WordPress Photo Festival 2024, A Five Part Retrospective, Part 1, Organizers

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[Music] Hello, my name is Topher DeRosia.

This episode begins a five-part series on the WordPress Photo Festival 2024 that took place February 3 through 10.

We’ll talk to organizers, volunteers, and participants about how the event went, as well as the community team about how this event is a model for the second generation WordPress events.

Before we get started, I’d like to provide some background for the event.

At the State of the Word 2021, Matt announced the WPPhotos project, a project to have the WordPress community submit photos for use by anyone in the world for any purpose.

As of today, there are over 15,000 photos available in the Photos repository.

The 2024 Photo Festival was an attempt to both boost the number of submitters as well as the number of photos.

We begin our story talking with Bigul from Kerala.

Bigul, can you tell me your full name and where you live?

Hi, good evening.

I’m Bigul.

My full name is Bigul Malayi.

Malayi is my family name.

I’m from South India, southern part of India.

I live in a state called Kerala, and my city name is Kozhikode, Calicut.

It is one of the old times.

It is very famous for spices.

So many European traders came here for trading spices in the past.

Were those the Portuguese?

Like, I know the Portuguese came to Goa…

Yes, exactly.

He landed here.

He was then he started the colonialization of India.

Okay, so the Portuguese came here and before the Portuguese, we were in trade with the Arabs and Chinese traders.

So my city has been in touch, direct contact with the foreigners, different traders from the world for more than 800 years.

Wow, that’s really impressive.

And if you’re here and for the rest of the state, Kerala, he’s in touch with the spice trading and a lot of commodities traded here since the time of Greeks and Romans.

Maybe you can find the mentions of Kerala Malabar Coast in the Solomon episode of Bible also.

Oh, yeah, I’ll bet.

Yeah.

So we’re here today to talk about the WPPhotos event that happened there.

Tell me about it.

What is it for somebody who doesn’t know?

Okay, what does it tell?

As everybody knows, we have no way to contribute back to WordPress since last two years.

And many people are involved in that project.

Because nowadays, everyone carry good camera or mobile.

So we were able to click nice shots wherever we go.

So we have a lot of contributors to the WordPress photo directory, there are 1000s of contributors.

And from our in Kerala, we have five meetups groups.

And most of the time we organize the meetups and WordCamps together.

So we notice many people from our community, we have a we have three active at WordPress group, and we have five meetup groups.

So from there, we noticed many people in our communities actively contributing to WordPress photo directory, and few of them, their photos were selected in, in our associated newsletters.

And also some other also some other websites are related to WordPress, especially like Gutenberg Times, HeroPress, etc.

So as a token of appreciation, people love to contribute more back to the WordPress photos.

So as per the current status, many WordCamps or WordPress meetup groups are organizing photo walk.

So we impressed from WordPress Tokyo group, and they, they used to do photo walks very often than other meetup groups.

So we decided to go something similar to what they did.

So a few months back, last year, we went to a botanical garden nearby in Calicut, that is hardly 10 kilometers from my native.

I used to go there in the childhood, because that botanical garden has a lot of plants, varieties, more than thousands of plant varieties, especially they have a garden for ginger and bananas.

That sounds like an ideal place for a photo walk.

Yeah, yeah, photo walk.

So we’ve been there.

And also they have, they have a very good pond for lotus and water lilies.

So we went there, and we were able to take a lot of photos there.

And the funny thing is that actually, we were only allowed to stay there for three hours.

But that day we went there on a Sunday, and that day was very rainy day.

And we were not able to walk sometime because of the heavy rain.

Thankfully, there were some kind of a shed there.

We could scan, what to say, some kind of a shed hut or roughly shed there.

So we were able to sit there and we were able to talk about the WordPress and general web development thing.

So it’s like extended a WordPress day.

And we were 15 people.

And then we took more than six hours to rob around.

Thankfully that day there were a coffee bar nearby.

