213 – What goes into organising and cancelling a live WordCamp?

Interview with Sjoerd Blom and Nathan Wrigley

We all know that the WordCamps in 2020 got cancelled. This was a good idea because saving lives comes before attending online events, but I thought that it might be a good idea to get someone on the WP Builds podcast to have a chat with us about WordCamps nonetheless.

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Why, you might ask?

Well, can you imagine what it would be like to be a part of a team who had worked extremely hard to get an event like WordCamp Asia, or WordCamp Europe up and running, only to have to cancel it with just a few days and weeks to go? I could not imagine that, and so I talked to someone who could. Someone who has firsthand experience working on a WordCamp and then having to pivot it into an online event.

I’ve got to tell you I have a newfound respect for people like Sjoerd Blom, the guest today. A respect for all the hard work that goes on in the background, for all the multiple tasks that need to be carried out that I never even know existed.

It’s people like Sjoerd who make the WordPress community a place that I want to be a part of.

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The disappointment of having to cancel WordCamps must have been a real body blow to the organisers and myriad volunteers who step up every WordCamp. To have the proverbial rug pulled out from under your feet and then to come up with online solutions to make the event happen online is truly a testament to the resilience of those individuals, but it’s also a testament to the community in general that this pivot was possible. I suppose that we’re lucky, in that we work with online technologies all the time, but still… I’m in awe!

So in the podcast today we talk with Sjoerd about what is involved in setting up and running a WordCamp. How long in advance the wheels need to move to make the timeline possible, and how much planning is involved in such an event, be that a small, medium or large WordCamp?

We talk about the finance model. Who pays for what? Are we dealing with philanthropic donations from the community, funding from Automattic or just sponsorships? Turns out is a mixture of many options.

Who exactly is needed to make the event happen? What do the teams look like, how are they manage and what’s the role of all the volunteers we see that these events? In fact, speaking of volunteers, how do you even do that? What’s the process to sign up and offer your time?

It’s inevitable that in this podcast we would turn to the subject of 2020 and the multiple cancelled WordCamps. How hard was that to stomach, and how do you even cancel an event that’s pretty much ready to roll?

What about the online variants of WordCamps that cropped up to take the place of live events? Were these well received, easy to create and as fun to be involved with, or are we getting fatigued now that the shine has worn off and we just want to return to the ‘normal’ of in person events?

Put simply are online events any good? Do they match the high standards of live events, and will they replace WordCamps in the future?

This is a point that I’m really curious about. Whilst nobody can claim that there’s much good about a global pandemic, one good thing here is that we’ve got a new kind of democracy in our WordCamps. Previously, if I wanted to attend WordCamp Asia, Europe, U.S. (et al.), I’d have had to have committed serious resources to this. A place ticket, a hotel, meals etc. This is quite an exclusionary factor. Now however, we can all attend no matter where we are and how much money we’ve got available for such things. I just need an internet connection and some free time.

So I wonder… will WordCamps be the same in the future? Will be go back to just in person events, or will we move forward with a hybrid approach that affords all people, all over the world to attend online and/or in person.

Time will tell.

If you’re a part of the WordPress community, or are just curious about WordCamps then this is a podcast episode that I think that you’re really going to enjoy.

The audio was a little choppy, but it’s completely listenable.

Remember to comment here or find the thread in the WP Builds Facebook Group and comment there.

See you at the next Word Camp!

Mentioned in this podcast:

WordCamp Central

WordCamp Europe

WordCamp Asia

WordCamp US

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Transcript (if available)

These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.

