WordCamp Incubator Program v2: input on a new role name and a call for volunteers

When we launched the experimental WordCamp Incubator program, we didn’t know what to expect. We hoped that after attending a WordCamp where there wasn’t already a WordPress chapter account meetup group, WordPress enthusiasts would be galvanized into forming a community that would sustain itself in the future. This certainly happened in two of the three communities that hosted incubator events in 2016. Plus, SIX communities that applied to be part of the program ended up organizing new WordCamps with the support of our amazing mentors!

New iteration, new challenge

In 2018, we’d like to launch a v2 of the WordCamp Incubator program, but we have an added challenge this time: finding people to support/co-lead/oversee each Incubator event.

In the first iteration of this program, we assigned 3 fully-sponsored volunteer staff to provide leadership and support to our incubator communities. But since the number of events and communities that the global community team supports continues to grow so quickly, our full-time sponsored volunteer staff is already fully committed for next year (and then some), mostly with maintenance projects. Therefore, we need to come up with another way to provide the support that made the incubator program successful in 2016.

The job

This is a time-intensive volunteer role. We estimate that lead organizers spend about 170 hours on a WordCamp, and I figure that the folks working to support the growth of an Incubator event needs to dedicate about 200-250 hours over the planning cycle. The job is that of co-organizer, mentor, and ambassador — since it’s probable that no one you’re working with has ever actually attended a WordCamp. You’re working as a community founder in a community that isn’t your own, which requires a lot of sensitivity, experience, and wisdom. The person absolutely must have experience organizing WordCamps, preferably more than one, as well as experience mentoring WordCamp organizers. Experience collaborating with people from other cultures is also very important.

What do we call this job?

Because this is such a distinctive role, I think that going forward, calling these folks “incubator mentors” isn’t a good idea. Mentorship is part of this job, but typically I think a mentor probably spends 1-4 hours a month working with their “mentee” WordCamp, whereas this role is more likely to require 25 hours a month. So! we need a new name for this program role. Here’s some very initial brainstorming that happened in Slack today.

1) Please comment below with your suggestions for a good name for this organizer-coach-midwife-counselor-guide role! I’m certain the right word is out there, just waiting to be found.

Where do we find these people?

My hope is that this challenging job will be an exciting opportunity for experienced WordCamp organizers that particularly enjoy the “start up” phase of the community, and who have successfully transitioned out of active leadership in their local community. (This is frequently “start a community from scratch” work, and the communities have to be self-sufficient at for the project to be effective.)

As mentioned above, this role is very time-intensive and high-touch. Not everyone can commit 250 hours in a year to a volunteer role, and I suspect that we may need to lean on volunteers who might be sponsored part-time to work on the incubator program. Maybe we could even help interested volunteers pitch their companies on sponsoring a certain number of hours a week to work on an incubator event.

Alternately, perhaps a team of 5-6 people would be interested in working with multiple incubator communities over a period of a year, and share some of the workload. (This makes me a little nervous, because sometimes when everyone is in charge, it means no one takes responsibility, but maybe there could be a rotating lead position on that team?) I’m open to suggestions.

2) Do you have some ideas of ways we could recruit people to take on this work and ensure their success? Please share your ideas in a comment on this post!

3) Interested in this role for 2018? Please also comment on this post to let us know!

Next steps

Once we figure out A) a name for this incubator-mentor-guide-organizer role and, B) a solid plan for recruiting enough incubator-mentor-guide-organizers to support a v2 of the Incubator program, then we can open up a call for communities who’d like to be considered as sites for a 2018 incubator WordCamp.

I’d like to set us a goal of completing our discussion by October 6, with an eye to publishing the results by October 11, and maybe we can even make the call for incubator communities by October 16.


#community-mentors, #incubator, #wordcamps

Payment Intermission September 11-18

The Automattic sponsored staff members of the Global Community Team, who routinely handle WPCS banking, will be at a company offsite September 11-18. During this time we’ll halt WordCamp and Meetup vendor payments, reimbursements, and sponsor payment attribution. If you’ll need to pay for goods or services in mid-September, please submit all requests no later than 9am Pacific Friday, September 8, 2017. Payment requests submitted after that time will not likely be processed until Tuesday, September 19, 2017. Sponsor invoices paid September 11-18 won’t be marked paid until September 19.

If you have an urgent payment request that must be handled that week, but did not submit your request prior to September 8, please reach out to @kcristiano. He can be found on slack “@kcristiano“.