There is a coffee bar.

Actually, they were serving food also in the working days, but Sunday is the only day for them.

So we were able to only able to drink coffee until four evening.

So, but the atmosphere was very chilly because it is very cool.

And the rain was most of the time they were raining and we were able to take very good photos.

And I think more than 200 photos from that walk is already in the photo directory by different people.

And a few are still remaining to upload those photos.

But still it is very nice after seeing that in those years from the and we also created a few reels.

And sure, it was very successful.

When we shared it in the our community groups, meetup groups and WhatsApp group, we got a very good response from the people and they want to be part of that.

But in so we thought that if we are taking 20 or 30 people to a botanical garden because the photos will be similar because there is a limitation.

There will be many photo duplications.

There are a lot of chances for that.

So we started to think about how we can have a photo contributor day and how we can differentiate from a photo worker.

Then we came with the idea about a half day photo contribution day and we organized it in last year after two, three weeks after the photo walk.

And it went very well.

It was in last November and it went very well.

We were able to contribute another 200 photos from and most of the participants were different part of Kerala.

So more than 60 people attend that event also.

So that was a very interesting feedback from the people.

And but we there were a lot of positive feedbacks.

And one of the negative feedback was they are not getting much time to contribute the photo as we know, we can only upload five photos at a time and we have to wait for the moderation.

So we were looking for an option how we can we can make a remedy for this and what will be the exact solution for this when we are organizing a photo walk or photo contributor day.

So people want to contribute more than 10 or 15 photos and we have to we have to consider it as a part of the event, these photos.

So we were thinking about different models.

And finally we came up with the idea that still few people don’t know or what why we should contribute the photos and what are the methods we have to follow, what are the things we have to take care of.

So we decided to have a different format.

We plan to organize a photo festival and it’s fully dedicated for the contribution of WordPress Photo Directory and we decided to run it as a one week program.

On the first day, we organized two orientation, one in the Asian morning time zone and one in the hour evening time.

So the people from different parts of the globe can attend.

Even the people from the American side also can attend that because it will be early morning for them.

So we organized two meetings, one is in the early morning time, hour time and evening time.

So more than 100 people attended both of the meetings, all in one and they came to know more about how we can contribute to the photo directory and what are the things we have to take care about, what is the relevance of CCO license, etc.

We had a very interactive discussion on both sessions and people started to contribute.

And the interesting fact that our goal for this photo festival was 1000 photos to the photo directory in a one week time.

On the first day itself, there are more than 400 photo submissions.

And that is the first time the photo directory is facing that much load.

Actually, the moderators was busy for the next one week.

Because whenever you look at the photo directory, there will be more than 200 to 250 photos in the queue.

Even on the last day, there were, we spent a lot of time on Friday, and also Saturday morning.

And then also there were more than 60 photos submitted for our photo festival.

So that was an immense response.

Our goal actually, as like I mentioned before, our goal was 1000 photos, but we were able to, I mean, the people contributed more than 2000 photos.

But as you know, we can have, there are a few of the photos, 400 plus photos were not up to the mark.

They were matching our guidelines.

So it happens.

So we were, we have to reject those photos, because most of them are not up to the mark because of different issues like clarity, fading, etc.

So after that also, even we rejected 400 plus photos, there were 1544 photos contributed to the weightless photo directory as a part of that.

And it is contributed by more than 160 contributors from different parts of the world.

And that’s just within one week, right?

Yeah, within one week, actually, the funny thing is that more than 300 people registered for the event, but thankfully only 170 people.

The city will be a big, big, big, big delay because that to monitor the photos and the moderate the photos, it will take a lot of lot of time, it will not be possible to sort all the things in a one week time.

So overall, we got a very good feedback.

And it is it’s a nice way of contributing back to it.

Yeah, I do know the moderators struggled to keep up because they came in so quickly.

Yes.

At one point, there was I think 1000 in the queue.

