is the first person they’ll go to.  The goal is not to say no, nor to cut expenses, but to be a helpful reviewer of what needs to be done.  Money issues can be solved. The purpose of a WordCamp is to engage people in the WordPress project, provide valuable content to the attendees, and to grow the WP community.   When deciding budgetary issues these are the primary things that should be kept in mind. A mentor can help you do that.  

Mentors never forget that the WoprdCamp Organizers are volunteers and their time is valuable, because mentors are volunteers too. WordCamps don’t pay organizers, volunteers, or speakers. When you look at a budget there’s no labor cost, no speaker fees, no payments to anyone other than vendors. Mentors know this and keep this in mind when tasking their Organizers with additional work to be done. The time an Organizer spends has a cost, even if it does not show up on the budget.

While being available when organizers have urgent questions is a nice benefit of the WordCamp Mentorship relationship, that’s not the important part of how mentorship works. Ideally there aren’t urgent questions because Mentors and Organizers work closely together from the beginning of pre-planning through the execution of the WordCamp. Mentors should schedule regular meetings; regular enough so that there is a comfortable cadence to them, but not so frequently that it feels overbearing or takes up more time than is required. Typically  we recommend meeting every two weeks, but it’s a balancing act.  Be sure to have meetings around key dates:

  • Announcing calls for speakers, sponsors, and volunteers
  • Call for speakers ending
  • Checking during speaker selection process
    • Mentors should keep their thoughts on selection to themselves unless they see a speaker that does not meet the expectations for participation 
  • If an it’s an in-person even offer to let the Organizers talk through their menu with them to ensure dietary requirements are being met   
  • Be available the last two weeks for quick slack chats to help Organizers through the last minute hurdles

What shouldn’t WordCamp Mentors do?

This is not the mentors event. That’s the key thing a mentor should remember at all times. If you would do a task differently, that does not make the way this WordCamp is doing it wrong – it makes it different. Let Organizers do it their own way.

A mentor is not on the Organizing team. Mentors do not decide, they guide.

A mentor does not tell a WordCamp what to do. Mentors will advise a Camp is something they are doing is not allowed (perhaps they are planning T-shirts and want to put sponsor logos on the back and offer only Unisex sizing) by explaining why we have these guidelines. But they don’t tell a WordCamp not to have t-shirts just because they prefer non-sized swag.

A mentor does not do the organizing work. They don’t take on your work or the work of a team member. They’re there in an advisory capacity to help keep you on track in planning and give you a sounding board. Don’t assign them tasks.

Moving Mentorship Forward

As the WordCamp program evolves and changes the need for WordCamp mentors becomes more and more significant. And the need to ensure these mentors are ready and able to handle these changes as they come up is critical. To this end we’re working to update the Mentor Handbook and create a monthly meeting to mentor the mentors. 

If you’re a former WordCamp lead organizer and working on the existing documentation or becoming a mentor for WordCamps is something you’re interested in, let us know how you’d like to be involved in the comments.

Looking for more great training content? 

Check these out!

The WordPress Diverse Speaker Training group (#WPDiversity) has several workshops coming up to help you in your journey to public speaking at online WordPress events, or for WordPress event organizers to support more diverse speakers at the events you are holding:

Saturday, July 11, 1-5pm in Costa Rica time: Empower Women Speakers For your WordPress Events in Latin America
Saturday, July 18, 5-7pm UTC: WordPress Meetups: Hold Your Own Diverse Speaker Workshop
Tuesday, July 28: Who am I to be speaking? & Finding a topic that people would love to hear
Wednesday, July 29: Creating a great pitch
Thursday, July 30: (new!) What if someone asks me a difficult question?

#mentorship, #tuesdaytrainings

Tuesday Trainings: Tips for managing an online meetup

Even though many of our contributions to the WordPress community take place online, shifting our meetups to a virtual format brings its own fair share of changes, challenges, and adaptations. For many of us, connecting virtually may be a new experience full of new tools and new ways of communicating.

As part of our Tuesday Training series, we’re sharing some tips and tricks to help 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. organizers create an accessible and friendly place when connecting with their community online. For additional resources, we also highly recommend checking out the Virtual Events Handbook, as well.