Deputies, mentors, and community members will still be available by email at support@wordcamp.org or on Slack in the #community-events channel.

Normal vendor payment and sponsorship attributions scheduled will resume Tuesday, September 19, 2017 though it may take us a day or two to get fully caught up.

#payments #afk #wordcamps #meetups-2

New Documentation: Presenter Best Practices

It seems odd that in our ever expanding documentation we don’t really have much content on the best practices for presenters in our program. Given that presenters are one of the cornerstones on which we build WordCamps and Meetups that’s something we’d like to change but we need everyone’s help.

We’re looking for a good general set of best practices for each of the following specific presenters/ presentations so please let us know what has worked best for you both at events at which you’ve presented and which you’ve organized.

  • Opening Remarks
  • Emcees
  • Speakers

Example questions we’re looking to answer: What should be covered during opening remarks? How much content should an emcee share? How do you deal with attendees who interrupt your presentation?

But please don’t let that limit your response. Anything that can be of help to organizers, presenters, and emcees at WordCamps and Meetups could be relevant. We’re looking to curate some truly helpful advice and best practices for the handbook so let us know what you know, or what you’d like to see.

#wordcamps #meetups-2 #handbook

Regional Camps, Take 2

Pro-tip: this post will refer back heavily to the post on the same subject from October of last year. If you haven’t read it, you might want to. Warning: it’s a long thread!

At the Community Summit, we discussed regional WordCamps — the notes will be found here when they’re published — and I’d like to open up discussion about the expectations we should set for people who want to organize a regional WordCamp.

EDIT: this is a discussion of the expectations we want to set for when a group of people come to us and say, “We want to have a WordCamp that represents a geographical community larger than one city/metro area.” We’re calling that kind of event a Regional WordCamp.

Goals for a Regional WordCamp

I think we all mostly agree on the goals for an event of this type: to celebrate, represent, and grow local WordPress communities in the affected region. A primary goal for the WordPress Global Community Team is to help support a WordPress meetup group and annual WordCamp in as many cities as possible in the world. Regional WordCamps work toward that goal by connecting people who weren’t already active in their local WordPress community and/or inspiring attendees to start communities in their hometowns.

(If you would like to suggest some changes to the goals, please feel free to share your thoughts in a comment on this post!)

Here are many questions:

A) What defines a region?

We already have WordCamp US and WordCamp Europe. Different groups of people have expressed interest in organizing a country-based event (WordCamp Netherlands), a continent-based event (WordCamp Asia/Southeast Asia, final name TBD), and a group-of-countries-based event (WordCamp Nordic).

  1. How small or large a region do we want to entertain?

For example: WordCamp Bihar (states/provinces)? WordCamp Upstate New York (a region within a state/province)? WordCamp Andalucía (a region made up of many states/provinces)?

B) What level of local community development should a region have?

Regional WordCamps need a lot of local, experienced organizers and volunteers wherever the event is hosted. If there aren’t already a certain number of local communities in a region that have hosted successful WordCamps, then a regional event won’t be able to move around the region, share the organizing work, and provide new leadership opportunities.

  1. What expectation should we set for the requisite number of local communities, WordCamps, and number of consecutive WordCamps?
  2. Should we place any expectation on how active the local community is, and how successful the WordCamps were?

For example: should we expect a country like Bolivia to have 5 WordCamps in one year before they propose a WordCamp Bolivia? Or 5 WordCamps for two years straight? And what if some of those 5 WordCamps lost money or had a lot of problems?

C) What kind of oversight and support should regional WordCamps expect?

These are probably mostly going to be larger-than-usual, flagship events. Some exceptions to our normal expectations are made for this type of event already, as can be seen in the cases of WordCamp US and WordCamp Europe, which are not casual events with lean operating budgets.

Should we set higher-than-usual standards for the organizing team? For example:

  1. Is it reasonable to ask all members of a regional WordCamp organizing team to take the deputy training course?
  2. Should we expect that all members of the organizing team be experienced WordCamp organizers?
  3. Should we recruit an experienced community deputy work closely with a regional team to help them model our best practices and stay focused on the event goals?
  4. Is it reasonable to ask the lead organizer of a regional WordCamp to make a monthly report on this blog?

D) What questions are missing?

If you have another doubt or consideration that isn’t covered here, please share it with the team by commenting on this post!

Now what?

If you have an opinion on these topics, please share them in a comment on this post. 🙂

Based on the discussions we have here and in the upcoming team meetings, I would like to see us create a new page or section of the WordCamp Organizer Handbook for Regional WordCamps, with some clear expectations for would-be organizers.

