Community Summit

Heads up: this is a little long in order to provide relevant background information to newer team reps and contributors. tl;dr version: I propose that the next community summit event be back to back with 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. San Francisco this year.

We had a team repTeam Rep A Team Rep is a person who represents the Make WordPress team to the rest of the project, make sure issues are raised and addressed as needed, and coordinates cross-team efforts. dinner after WCSF 2013 (WordCamp San Francisco, the official annual WordPress conference) this year and discussed the possibility of doing another community summit like the one I organized last October in Tybee Island. There was agreement that we should, and the plan was to look at locations and dates. Some research was done by a small team on possible locations, and then we talked about asking the community for suggestions on locations. I never put out that call for location suggestions because I realized that we’d overlooked something in our timing decision that had been key in deciding the 2012 date: WCSF.

When I planned the first summit in 2012, it was because I thought there was a need for an event that was more focused on contributors and key players in the community, and based on the conversation/unconference model of the Community Leadership Summit event organized each year by Jono Bacon from Ubuntu. Matt was generous in approving the experiment and allowing a fair bit of leeway to see if it would be a worthwhile event. The decision we came to then was that he (and Andrea from WC Central along with others) would organize a traditional WCSF in 2012, and I’d do the experimental event, which came to be called the Community Summit.

We talked about doing the summit in SF adjacent to the main WCSF event, but there were three factors that  made me push back against that:

  • It was March when we decided I’d organize a summit event, and WCSF was only a couple of months away. I worried that people who’d already arranged WCSF travel would be negatively impacted financially if we asked them to change their plans.
  • San Francisco is very expensive, and I was concerned about renting space based on my knowledge of SF venue costs.
  • If we wanted to do the summit over a weekend so no one had to take time off work, then we’d be asking a lot of people to stay in SF for a week in between, which would be not only expensive but inconvenient to folks with families (and require more time off for folks with non-wp day jobs).

That was was why we wound up doing it in October, in Tybee (cheap), and over a weekend.

When we started talking about choosing a date/location for a second summit, we failed to take WCSF into account. After reviewing some numbers around contributor locations, travel costs, and WCSF 2013 attendance info, I think we should revisit the plan to have a summit that happens completely separately from WCSF. Here’s why, compared to the reasons I opted to separate them in 2012:

  • We are getting ready to announce WCSF 2014 dates now, so there would be plenty of time for travel planning, visa applications, etc.
  • Now that Automattic has that giant space (which wasn’t in play in 2012), we could do the summit there, bypassing the need to spend any money on a venue at all. As the person who does the fundraising, this is very appealing, because then more money can go to travel scholarships.
  • If we do a summit for a few days bumped up against WCSF, then that means one flight cost for 2 events, which is good not only for those footing their own travel bills but also for travel scholarship availability.

When I looked at the stats for WCSF 2013 and the last summit, that’s what really pushed me into thinking this would be the best approach.

  • 67% of WCSF attendees came from out of town.
  • 78% of those identified themselves as WordPress professionals.
  • About half of Summit attendees also attended WCSF. Many of those who did not attend both were travel scholarship recipients at the summit (WCSF did not have travel scholarships last year, but I want to do them this year), or work for companies that wouldn’t pay for them to attend both.

Those figures, tied with the fact that WCSF really functions as an unofficial summit (that some people miss out on), make me believe strongly that it would be best for the project to bring these events together to get the most bang for the buck with travel and other costs. We’ve just reserved the venue for WCSF 2014 (though it won’t officially be announced until next week when we have a placeholder site), and the date is the weekend of October 25th. I propose that we do a contributor/community summit in the days preceding this weekend, making one big official event for the project instead of splitting effort and financing between the two.

I know it’s later in the year than we had originally discussed (this is due to venue renovations and schedule limitations), but it would mean more time for planning a great event, raising money, applying for visas, booking affordable travel, etc., and we could potentially include more people in the summity stuff (or parts of it).In the meantime, we could try to plan a virtual summit for earlier in the year.

Sound good?