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Nathan Wrigley: [00:00:00] Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the WordPress community. Welcome your host, David Waumsley, Nathan Wrigley.
Hello there and welcome to the WP Builds podcast. Once again, this is episode number 213 entitled what goes into organizing and canceling a live word camp. It was published on Thursday, the 21st of January, 2021, my name's Nathan Wrigley. And just a very short bit of housekeeping. Before we begin, we have a website it's WP Builds.com and we keep all of the content that we create over there.
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Okay. We're having a really nice episode today because I love talking about WordCamps. If you've never been to a word camp before, it was until recently a live event where WordPress's would get together and share their experience and basically have a nice time thinking about WordPress. Yeah. Acting on WordPress and contributing to WordPress.
I very much recommend if you've never been to one that you think about attending. Obviously in the last year with the pandemic that we've got on our hands, these kinds of events have had to be canceled and which is a great shame, but I was thinking, wouldn't it be nice if we got to find out what was involved in setting up a word camp.
And so today I'm joined by Sjoerd Blom, who is. Very experienced in setting up a word camp. He's been involved in numerous, very large word camps. And so he talks about that. He talks about what's involved, what has to be done and how far the timeline stretches into the past. And so on. What's the role of the volunteers and what was it like when they had to actually cancel all these word camps and take them online?
We also get into a discussion about perhaps there's a future in which there's some sort of hybrid online and live events in the future. Anyway, word camps are the subject of today's episode. Sadly, the audio was a bit flaky during this episode. I'm not entirely sure why that was, but it was. And so you just have to cope with that.
It's certainly listable. And so I hope that you enjoy it. Hello there. Welcome to the WP Builds podcast. Once again. Thank you for making it this far. We've got an interview today and I'm chatting with Seward Blom. Hello. Hello, Nathan, did I get the name right?
Sjoerd Blom: [00:04:09] You did it perfectly.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:04:11] How did you have a few practices before we started recording?
The reason we know that. Yeah. Yeah. There's no way I was going to get that right. First time, the reason that I've got seared on the. Podcast today is because of WordCamp Europe. Now the wave recoding this in August. Yeah. We'll publish a couple of months after that. So it'll be, there'll be a little bit of a lag, but the news around this will still be fairly painful, I think because.
Obviously WordCamp Europe was due to take place in Porto this year. It never happened for reasons which nobody needs me to go into. And then we had the news that it was going to be postponed and it was going to take place in the exact same place pretty much a year later. And then that got postponed as well.
So it's in the aftermath of that. And Seward is one of the organizers. I'm not sure exactly what your role is. So we'll come to that in a second, but we're here today, just to talk about what it involves to put on a word camp, the levels of disappointment that might have been felt, what kind of things need to be done to mitigate this kind of thing in the future and so on.
So first of all, she had what is your official involvement in WordCamp Europe for 2020, 21?
Sjoerd Blom: [00:05:23] My official involvement. Now let's talk about the regular book. I'm the 21st was an organizer for the volunteer scene. When I was transferred into a online even I became organized in the communications team and was especially the responsible for all the.
Posts on Facebook and websites, of course.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:05:51] Did you in the run-up to the organization, if we rewind the clock, now you may not have been involved right from the very beginning, but rough, roughly speaking, in order to put on an event in the first half of 2020, when did it start to develop as a thing, when did you guys start to meet up and hatch plans and discuss what, where it was going to be and all that.
Sjoerd Blom: [00:06:16] All our regular work usually starts somewhere in October. It takes a lot of time just to assemble the team. Usually we have already the previous team. Posting announcements for a call for organized sculpt volunteers, et cetera, stuff like that. And all this these applications come in the lead organizers, they select the lead organizers for the particular team like communication, volunteers, sponsors, et cetera, et cetera.
These organizers team organizers, they used to like people for that team. That's when in October you are able to start your own activities for them, for the for the event.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:06:59] Okay. I recall being at WordCamp Europe, 2019 in Berlin, and they obviously announced the event at that point it's location.
Should I say, in fact, I seem to remember that they announced it about. 10 seconds before they should have announced their slide came up with Porto on it. And they hadn't said the word, which is quite entertaining, but so clearly there's work that goes on considerably prior to the October deadline from the lead organizers, I guess they're scoping out possible venues and things.
So rather than the October deadline, when they're looking for volunteers there's more going on in the background prior to that as well,
Sjoerd Blom: [00:07:34] yes. Usually when you have what gum. It's taking local organizers and they prepare an application and put a word camp. During What's going to Berlin 2019.