Let’s set ourselves a goal of spending a week on this discussion, closing it on Wednesday July 26. I’ll summarize the comments by the end of next week, with the goal of having the new handbook documentation published by August 4, 2017.

#deputies, #community-management, #wordcamps

WordCamp Incubator Report

It’s been about 18 months since we announced the experimental WordCamp Incubator program, so we wanted to give a long-term review of the results of the program.

We announced the program and opened applications on February 18, 2016. We received 182 applications for this program. Interesting data on that application list: We received applications from 39 locations that did not have an active meetup groups. We responded to applicants in those locations with an invitation to start their own WordPress meetup groups, with minimal results. Three of the locations that we heard from, however, did get a meetup started in 2016 — Cardiff, Wales; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; and Monterrey, California, USA — but not by the people who applied for the incubator program.

23 proposed locations had already hosted a WordCamp in the past, or had a WordCamp already in planning, and another 28 locations already had an active meetup group. (A large number of applications were duplicates.)

From the short list of 16 candidate communities which we announced in April, we selected 3 incubator sites in May of 2016: Denpasar, Indonesia; Harare, Zimbabwe; and Medellín, Colombia.

Another six cities on that short list (Kochi, Nairobi, and San José in 2016, and Nagpur, Udaipur, and Colombo in 2017) have organized or are currently organizing WordCamps. (WOW!)

In the comments, we’ll provide a report on how the each of the WordPress communities in our three incubator locations has developed, since their WordCamps were held. Then in another post, we’ll discuss what it would look like to continue this program.


#incubator #wordcamps

How do we know if a WordCamp is successful?

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what activities and progress our team measures, and how. Tracking and reporting on our work is important for transparency, but also for a sense of accomplishment, which can help all of us stay excited and engaged.

We’ve always struggled with the close-out phase for WordCamps. Organizers are tired and want to catch up with the work and life that they neglected in their pre-event frenzy. Mentors shift their focus to the next crop of frenzied organizers, and the cycle continues.

The result, in most cases, is that organizers get a lot of attention and support while they’re planning an event, but almost no contact after the event is over. This is a problem, because:

  1. Organizers get no constructive feedback on what they did well and what they could improve, and
  2. we lose the chance to recruit them to work on year-round community team programs.

We’ve tried, a couple of times over the past 2-3 years, to improve our follow-up in scheduling WordCamp debriefs, but they happen more as the exception than the rule. So I’d like to see if we can try to solve *some* of this problem with technology — specifically, with automation.

A Proposal

I propose we build an automated reporting tool, which will run a report about a month after each WordCamp. This report can pull financial, attendance, and other information from the WordCamp website, and publish the data on this blog, with a notification sent to the lead organizer upon publication. Then the organizing team can contribute some context around the numbers, if they like, in a comment on the WordCamp CityX Report post.

The Big Question

What do we want to measure? What numbers are relevant to measuring the accomplishments of a WordCamp organizing team? Here is a highly incomplete list of possibilities:

  • Budget data: including event cost per attendee, where money was spent, and whether there was a surplus or deficit
  • Attendees data: including number of new and repeat attendees, number of new signups to the meetup.com group
  • Speaker data: percentage of new speakers, percentage of speakers identifying as women*, percentage of local speakers
  • Organizer data: number of new organizers, number of organizers identifying as women*

What other data should we try to include? Can we capture the “feel” of the event, maybe from the attendee survey?

Anticipating some implementation questions: We could post these numbers to a special page on this site called WordCamp Reports (or something), and then post a notice when new reports were added. That way we won’t be flooding the blog with reporting data, but hopefully we also won’t forget the reports are there. 🙂

Some of this data will be fairly easy to access; for example, we can export a profit and loss statement from Quickbooks quite easily. If we like the idea of getting some “richer” data about our speakers and organizers, collecting that would require some checkboxes added to the Speaker and Organizer CPTs (new, identifies as female, local).  I have no idea how hard it would be to pull info from 1-3 questions the standardized attendee survey. I know we can access the meetup growth figures from meetup.com.

What do you think?

Please share your opinions, thoughts, concerns, and ideas on this subject in a comment on this post! I’m really eager to hear from our team about this idea.

*We definitely want to encourage more speaker and organizer participation from a broad range of groups that are underrepresented in tech, but I propose we focus our tracking on gender balance for this first attempt at automated stats.

#finances, #report, #wordcamps

Proposal for new feature on WordCamp.org sites to hide certain pages from WordPress/Search Engine search results.