Password protect and manage who can get in.

First things first: part of creating a community space is ensuring that the space is safe and inclusive for everyone. Many of us are using Zoom for our meetups, though any virtual meeting tool may bring with it its own risks and challenges for keeping our virtual spaces in line with the expectations of our Online Code of Conduct.

To help protect fellow organizers and participants, check out the Zoom security settings page. You may want to:

  • Keep the hangout link private until 15 minutes or so prior to the beginning of your event.
  • Password protect or require approval for admittance. This ensures that everyone joining is part of the community, rather than spammers taking advantage of a situation.
  • Set expectations in your meetup invite so that attendees know what to expect in regard to their admission. 

Leave space for a check-in.

One of the best parts of meeting in person is the networking and connections that come about from being in a shared space with a shared interest. Just because we’re meeting virtually, that doesn’t mean we have to lose that experience!

When planning for your meetup, aim to leave some time at the beginning and the end for a check-in with folks. You can even offer to meet up a few minutes – 15 to 30 minutes – before the event itself starts so that those interested have time for a networking or social opportunity. Leaving the opportunity for some free-form conversation can help to strengthen and maintain our bonds, even if we’re meeting from our respective living rooms.

Share expectations at the beginning. 

Just as we would introduce new members to expectations and “how things work” at the beginning of an in-person meetup, the same applies to online meetings, too. In fact, it may be even more applicable as your events become more accessible to a wider-variety of people who may or may not have experience with the WordPress community.

Before diving into your presentation, consider taking a few moments to introduce yourself, the group, the code of conduct, and what will be expected during the night’s event. In particular, it can be useful to let attendees know if there will be breakout sessions, activities, or exercises, so they can prepare themselves. 

Leverage tools provided by the software you’re using.

It can feel less personal to participate and present to a virtual audience. It’s hard to replace that in-person feedback that comes from eye contact, body language, and quick chats after your talk. However, when planning out your meetup, look for ways in which you can make your hangout interactive.

For example, Zoom has features like breakout rooms (for small group conversations), surveys, and Q&As for some real-time contributions from participants. Likewise, rather than relying on chat for participants to ask questions, welcome video questions beforehand or invite participants to unmute and ask their questions out loud. If you want to get really creative, you can explore setting up games in Kahoot!, engaging attendees in sli.do, and exploring YouTube Live comments for real-time participation.

Be respectful of time – and distractions.

Doing things online can come with unexpected challenges. Your bandwidth suddenly drops. Another call goes over time. Partners and kids forget about that meeting you told them about. In other words, life happens – and at home, we may have even fewer boundaries between our WordPress selves and home selves.

As an organizer, keep this in mind when planning your meeting. If you’re doing breakout rooms, maybe it’s best to stick with three participants, rather than a one-on-one check-in, so there’s a buffer if someone has to suddenly drop offline. Allow for multiple avenues of participation, such as video, chat, or submitting questions prior to the event. Understand that folks might disappear or come in and out at times, and set any expectations accordingly. 

Don’t underestimate the power of a social hangout.

If in doubt, don’t overthink it. If you’re planning a meetup and no clear topic presents itself, consider simply hosting a “Coffee Break” or social hour. It’s also a great time to experiment! Just having an opportunity to casually check-in with one another, chat, and, quite literally, hang out can help maintain and boost the connections between your members – even while we can’t see each other in person.

Above all, it can help to see online meetups as an opportunity. Those who might not normally be able to attend may have more flexibility without the commute to your meetup space. With new members, you may see new volunteers to speak, or even organize, events in the future. By creating a safe space where members can continue to learn, bond, and connect with one another, we can continue to keep our local communities strong!

Looking for more great Trainings?

@jillbinder has some great content coming up soon!

Meetups: Would you like to have more diverse representation in the speakers at your online (and when it’s available again, in-person) meetup events? On July 18, we will teach you how to facilitate the workshop that gives your underrepresented community members the motivation, confidence, and tools we need to start: tiny.cc/wpdiversity 

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Tuesday Trainings: Encouraging Diversity in Meetups and WordCamps

For this #trainingtuesday, I’m joined by @alliennimmons, @jillbinder, @khleomix, and @mariaojob in a panel discussion on how we can better encourage and support diversity in Meetups and WordCamps, and in the broader WordPress community. Watch and learn with us, and continue the important conversation on diversity and inclusion in WordPress!