Yes, I watch.

Personally, I watch every photo go by in an RSS feed, just for fun.

And there’s usually 40 or 50 in a day.

And I got up over 2000 in my reader before I could start catching up.

And so that was crazy.

I personally was ill during that time, so I wasn’t able to moderate or even attend.

And so and I’m one of the moderators.

So that put extra weight on some of the others.

Marcus Burnett is a moderator and he was at a WordCamp.

And so it was it was a pretty stressful time.

I don’t think anybody expected that volume.

Yes, exactly.

And it was, it was pleasantly international.

You know, it was India heavy, but that’s okay.

It’s that was, that’s your home, your home base.

But I saw people from all over the world, contributing.

And that was very encouraging.

I’m excited to see other cities, other states around the world, pick up the mantle and do something similar.

Sort of like the Olympics, you know, where it’s international, but it’s really about the city.

Yes, you know, yes, we can consider because after this, when we can conclude the photo festival, most of the participants were checking when will be the next event.

So, of course, we have to think about a bigger vision, maybe next year, in a bigger manner.

Yep.

Tell me about the future.

Have you have you already thought about doing another one yourself?

Have you thought about or has anybody approached you and said, hey, we’d like to do this also?

Yeah, we got a very good feedback from the community, we have community because few approach, I mean, few community organizers in touch with us, they told us that we they will be doing something similar as a part of their weight gain, not in a bigger, bigger manner, but a kind of a smaller version of this.

So, I hope it will be followed by many other communities.

And people want a bigger version of this.

So, maybe next year, we can we can plan a bigger one.

Yeah, I in sense what I mean that actually that many people contributed more than 30 photos, and they want to contribute more.

And also the thing is that they were not getting enough time to contribute as they they weren’t, because many participants conducted us through different social media channels, even few of them contacted us directly directly because they have our phone numbers or WhatsApp numbers.

So, they picked me directly and say, why am I put to spending Q4 last two days?

I have tons of photos with me, I want to contribute, I want to contribute what, well, when you will be moderators.

Okay, so that’s, that speaks to some of the logistics that we need to take care of.

Yeah, particularly around moderators.

Yeah.

So, yes, please carry on.

But we have enough moderators for daily submissions.

It’s working fine.

Yes, exactly.

But so that’s not going to scale.

So, yeah, points that out.

This is a good stress test for the for the system.

Yes, exactly.

So, what we can do that we can, we can in touch with moderators in advance.

In this time, we only ping them just around two weeks before the event.

Next time, we can make a long plan.

And we can ping them in advance two, three months advance so they can be ready.

They can devote some time on that particular two, three weeks.

And we can give people more than a week for 10 days or 15 days for contributing to the weightless photo directory.

So, everybody will get enough time to contribute their good photos to the photo directory.

And also, so there will not be any hurry.

So, we will get enough submission also and also, as a moderator, we will get enough time to moderate it.

And for for us, it will get enough time to sort out the photos and announce the winners rather than doing in a one or two days.

So, that is our plan.

And also, many people will be discussed in person multiple times.

Many people want to contribute to the weightless photo directory, but they are not willing to create an accord in weightless.org or they are submitting the photos one by one.

And when we when we were sharing this group with in a few of the professional photographers, we know and they shared it in their WhatsApp group about this.

So, immediate response is that is it possible to send the photos, send the photos via email?

So, that is the normal practice.

Yeah, not all practice here.

Some when online media or a regular media conduct the event for the photo festival like this.

For example, nature photo festival or wildlife photograph festival, there are a few photo festivals happens here most of the time by conducted by some organizations or online agencies like that.

They will only ask them to send the photos via mail.

So, they were expecting the same parameters.

So, we expect few professional photographers’ participations.

But unfortunately, we only get less than 10 from our state because of this.

So, next time we will pick a way to include them also.

So, we have to work on that.

We need if we get one or two volunteer to monitor this, we will surely consider this.