The Problem

In Orange County, we organize a golf tournament for the day before WordCamp. The page I’d want to hide from WordPress search is a confirmation page with details about the event for the subset of attendees who are going to that event. It’s nothing secret, just didn’t want it to be confusing for other attendees if they were searching for “golf” looking for the announcement post about the golf tournament and found the confirmation page I created.

In discussions on #meta-wordcamp another related use case was brought up by @kcristiano:

Another use case I’ve had is posting Speaker, Volunteer info, and sponsor information to the site. Much easier for those folks to find nothing “secret” beyond perhaps the date/time of volunteer event. We don’t put the page in the menu, the url is given to those who need it. Would be nice to not have search engines index and wp search not find it. Keeps all the info in the site (as opposed to Gdocs).

The Proposal

  • Create a checkbox in the publish metabox with a label “Don’t show this page in search results” (or similar messaging)
  • Create a filter on search results query to exclude pages with the meta key we store for the checkbox.
  • Create a filter on all related json api endpoints to exclude pages with the meta key we store for the checkbox.
  • Add noindex tags to pages that have the checkbox selected

Please weigh in with your thoughts on the usefulness/need for this feature.

#wordcamps #feature-request

What’s in a name? Organizing WordCamps and developing the Finnish community

A month ago, Helsinki hosted its first WordCamp Helsinki but its second WordCamp. This is a description of why there was a WordCamp Finland in the first place and an account of our experience with the name change.

A few years ago it was easier to meet fellow Finnish WordPress enthusiasts at WordCamp Europe than in our cities. In 2015, Tampere organized the first Finnish WordCamp. The event was sold out and more than 180 people attended. The two-day event, a conference day and workshop day, was successful and received positive reviews from the participants.

Two reasons influenced the team into calling it WordCamp Finland instead of WordCamp Tampere. The main reason was because this was the first WordCamp in the country. The concept of a WordCamp was unknown to many people in Finland using WordPress, so the organizing team felt that a national event would be more appealing. The secondary reason was that the event was not located in the capital region, and calling it WordCamp Finland delivered a stronger message to attract more people from outside of Tampere. Moreover, at that time, Tampere was the only city in Finland with a local meetup, so the organizing team was certain that during 2015 this would be the sole WordCamp in Finland.

Tampere became the blueprint of the community. Under the scorching sun of Seville at WordCamp Europe 2015, a few people from Helsinki decided to start a local meetup, whose first event took place two months later. Soon after that, two other meetups started in Turku and Jyväskylä.

Last year, in 2016 WordCamp Finland moved to Helsinki. The event was larger than the previous year’s; we increased the number of tickets by thirty percent, and we added Finland’s first contributor day with Core, Polyglots, and Community teams. It was during this contributor’s day that the meetup in Oulu was created.

Why did we decide to keep WordCamp Finland as the name of the event? Honestly, it was not a conscious decision, but these were our thoughts:

  1. Firstly, we were not aware of any country-level restrictions.
  2. Secondly, WordCamp Finland had been established already the previous year, so we felt that we were carrying on the “tradition”.
  3. Lastly, we were sure that in 2016 no other WordCamp would take place in the country.

Nowadays, Finland has a vibrant and healthy WordPress community. We have had monthly meetups in five cities – Tampere, Helsinki, Turku, Jyväskylä, and Oulu – for at least a year and our Slack team is really active.

This year WordCamp Finland changed its name to WordCamp Helsinki. In the beginning, the organising team had some concerns regarding this change:

  • Fear that there would be confusion with the new name because the old name was already established in the community.
  • The city name seemed to target a narrower audience.
  • Some team members didn’t like the strictness of the rule.Feeling that we should all push together as a whole community under WordCamp Finland because this is a small country.
  • Worry that the name change would seem like this event was exclusive to the Helsinki community, and consequently the number of attendees from around the country would diminish.
  • Fewer applications from international speakers.

To avoid the confusion with the name and communicate that people from everywhere were welcome, we used the country map in our design and we made sure to mention clearly that people from everywhere were welcome to the event.

To encourage and help other cities to organize local WordCamps  the organizing team included two persons from other local communities, Turku and Jyväskylä. This way they could gather experience and afterwards lead their own local events.

Other than the change in the naming, WordCamp Helsinki 2017 was identical to last year’s event.

Two members of the organizing team changed.
The event venue was the same.
The number of attendees was the same.
Same contributor day venue and contributor teams.
… And even the same lunch menu.