Participants in this panel also referenced a few resources that they hope you will find useful when it comes to thinking about and supporting diversity in your WordPress community.

Transcript available here.

Looking for more great Trainings?

@jillbinder has some great content coming up soon!

Meetups: Would you like to have more diverse representation in the speakers at your online (and when it’s available again, in-person) 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. events? On July 18, we will teach you how to facilitate the workshop that gives your underrepresented community members the motivation, confidence, and tools we need to start: tiny.cc/wpdiversity 

#community-management, #diversity, #tuesdaytrainings

Tuesday Trainings: De-escalating conflict in text communication

Why de-escalate?

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. offers some unusual challenges to conflict resolution and de-escalation. You are required to have complex and sometimes acrimonious conversations in public in a place where those conversations will be immortalized, for as long as the archive lasts.

This long memory of our interactions means that responsible, ethical communication is very important —  you don’t get to just go back and undo something that you wrote in anger, desperation, or anguish. So it is particularly important for leaders in an open source project to respond to conflict wisely.  To do this, you must be aware of how you are reacting to accusation a complaint or a problem, so that you can respond in an intentional and a strategic way.

Do not fall into the bad habit of thinking that conflict is “a bug” in open source software development. Quite the contrary: public disagreement and differences of opinion are major advantages in the work of building software that can power so much of the web. The wider variety of opposing opinions we can collect and review, the more resilient and field-tested our decisions.

The focus of this article is identifying some rubrics and tools that can help you respond more effectively when disagreeing in a highly visible sphere, by de-escalating conflict to a level that does not interfere with contributors’ ability to collaborate.

Anatomy of an argument

What causes conflict? It’s worth reviewing the anatomy of an argument from Dan Dana’s book Managing Differences. Here’s what makes up an argument.

  1. triggering event
  2. perception of threat
  3. defensive anger
  4. acting out
  5. repetition

This happens to you too, when you are engaged in an argument (different from a debate, which lacks of anger). But of course not all arguments or conflicts are created equal; some are more severe. It’s helpful to identify what makes conflicts more or less intense and some of the ways they can rise or fall in intensity.

The intensity of that cycle really depends. It can also be useful to identify a “severity” rubric, to decide how and when it’s necessary or beneficial to engage or respond.

Conflict Severity Levels

Level 1: Differences — two parties disagree but feel no discomfort (your relationship is secure but you like different musicians, sports teams, activities, operating systems)

Level 2: Misunderstanding — What is understood by one party is different from what is understood by another party (miscommunication and/or disappointment on a level that makes you question your assessment of the other person)

Level 3: Disagreement — two parties see something differently, regardless of how well they understand the other’s position, and feel discomfort that the other party disagrees. Can result in a reassessment of the relationship’s future.

Level 4: Discord — conflict that causes difficulties in the relationship of the involved parties, even outside of the original conflict. Relationship is strained, may not recover.

Level 5: Polarization — conflict characterized by severe negative emotions and behavior with little or no hope for/interest in reconciliation. Relationship is actively hostile or estranged. Signs of polarization might include: recruitment/picking sides, refusal to engage in constructive behaviors (ie, perspective taking, creating solutions, reaching out), and a high volume of effort committed to defending a position or making a case.

Escalating and de-escalating elements

Certain elements can push a conflict up or down the scale of intensity.

Escalating elements:

  • making it personal (“you’re the kind of person who,” “designers never understand,” “well if you have low standards then….”)
  • discomfort with the other’s conflicting opinion (especially if the person has more positional authority)
  • level of perceived risk or serious consequences associated with the issue
  • noticing a trend or pattern in the other party’s behavior/opinions
  • quick-paced interaction

De-escalating elements:

  • identification of common ground
  • willingness to embrace differences
  • focus on the issue, not the people
  • focus on interests, not positions
  • efforts to understand all sides
  • slow-paced interaction

In WordPress, we can use de-escalating tactics and proactive relationship-building (online and at events) to help us keep conflict severity to a Level 3 or below.