Yeah, I know that there are professional developers in the world who became professional developers because of WordPress.

I’m going to be really curious to see if we get professional photographers grow out of this program.

Yes, exactly.

That would be really great.

Yeah, we are hoping for that also.

But there is also another problem is that they are ready to share.

Few of them are ready to share, but they are not willing to share in a license.

Right.

Yes.

That is a difficulty.

Yeah, that’s a difficulty.

So, at least we missed the few great photos because of that.

But we can compromise with that because that’s one of the most important things in our guidelines.

Sure.

Yeah.

I’ve given some thoughts to that.

And I think we as a community need to do a better job of communicating why it’s worthwhile for a professional to submit some photos under the CC0 license.

They never want to give anything away.

It makes sense.

It’s their culture.

But I think we can convince them that it’s worth it in some ways.

So, that’s something we can learn from this project.

And also a few of the promotional photos submitted in our event as a part of this event.

We can get wider recognition.

One of them is selected as the 15,000 photo.

Yeah.

There was a tweet from the Twitter handle about 15,000 photos and one of the promotional photos submitted as a part of the event is selected for that.

Ah, that’s great.

The one, maybe you remember the blue one of Kingfisher, blue Kingfisher.

Yes, I do.

It’s selected as one of the best photos of our photo festival.

Ah, that’s great.

I’d like to talk to you for a few minutes about organizers.

I noticed you have a lot of them.

My local WordCamp usually had four.

What did you have, 20 or something like that?

Yeah, I actually, as I told you before, we conducted, I mean, we organized this event as a, on the banner of Waitress Kerala community.

We have four community, waitress active community here.

So all these organizers from that group.

Okay.

And they are part of our last two, three WordCamps also.

And we worked as a team since we started.

So all of them were part of this event in a different, different way.

So what kinds of different things did they do?

I mean, okay, so it’s not a, it’s not a WordCamp.

So you’re not getting a venue, you’re not, you know, all that stuff.

What, what did they do for this event?

Actually, most of us were in the part of, in the initial process itself.

So as I described before, few minutes before, we started it as a photo walk in the first, then we organized as a photo direct, I mean, a photo contributor after contributor dates.

Then we decided to go for a photo festival.

So all this idea came when we sit together in different Zoom calls.

So all of them have their own suggestions.

And discussing about the day.

So it took three, four meetings that evolved from a photo walk to photo festival.

So everyone was part of the discussion.

And they were sharing their idea in our group.

So we have a WhatsApp group and Telegram group for this.

And also we have a Slack group.

So we were discussing a lot of things, how to, how to execute in a better manner.

So a lot of suggestions came from all of these people.

And also they shared about this event in their all of our all possible ways, like they’re in between their friends and family, in between their colleagues, okay, in a different way.

So that is why we get a wider spread of this event in a short time.

Actually, as a part of a budget, there was $250 allocated for online campaign, especially for the Instagram ads.

But on the first day, our plan was to execute it on after we, we organized the first orientation, the first day orientation, and to wait for the response, how will be the response.

And thankfully, we got a very good response on the first day itself, because of this in direct collaboration with the people like friends, family, colleagues, etc.

So that helped, that helped a lot.

So we were able to do the promotions in a very short, short time because of this wider base.

Right.

I really liked that.

I’m accustomed to a lead organizer deciding what the tasks are, and then assigning them to as many contributors as needed, which might be four or five or whatever for an event or a very large event, maybe, you know, a dozen or so.

But I really liked the idea of people coming to the meeting and saying, I think we should do this, and I’m willing to do the work.

And so now I’m an organizer, you know, that’s very, very open source.

You know, come to the group and say, I’m going to do this work for this project.

Actually, we always tell one thing, we always tell one thing here.

We are trying to execute that, like, there is a famous verse from three musketeers, one for all, all for one.

Yes.

Yeah, that’s really great.

Okay.

