The WordPress Community Team has announced a significant shift in the purpose of WordCamps, which will modernize the gatherings moving forward. In the past, WordCamps have had a predictable format of presenting inspirational talks, business topics, and the latest trends, with short networking opportunities and a contributor day appended to the event. However, after the pandemic, the number of WordCamps dwindled to a fraction of what they had been, as different areas of the world grappled with their own unique public health situations.
To foster a more welcoming environment for people to want to host in-person events, the Community Team had loosened some of the requirements for WordCamps. In an effort to modernize these gatherings moving forward, the team has proposed a new purpose for WordPress events. WordPress events will now spark innovation and adoption by way of accessible training and networking for users, builders, designers, and extenders. The community will celebrate by accelerating 21st-century skills, professional opportunities, and partnerships for WordPressers of today and tomorrow.
Automattic-sponsored WordPress community organizer Angela Jin said that she hopes a “period of innovation and experimentation will follow this critical shift in the purpose of our events” where events will be curated for more narrow audiences and have a focus on a specific type of content or topic. This shift also opens the door for more varied event formats, such as workshops, unconferences, job fairs, and pure networking events.
Jin emphasized that WordPress will continue encouraging local meetups. Currently planned WordCamps can continue as before but new WordCamp applicants will be encouraged to experiment with new formats. “Flagships (WordCamp US, WordCamp Europe, WordCamp Asia): These will remain our largest, broadest event that fully capitalizes on the energy of a large crowd,” Jin said. “They will be the place to highlight the latest, greatest, and coolest in WordPress and where we are going.”
Reactions to the change in the purpose of WordCamp have been mostly positive, but the community has some questions about how it will work. David Bisset, who helped run WordCamp Miami for over a decade, asks how this will impact smaller communities. WordPress plugin developer David McCan commented that the new purpose statement reads more like educating and preparing a workforce in contrast to how WordCamps previously leaned towards empowering volunteers.
Participants in the discussion are heavily in favor of giving more freedom to event organizers, but many have had irreplaceable experiences at WordCamps in their current format that they are reluctant to see it go. WordPress developer and contributor Ross Wintle commented that he hoped the change in purpose would not diminish the diversity at WordCamps.
Marketing contributor Sé Reed asked Jin what team meeting, GitHub issue, or other documented discussion was available to follow the decision-making process for this major change to WordCamps, as no discussions were linked in the announcement. Jin has not yet responded to these questions but said in the announcement that as event organizers experiment with different formats for WordCamps, “the community team can reevaluate our full events program and how events coexist happily.”