There were, I think two applications or any in early 20, 19, somewhere in February, it's usually closed down and then the selection procedure take place. And this application you have to. Presents your diet plan for work can be like the venue the date and the expected number of people and maybe some budgetary aspects and upon, and that is going to be the start of actually the real world's camp.
But that's all behind the scenes. We don't see the, you guys only as organizers. We suddenly see a lot of people from a certainty being hooked up into our own teams. And those are usually the local organizers for the event of the next year. So you usually get you have the standard team and slowly new people are attitudes, deed, and that way they learn the tricks of the team that is doing their thing.
At that
Nathan Wrigley: [00:08:46] very moment, the previous team handover. I think in some cases it's quite common for people to just keep going as well as it, several people who just keep into the next one and hopefully there's enough bodies on the ground to, to make that happen. Okay. So we're into October, 2019 and the application goes out for all these things.
The intention of this podcast really is to give people like me who have attended these events. To anybody really, whether they've attended or not, some. Insight into the level of detail, the level of planning that goes into it, so that when we read. The press article that word camp Europe has been canceled, and we shrug our shoulders and think, Oh dear, that's a bit of a blow.
I'll have to get my ticket refunded so that we have much more appreciation of the real disappointment that must be felt by people like yourself. Who've given time and no doubt, put things on hold that they could have otherwise been doing. What from your perspective was the, where are the things that you had been involved in since October in the run-up to the decision to, to finally cancel it?
What kind of things go on? What do you need to do? What things need to be in place?
Sjoerd Blom: [00:09:57] Things up need to be in place are quite a of things like sponsorships you need to Getting the sponsors ready. They have to to pay the there's an assumption. You have to a lot of things for the event for the venue.
The thing is usually already a in progress because you have just finished yields, design The logo, the color scheme and stuff like that, all the banners these are things that are being prepared also. Usually you already had a walkthrough with the team it's it was there somewhere in an in gentlemen.
I talked about already when the team says, okay, most of the things we have already inside, or I have now, and now we need to see if it's It will fit into the venue usually gets platform or you get a plan of the venue and then you. We say, okay, we can use that, but on you for that talk that's room for this this is the green room for the speakers, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
This is all on paper. It looks okay. But then you take all those ideas or plans to the venue. So usually the whole team is floating into the The organizer city. They do a tour around the venue and then check it if it's all doable.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:11:12] Yeah. And I'm guessing sorry, carry on.
Sjoerd Blom: [00:11:16] It's actually although the client is already yeah, he is already quite complete in, in, in February.
It just needs to be confirmed about a real life situation.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:11:27] Yeah. All of that sounds very easy when you say it, you've obviously been through this and it was, you went through the different processes and what have you, but roughly speaking. And are, you may know the exact number for this.
You may not, it may just be plucking a number out of thin air. How many hours do you think of your time? You dedicated to this? Up until the point where eventually there was no need for you to dedicate any more time.
Sjoerd Blom: [00:11:55] It's it's a climbing code and in the beginning it was only one or two hours a week, but somewhere around general arteries, it's about eight hours a week. And it got, it even goes up. It flattens a little during that the time, but as far as the events approaches and then as new guests, It's going to be almost 40 hours a week.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:12:21] Wow. So in the right at the beginning, a couple of hours a week, whilst you're just figuring out what's what, and then it goes to eight hours a week, which is, to me you've lost. Lost is the wrong word. You have donated, shall we say one day a week minimum. And then as the event approaches, it's possibly up to the entire week, that's a phenomenal amount, the, a phenomenal amount of time.
Do you feel do you feel that it's, the burden falls on too few shoulders, in other words, Are there enough people volunteering to make WordCamps sustainable? Or are we just relying on a few stalwarts who always show up a few people who are prepared to really give up significant proportions of time?
Does the balance fit full evenly, do you think? Or is it just the good people like yourselves?
Sjoerd Blom: [00:13:14] Both of it actually, it's always the same people. But we have A rule you're not allowed to be a lead organizer for two years in Austin, two years in a row, to allow to, to be a low lead organize another time.
You want to keep the ball rolling and have new people come in. But usually people say okay, I've been legalized for that. And now I'll be volunteering for a couple of years and then I'll be applying again for for what camp. I don't want to be a lead organizer, but just the regular organize.
So there's a lot of expertise going through the events. What is also intriguing is that usually when you have the event happens in in, in a certain country, the local people over that also join in. So either there's a volunteer or either there's no organizer. So it attracts new people as well.