Communication environments

Communication environments will also affect your ability to de-escalate or resolve a conflict, so let’s make explicit where and in what environment you can more easily de-escalate. These are listed in order of difficulty to de-escalate, with the most difficult at the top:

  • public complaining blog post/“exposé”
  • public complaining on social media/SlackSlack Slack is a Collaborative Group Chat Platform https://slack.com/. The WordPress community has its own Slack Channel at https://make.wordpress.org/chat/.
  • open discussion with the WP public
  • private group discussion (email/DM)
  • private 1:1 discussion (email, DM)
  • anticipated conflict

Also, as you can see, the best place to deescalate is before we start talking, or before the conflict goes public. If you know something is going to be controversial or conflict-causing, get in front of it by making a strategy and doing some pre-communicating with known stakeholders.

That said, any text-based discussion is not private on the internet. Anything you write to someone in the WordPress community, with very few exceptions, should be something you’re ok with being posted on a public website. Get good at complete and contextualized sentences, and use them.

Steps when responding to conflict:

Compose yourself:

  • What am I feeling (in my body)?
  • What am I thinking? (What’s the perceived threat?)
  • (If not calm) How can I calm down?

Calming Reminders:
(especially for survivors of trauma) You are safe and not in danger.
• Feedback is better than indifference.
• Lack of dissent = monoculture = obsolescence.
• We’re making software, not saving lives.
• You don’t have to win this argument.

Analyze/Empathize:

Why did they take the time to write this? What emotion fueled them? Where are they coming from? What is this person’s goal? What do we have in common? What do I admire about them?

Contextualize:

What people in our program are affected by this conflict and/or agree with this person? How widespread is this opinion or conflict? What is the root cause of this disagreement?

Strategize:

What’s the desired outcome? (what do we want to happen, that isn’t happening right now) Is it necessary to respond at all; will a response make things better? If so, who can respond most effectively, and should you activate a group or a single point of response? What are the risks associated with your response, and how can you mitigate them?

Mobilize:

Recruit your team, if you need one. Share the analysis and strategy with them, if you have not already. Draft a response that reflects your strategy. Ask for help in reviewing the draft if it’s not coming easy, or if you’re still having trouble staying calm.

Additional response advice:

  1. Don’t lie or misrepresent the facts; it will damage your credibility and the risks outweigh the rewards.
  2. Do intervene in a discussion when civility, fairness, or safety are threatened, or a relevant fact is mis-stated.
  3. Avoid “you” statements; use “we” — including the other person for rapport-building — “someone” if that rapport-building sounds trite.
  4. The goal is not to win an argument; the goal is to understand the other person’s perspective.
  5. Zoom out until you find common ground, and then proceed from there. See if you can find one thing in the comment you agree with, and open with that.
  6. Be nice for no reason — it elevates the tone of the discussion. Thank people for the time they’ve spent thinking through a comment or reply.
  7. In text interactions, especially in async conversations, you only really get one or two chances at eliciting more information without also giving information, before your info seeking sounds false or deceptive. Try to express interest in the information without literally asking questions (asking lots of questions can start to seem like interrogation rather than interest).
  8. Cut off specious arguments by redirecting attention elsewhere: “That reminds me of…” “This discussion has me wondering about XYZ-tangentially related topic.”
  9. Try to limit the length of a comment response to (maximum) double the length of the other party’s comment. “Drowning” people in information comes across as condescending or aggressive. If you have to write that much text in an interaction, ask yourself if you’re really trying to gain understanding, or if you’ve accidentally started trying to win the argument.
  10. If you can have a direct conversation with someone, on video or in person, start with active listening.
  11. When you are in a position of low privilege, speak up. When you are in a position of high privilege (which you are, if you are in leadership), listen up.*

Bibliography

Conflict Communication: A New Paradigm in Conscious Communication by Rory Miller

Becoming a Conflict Competent Leader: How You and Your Organization Can Manage Conflict Effectively by Craig E. Runde and Tim A. Flanagan

Everything Is Workable: A Zen Approach to Conflict Resolution by Diane Musho Hamilton

Changing the Conversation: The 17 Principles of Conflict Resolution by Dana Caspersen

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