This time, the tickets sold out in two hours. The number of international speaker applications was roughly the same as in 2016. People still travelled from other cities to attend the event and the general feedback so far has been strongly positive. Also, a new meetup is sprouting in Seinäjoki.

Some team members still think that national WordCamps can be useful in the beginning to get the community together, and dislike strict rules of this kind. However, based on the gathered feedback and attendance, the whole team realized that our earlier concerns either were unfounded or could be worked out. The fact that all the Finnish WordCamps were sold out quickly and that many participants came from other cities is a plausible sign that there is room for other events. WordCamp Helsinki could have been larger, but the team decided not to. Finding a larger venue and managing a bigger event required time the team did not have, particularly because the planning started quite late. Keeping the event at the same size allowed the team to feel comfortable organizing the event. On top of that, this was an example to other cities that were reluctant to organise a WordCamp because they thought that every event had to be larger than the previous one.

In the end, changing the name didn’t make a difference in the event itself, and if anything it encouraged other cities to organize their own events. At the moment, both Turku and Jyväskylä are planning to have a local WordCamp next year.

This was our experience with changing from a national to a city named WordCamp event. If you have done the same, what was your experience?

Meetups in Finland: Helsinki, Jyväskyla, Oulu, Tampere, and Turku.



The new WordCamp base theme: CampSite 2017

In our last post on the current status of the new WordCamp base theme, we got some great feedback on how to improve the theme even further. The feedback has been implemented and the new theme is ready for review.

“Day of” page template

One of the ideas from the feedback we wanted to implement was the “day of” template. This is a page template with some additional widget areas. They can be used to arrange a page, that can be used on the day of the WordCamp. Things you might want to have on homepage on that day: the schedule, directions, social media stream, information about the after party, etc. As in the widget areas, you can use shortcodes in text widgets, it’s very easy to dynamically setup such a page.

Example of the day of template

This is an example on how this could look like. The width of the widget areas can be adjusted using CSS.


As the new theme is based on the latest version of Underscores, it already comes with a lot of a11y improvements. But themes like TwentySeventeen even go one step further. So, for the two navigations we have on the site, we implemented the improvements from TwentySeventeen (like including a “dropdown-toggle” button next to sub menus).

Ready to review

We believe, that the new theme is ready to go live on WordCamp.org, so we would like to invite you, to review the current codebase on Github.

The theme itself comes with no style (except for some basic CSS from Underscores). For WordCamp Europe, we just finished our complementary style guide we presented in our first blog post and we will publish it in the next days for any WordCamp to use.

#feature-request #wordcamps #wceu #campsite-theme

A new type of WordCamp

From time to time, we come across fresh ideas for WordCamps – sometimes we see them happen organically from within event organising teams, and other times there’s a more formal application process for something new. The recently announced WordCamp for Publishers event happening later this year is a really good example of one of those ideas that has led to a brand new type of WordCamp that is focused on a specific niche. We now have another application for something else that is new to the WordCamp programme and would essentially be a new type of WordCamp – albeit with the difference being one of format, rather than content.

The new event type we are talking about today has been dubbed ‘WordCamp in the Green’ (or possibly ‘WordCamp Retreat’) and has been proposed by @mahype and the Köln meetup group in Germany. As the event name suggests, this would be a WordCamp that would be some ways out of town and would involve all of the attendees staying over at the WordCamp venue. The event format as proposed would look a lot like a normal WordCamp with regular sessions over two days and a Contributor Day after that, with the added feature of various outdoor activities taking place in the area and everyone who is attending the WordCamp staying in the same hotel. This is different to some other events that have popped up recently, in that this is, at its core, a WordCamp and not simply a retreat or weekend away.

A budget has been proposed for the event and the organising team is very keen to move forward with things, but, as this is a brand new event type and it is something that we know there will be a huge amount of interest in from other communities around the world, we wanted to pitch it here for feedback and discussion. If we introduce a new type of WordCamp event like this, we want it to be something that works in many communities, scales effectively for larger (or smaller) groups, and is able to be reproduced by any organisers who wish to do so.

So, to aid you in providing feedback, here are some questions that we can discuss here:

  • Do you think an event like this is a worthwhile addition to the WordCamp programme?
  • Do you think it’s different enough from a normal WordCamp to actually need a different name?
  • What do you think of the format of the event? Should it look more different? Or is keeping it the same as a WordCamp a good idea?
  • Would you be interested in organising an event like this in your area?

What say you?

#feedback, #wordcamps