Like in, in Belgrade, we saw a lot of a lot of Serbian people hop in, but also people from other countries around like a Romania. So it attracts people in the same, we'll be happy what will be happening in in Porto as well? Yeah. We'll see a lot of people from from Portugal and well, to be honest but.
Porto is quite in a corner of Europe. So they were applying to, to attend the event in Berlin that will cost them a lot of money. They wouldn't have gone to Berlin. Think this one's just doesn't matter as well for people to become a volunteer or an organizer.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:14:49] I saw the pictures.
There's always the customer picture, which has taken, I presume I have a recollection that it was at the end of WordCamp, Europe, 2019, and there they all were all the volunteers in their pink EDU, 2019 t-shirts and the picture. Yeah, it was pretty big. A C I'm guessing that there were a hundred plus people involved and whilst many of them like yourself would have given up significant amounts of time.
Perhaps many of those as well would have given up just the time at the event itself. So my question from that, Israeli, do you have an insight roughly how many people have volunteered for word coming 2019? Even if it was just a small amount of time or a large amount of time? How much charitable from how many people.
Sjoerd Blom: [00:15:34] You have to distinguish two, the two groups of people. You have the volunteers, the real volunteers and the organizers. So organizing team was around 60 or 70 people. I think volunteers was around 150 or 160. Maybe more. But the volunteers themselves people who did not organize, but two are instructed to, to follow a certain role and they are involved for just four hours of scheduled for four hours to do it, but to get a job that might be once.
Or twice a day. And then, so it might be four hours in day, one, four hours a day, two, or even if are willing to help out a little more, they can even do four hours a day, one, four hours, another four hours a day, one, and then a drop out in day two. That's what they do. They are prepared Beforehand, they have we have a small instruction tour around the venue.
They get to know the rules the code of conduct, stuff like that, and they are instructed how to deal with people and be the host for the events and the organizers. They coordinate actually the
Nathan Wrigley: [00:16:46] volunteers it's a finely oiled machine. I confess at WordCamp Europe 2019 was the first. European word camp that I'd attended.
I've been to lots of local ones in the UK equally well oiled machines, but nothing on that scale. And it, yeah, I'd heard about the, all of this that goes on in the background and, the sort of like gathering everybody together at the beginning and giving them sort of a workshop if you like on, on how to.
How to decide where everything goes and what everybody's roles is and all of that kind of stuff, but it's still, it's astonishing that it's as well oiled as it is, because any event that I've ever been to before there may have been a handful of volunteers, and I'm not talking about word camp events here, I'm talking about events that have got nothing to do necessarily with WordPress, the volunteer thing.
Isn't really the thing, it's normally the event is put on it's a for-profit thing and the people will. Require a payment in exchange for their time and so on. So it is a really interesting dynamic, amazing that so many people can be brought to bear at one time, something fell out well,
Sjoerd Blom: [00:17:53] It's also an event do to meet friends again, because a lot of volunteers have been volunteering for, I think, eight or nine times already.
And they don't just volunteer for work computer. They also volunteer other WordCamps local work camps, like work in London or parasol wherever they they want to go and then whatever the accepted and use these just. Voluntary, you're saying, okay. I will be volunteering and that event, can we beat you with that as well?
When you she sees these volunteers seeing each other again, it's hugging and greeting and how are you and how they all know each other. Most of them. Yeah. Oh, that's really it's. It's great. And I imagined why people want to volunteer for working here because it's real opportunity to meet.
Oh, the people.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:18:44] Yeah. Yeah. That's my experience. Certainly just turning up as an attender. You get to meet familiar faces the first time. It was a bit awkward for me, I think. And then two or three times later it becomes, Oh, hello. And you just start waving at each other across the room. And it's all very wonderful.
You mentioned earlier about advertising and that was one of the, one of the first things to get in place, obviously, that, that brings up the specter of money. And clearly a huge, Good grief. WordCamp Europe, 3000 people, an enormous conference center, a beautifully appointed hotel, really everything well put together, the advertising space was.
Brilliant. Clearly, tons of thoughts had gone into all of this and it just brings to mind the question, this cannot be free. It's there's advertisers. And what have you, I was wondering if there's any involvement in with, from the WordPress foundation if there's any reaching into the pockets too, do they help or is it purely advertising and tickets?
Sjoerd Blom: [00:19:43] It's purely advertising and
Nathan Wrigley: [00:19:44] tickets. That is amazing. Yeah. Yeah. Is that an, is that a good dynamic? Do you think that's the way it should be? I don't know if you want to get into the politics of this, but I wonder if the WordPress foundation,
Sjoerd Blom: [00:19:58] Personally, I'm personally speaking, I'm not too fond of commercial organizations having a lot of control because they finally found it.
And the events it's also a huge risk because they can say, okay, if you're not going to do this, I will. And bring in a huge pile of money, just 10% of it. That's the risk you have? Yes it's how it's used to work and it still works, but maybe someday commercial organizations might get more, I'm trying to get more influence I don't know.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:20:34] So very specifically just thinking about the word press foundation, just that organization they don't have any financial input into this?
No. Okay. Yeah.
Sjoerd Blom: [00:20:50] The other thing that I do is they verify the budgets, so they control on the approve the budgets.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:20:56] So the money, let's say that we're a year out and advertising, sorry. Your sponsorship money has begun to roll in from I dunno, plugin developers and hosting companies as which is quite typical, that money is then diverted through the word.
Press foundation is it, they hold onto that money, like an escrow, if you like, and then decide when it's going to be released, because obviously that would be a bit of a stretch. Wouldn't it for the volunteers themselves to be in charge of the bank accounts. I guess that wouldn't be a position anybody would want to be in.
Sjoerd Blom: [00:21:29] Oh, actually all things are done through looking foundation. Yep. So they've got all the money and they believe the bills or the new catering and stuff like that. Yeah. That's
Nathan Wrigley: [00:21:46] how it works. It's really it brings me nicely, to the. Yeah the sort of sad, the sad reality of this year everybody recognizes that what, what has happened needed to happen?
Things must be canceled. I remember prior to Europe being canceled, can you remember the sort of storm in a teacup, which occurred upon word camp Asia, which was this inaugural event? It was due to be held in Bangkok. Oh, I'm going to say February this year, possibly early. I can't remember. But it was right at the very beginning of the COVID epidemic.
And and at that time the spread of the virus was largely in that part of the world. Shall we say, drawing a broad circle around the Eastern part of Asia and one day very sad news came through. I remember reading it on WordPress Tavern and it was just to say, this event has been canceled and.
There was mixed reactions. There was though there were those people who took the medical angle and thought this is very sensible. It doesn't make a lot of sense. I think it was 800 people they were thinking would show up to that event. It doesn't make a good deal of sense to put 800 people into a melting pot in the well, in this case, Bangkok, and then send them back home and, with all of the risks of that, that, that has, and then there was another body of people who at that point, Hadn't grasped.
What would ultimately happen with the virus? Probably with the reflection they'll look back and think, okay, maybe that was the wrong call, but there seemed to be a little bit of disagreement and how can, how, who decides this? And so that's, that is my that's my question. Really? Who does decide to cancel section.
Sjoerd Blom: [00:23:32] That was actually what we had in in January end of January, because then I already heard some rumors on counseling work of Europe ACM at we were already discussing with a couple of people. What if should we pick that for a possible cancellation? So we already investigated a lot of things like.
What does it mean coming? We council what does it mean for what does the venue want us to do, et cetera, et cetera. So we already did some investigations on possible cancellations. The event in Asia was canceled fine. Officially sponsors started to Speak to us and say DIA, work on a WordPress community.
Please cancel work of Europe as well, et cetera, et cetera. You can find the posts on on Twitter and on Facebook, there was a public demands to counsel. Had a talk, a town hall meeting actually with all the organizers in zoom. We came to the conclusion. Maybe we should cancel it. Actually it was, this decision was made By outing, Inco cooperation with with the foundation.
Yeah. Yeah. It was a joint decision. Think that's the best thing to do, or actually have community services making the announcement themselves to take off the button from from the organizing theme. That's what happens for instance, the foundation made the announcement look of Asia is being canceled.
Cool. Think we w we went because we were looking into a little options already. So we, we made a deliberate decision on should we cancel or postpone? And can we make the announcement together? Actually what happened?
Nathan Wrigley: [00:25:23] Yeah. I seem to remember the piece is that of the jigsaw puzzle that I'm trying to put together in my mind where that the reporting around word com Asia, it felt as if the WordPress foundation and specifically Matt had somehow.
Magic this decision out of thin air. And at that time, because the risk of the virus was really poorly understood. There were people who just thought this was some arbitrary decision, turns out with hindsight, it was probably a committee decision and also probably the best decision that was.
At all on the table, but at the time there were many voices who just didn't see that part of the jigsaw. So I'm so pleased that they did cancel it. And I'm so pleased also that you guys very quickly soon after that canceled as well, but good for you as well. I think also in that the medical information that was coming.
Was in no way confusing at that time. You were getting information from all stiff, all sorts of parts of the world, Northern Italy and Spain, and what have you that there's just no way that this should go on. And I think you were lucky to have a couple of maybe a month or so between your decision and the word campaigns, your decision to.
For the medical information to get through and for people to actually be clamoring, no, just cancel it. Don't put it on. I'm not coming. And if you put it on, I'm going to tell everybody else not to come kind of thing. So that was yeah. Remarkable and probably quite brave because there must have been an awful lot of downsides to counseling, not just financial, the uncertainty about what should we do in its place.
So that's where I want to move the discussion now. Let's talk about, let's talk about the horrible subject of money. Did any, I know that my ticket price was returned very soon after the event. I got it. And it was all very easy and painless for me. It just literally got the money back one day. How about the sort of sponsorship.
Side of things and the money involved paying for the venue and all of that. Did any of that get lost along the way or consumed because of, I dunno, insurance policies that weren't in place and so on.
Sjoerd Blom: [00:27:39] To be honest, I'm not in the sponsor team. I haven't been in that, no, not really sure if any money got lost.
I've seen the discussions on online recalling tickets refunding your sponsor budgets as well. If we wanted to look into that, I think we should ask somebody
Nathan Wrigley: [00:27:57] else. Yeah. That's fair enough. Fair enough. Let's move on to the other stuff then the, obviously it would a difficult decision to cancel, but the right decision, as we've said what kind of things needed to happen?
I'm thinking about canceling venues, sending out emails there, must've been suddenly a very large, but very different. Body of work than the work you were expecting. Cause it's not as a volunteer, you can suddenly go it's not on that's it I'm done. Yeah. There's still things to be done even though they're not the same things.
Sjoerd Blom: [00:28:31] Cancellation was done through foundation, they already had the experience with a work visa. So they were pretty much experiencing. Refunding it quicker than you could imagine, you know that now. But also. Constantly canceled the venue we already checked. If we could organize in 20, 21 at that time.
So we already booked a reservation for the venue next year, also in June same same time actually and then we we will already funding all the other All of the stuff like the contracts sponsors and ships, et cetera, et cetera, and all was accepted think because of the COVID-19 issue at that time, Portugal was also seeing an increase of COVID infections.
It was easier to to realize that. Yeah.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:29:29] Yeah. I think by that point, the decision was common sense. Wasn't it? That the cancellation decision, whereas for the, I think the word Camtasia one, it was much more of a toss, a coin in the air at that point, but with remarkable foresight, That decision was made.
So that was great. The so the event was the physical event was canceled. The tickets got refunded. The venue was put on hold for another year, but the decision at some point, and I don't know the timeframe on this because it felt like there was a few, maybe a few weeks between cancellation and then the announcement of the online event.
But it felt to me like the online event was announced. Almost as if it was fully fledged and ready to go. That is to say that, there was not like we're going to put an online event, hold on. And we'll give you some information. It felt we've, we're going to put on an online event and here's how it's going to happen.
So there must've been quite a lot of work going on again, was it people like you stepping into the breach and organizing it? And if so, what was that like?
Sjoerd Blom: [00:30:31] Oh, I'm glad you said it looked like it was already done though. It wasn't the announcement of cancellation was on March 12th. Yep. I think about two weeks afterwards we had we had formed a new team.
It wasn't trimmed down to, so the organizing team For the regular event was asked, I are willing to participate in organizing a, an online event. So that was the question we have just on the day of the cancellation. Think about 50% of the team says, okay, we're going to to do that. And we want to join them and see what happened.
We have no idea on how to do things really. So when it was only 10 weeks before the release took place see if we had a huge in designing and complete and Ty and viewing events how are we going to do to organize in these events? What does it look like? We haven't contributed day.
It look that look like album speakers. Can we use them? They would already be selected for the talks. Can we use them again on a willing to cooperate? How are we going to, to broadcasts? Are we going to stream on YouTube Facebook all kinds of questions. What should it look like?
So at that time, there were also a couple of events online. And we looked at those events how they organize it, and we got some ideas on how to do things on how to do things, not to do things externally. So it was it was. A chaotic organization. We had to test a few things like platforms.
There are virtual platforms that look like an event online event, the round tables. And we'll, you have a stage with it, with a screen, so you can see it speak it, stuff like that. We tested those demos but meanwhile, time. Yeah. Think we were willing to do, to make it look like a virtual event.
But there was some hiccups in the platform. And then also things like accessibility, which was not fully implemented, which is a huge issue if you are in a work camp or what particular community. Yeah. So we finally decided to just stream it through YouTube as closed captioning.
Which was already booked on, they said we can hook in onto your stream. It's no problem. So they ended up that we were looking at options like what can we do with sponsors? Because sponsors are willing to sponsor if the platform was what the UN was. Useful to them as well. They shouldn't be able to present themselves.
So we found this combination you've seen right now. Look at Europe. We'll use Slack for a contributor day together with zoom sessions. We have speakers prerecord though talks so we could the videos with logos and hook them into the slides, which Sunday, and as well.
So it's not more real professional event. We had even a tune and a logo.
, it evolves quickly. It was a use Event happening, actually, we were so much surprised to see Oh, we can do this. You can do that. We can have zoom sessions. We can have Q and A's after the talks and that zoom sponsor booth in zoom as well to our surprise, which there was one thing we did not expect.
That was the after party that people organize during zoom sessions. So four hours off the TA the last talk is finished. There were still 30 to 40 people in the zoom sessions and having a drink and have their own after party. I wonder if people accepted the whole concept and they made their own idea and their own version of what scam.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:34:54] Yeah, it's interesting. I feel that we're in a time at the minute where we're just trying to figure all this out. Aren't we these online events too, which. Not just the WordPress community, but every community writ large across the world. All of them have got events where people fly in and participate in all of that.
That's suddenly thrown into this mess of trying to figure out what that should look like now that the real person to person event as has been taken from us. And I feel that we're in a transition time. And like you said you examine these platforms where they try to mimic. The real world and have pretend tables and a pretend stage and all of that.
And it, whilst it looks really nice, it also feels like it's not mimicking. It is maybe not the right decision. And I've, I confess, I've looked at these platforms again for various other reasons and may drawn the same conclusion. I much prefer to just turn up to a page with some comments by the side and just.
Tune in. I'm not really that keen to pretend to sit at a table with people and so on and so forth. But I could be in the minority, but we've, we're faced now with the cancellation of 2021. I'm assuming I can't, my memory is failing me here. I'm assuming that there'll be an online replacement for that.
There was this year.
Sjoerd Blom: [00:36:18] Yeah. W we working on that one? There's nothing efficient yet.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:36:24] Yeah, and it just, I think by the time that we get to that this time, next year, I'll have a, I have a vague feeling that the way these events look. And the expectations from people will have shifted, somebody at some point in the next year, I feel is going to just crack out, crank out an event, which is really different and everybody will go that's what it should be like.
That's the way we need to make it. But we're not there yet. And then sadly, the news, which happened very recently again, we are recording this when this news just came out. The opposite for word camp us. They've made the decision to cancel it wholesale for this year 2020, the event, which was due to take place later towards the end of this year has been canceled in every which way possible.
So there's no in-person events, there's no replacement. And they cited. That they thought they was. I'm going to choose my words carefully here. I think the word was fatigued. They thought that there was fatigue of online meetups. And I wonder what you thought about that, did you feel that the word camp Europe online, was it a success?
Did you sense that it was a bit of a, did it please you, did it disappoint you? Were you happy with the outcome with lots of lessons to be learned?
Sjoerd Blom: [00:37:35] Most of the questions, I totally agree. I love them. I love you then. It was great. The outcome was surprising me The the off the potty, a zoom session that just popped up also the number of attendees, 8,000 registered attendees.
It's extraordinary. It's extraordinary. But also the fatigue, I can imagine that people are. I've been doing all kinds of zoom sessions because they just ups on leaving our own on premises, stay at home professional zoom sessions because of people working at home, people are done with it.
They just don't want to Being I want to be watching the screen all day long for two, three days. I think it's it's enough for that moment. So I can imagine that what you asked sees a sudden fatigue I agree if that's the reason for a canceling a, an online event as
Nathan Wrigley: [00:38:37] well. Th the nice that, so it's a, both a drawback and a benefit.
W my experience was with WordCamp Europe in person in 2019, was that it was very busy for me. As it turns out, I was actually. Doing what I'm doing now to you. I was interviewing people at that event. And so it was busy and not a moment of my time was diverted. I was able to concentrate. I had obviously had to get on a plane, stay in a hotel, and I was fully focused on what I was doing.
Whereas I had that same intention for word camp 20, 20 online, but I found that. The world, the normal everyday world of my family and my house and the normal constraints of family life, where were sufficient that I didn't attend anywhere near the amount that I was anticipating. The ch my son bumps his head.
And that's me, there's the next that's next session is not happening for me. And I need to go and cook a meal so that's, I think the backdrop upon which upon which these online events I've got to, I've got to, it's just reality. Isn't it. You've got to cope with the fact that people are not going to drop in at nine in the morning and leave at seven in the evening.
They're going to drop in and drop out. And the measure of success isn't. Isn't really a how to describe it. It's not that people are participating all the time that it's just people drop in, drop out, enjoy it, find the ones that they want to go to. And that's it, we just expect a different range of outcomes and a different set of attendance.
Sjoerd Blom: [00:40:05] True. Also because all the sessions are being recorded. Yeah. You can just what should, it's only modeled. And so it's more like, People watching Netflix and do video on demand sessions. So they just watch a video or a session whenever they want to, when they have time. Maybe it was online events will evolve into these ones as well.
A video on them, a world cup on demand, maybe. Yeah, we have what we have. We have what? Personal of TV what all the stations sessions available YouTube has an archive as well. We can we can watch all those interesting talks from from our bedroom. When we have a bullet point, I believe we can see
Nathan Wrigley: [00:40:54] that.
Yeah at stupid o'clock in the morning when you're not sleeping, you can switch it on and and watch. Yeah, that's true. I w wondering a slightly bizarre question, perhaps obviously the sponsorship is a key component and at the events, there's a great deal of time and energy putting into making the sponsors stand out.
They're put in significantly prominent positions so that you must, let's say for example, walk past them and they go to considerable length. It's to make their boobs engaging. And, they put a lot of effort into it. Was that an area where we've still got learning to do I have no insight into this?
I've just got a feeling that from an UN a sponsor's point of view, it must be more difficult to make your offering standout or even be discovered on an online event. That must be a challenge
Sjoerd Blom: [00:41:41] that has been judged. Yes, it is. I'm not sure about the figures, but if I have them, I will not share them because that was a more competent, but I know they have been struggling with how can we attract the SMDs I think that's also the advantage of organizing all my events.
How can you make a sponsor stand out? And that's when they these Virtual event areas sat out. They have these tables where people sit around and they have just arrived. And the size of the venue, they have those responsibilities. You can click on, et cetera, et cetera.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:42:22] Yeah. Yeah. It's it's, like I was saying, this is what we're at.
This is the game we're in at the moment we currently, we don't seem to have any insight into when the world will return to air quotes, normal. So this is the job now, isn't it's to figure out what these platforms would look like. Should we wish to do word camps online, which I, for one wish to happen?
What do they look like? How do we get the sponsorship? So that it's it's justified, it justifies the cost of the event to them, but also isn't so invasive that it feels like you're watching, I dunno television or something like that. It's an interesting dilemma that we're going to have to have to bridge in the next year or so.
So as always is the case we're sadly running out of time. Is there anything that you feel you wished to cover that we never got a chance or I didn't ask the right question. Anything you wanted to say that I didn't get you to say? Oh, actually, no,
Sjoerd Blom: [00:43:22] I think we've covered most
it's okay. So I hope you have the inside. Do you want him to have, and I hope the listeners are more clear on how the campus is organized.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:43:40] How did it, how does it get put together who's involved, how many hours are involved and what the impact of. COVID is for the, this year's events plus events going forward. I think we did a pretty good job. Thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate it. And good luck if you're involved with the next one.
I hope it goes well. I hope so, too. Thank you very much. I hope that you enjoyed that. I've very interesting chat about a subject, which I really am deeply passionate about. I do enjoy word camps. I've enjoyed attending them on. I'd had some inclination to what was involved in putting on a WordCamp, but by no means the depth that SEOed was able to share with us today, I had no idea that was so much involved, so much lead time.
So many different pieces making up the word camp jigsaw, and I'm really appreciative. To all of those people who donate their valuable time. Very grateful. Indeed. Perhaps you've got some thoughts on whether or not we should continue some kind of hybrid events in the future. Hopefully when the pandemic is behind us, should we have events which are alive, but also available to be attended online?
Or should we just go straight back to being live events? Let us know. In the Facebook group, WP Builds.com forward slash Facebook, or you can go to the comments at the bottom of the show notes. On the [email protected]. This is episode number 213. The WP Builds podcast was brought to you today by AB split test.
Do you want to set up your split test in record time, then you AB split test plugin for WordPress. We'll have you up and running in just a couple of minutes. Use your existing pages and you can test anything against anything else. Buttons, images, headers, rows, anything. And the best part it works with element or Beaver builder and the WordPress block editor.
Check it out and get a free [email protected]. Okay. We have a new podcast for you coming out next Thursday. They always come out with Thursday, 1:00 PM, UK time, but that one next week spawn will be myself and David Wamsley because we alternate them and interview one week, which is the one you've just listened to and a discussion or a debate or something like that.
With David Wamsley, the following week, we're doing an episode series going through the letters of the alphabet, a through Zed or a through Z, depending on where you live. Discussing all of the different pieces that make up the WordPress ecosystem. One letter at a time we'll also be live 2:00 PM UK time.
That's in the WP built Facebook group, or you can go to WP Builds.com forward slash live that's for our weekly WordPress news, which we're now calling this weekend. WordPress I'd love for you to join us and make some comments about the news from the previous week, either way. There's lots going on. We'll see you in the Facebook group or around the internet, perhaps here this time next week.
All I need to do is fading some cheesy music and saying bye-bye .

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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