And also, the important thing is that we also get very good support from other Indian community.

Like, for example, maybe you have noticed that Sadie has created a Sadie, Sadie also pinned us to join us a volunteer.

So she created, she created an article, she wrote an article in our event, event site about how to contribute to WordPress photo directory with a good video.

So people were able to, if a person reading that article, he or she will be able to get a clear understanding of how to contribute to WordPress photo directory.

That was translated too as well, right?

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

So we conducted, so in our internal discussion, this idea came that we can translate this, the article to different Indian languages.

Then we conducted some of our, I mean, most of our community here, and we were able to translate it to multiple languages like Tamil, Canada, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Nepali.

Okay.

We have translated this must languages.

So yeah, so it, it gave it, it could help us to get a wider recognition, even in the community.

And people were able to read, read the article in their languages, and they were able to contribute to the photo directory without much hustles.

So it helped a lot.

Yeah, that’s, that’s pretty cool.

I interviewed Sadie and in a couple of days, you’ll be able to watch the interview about her making that video.

Okay.

I think that’s it for today.

Okay.

I really appreciate your time.

Okay.

Thank you very much.

You’ve been very patient throughout the entire interview process.

It’s been a journey for both of us.

It’s a pleasure to be talking with you because you are one of our members in the photo.

Thank you very much.

Actually, actually, we started to contribute after seeing the efforts you have taken for the photo directory, especially you, Michelle and Marcus.

Well, thank you very much.

We really appreciate that.

It’s nice to be here.

Okay.

Thank you very much.

Bigul was not the only organizer by a long shot.

There were quite a few.

I also interviewed Ajith.

So tell me your whole name and where you’re from.

Yeah.

My name is Ajith R N.

So I’m from Kochi, Kerala.

It’s a southern state of India.

So basically I live near the middle of the sea and the mountains.

Yeah.

It’s on the western shoreline, right?

Yeah.

That’s right.

I kind of keep track of things by their relation to Mumbai.

And I know Mumbai is about halfway down on the west.

And so you guys are halfway between the bottom and Mumbai, right?

No, no, actually we are way below that.

So we are the bottom part of India on the left side.

Okay.

If you see.

Yeah.

The hot part.

Yeah.

[Laughter]

So tell me what you did with the WPPhotos event that happened recently.

Okay.

Basically my role was to take care of all the website and all the same side of things.

So I did most of the website and all the, facilitated all the things for the registration.

And also we did some small apps to display the live feed of the photos.

Oh nice.

Yeah.

Right.

Yeah.

Also we got some leaderboard too.

So anyway, since the event is over, I think that’s finalized.

So yeah.

Okay.

Basically my role was to mostly doing all the technical stuff, I guess.

So yeah.

Your title was organizer.

Yeah.

Yeah.

That’s right.

I was surprised.

There are quite a few organizers.

What was it like 10 or something like that?

Yeah.

Yeah.

Just something like that.

So we basically, we are a group of organizers.

So whenever there is a meeting and everyone will input, we will do their parts.

So that’s it.

Yeah.

Since this was, we didn’t get enough time to prepare for the event.

So like we just got approval and in the next one week or one and a half week, we just, there’s only a short amount of window.

So most of us didn’t have free enough time to go through the whole process.

So a bunch of us came together and we did.

And yeah, that’s basically.

Okay.

Bigot mentioned he was the main point of contact.

Well, okay. so I asked him if he was lead organizer and he did not say yes.

He said it was main point of contact.

Was there a lead organizer?

Was there one person or was it just like main point of contact was by default?

Yeah, actually he was, yeah, actually we didn’t specify any lead organizers.

So because actually initially he came up with this idea.

So we communicate through him and he really, yeah.

If you say, if he can’t say who is the lead organizer, I think it’s, we can’t tell it was people.

So yeah, that’s right.

Anyway, we didn’t came to that conclusion.

So we work as a group.

All right.

That makes sense.

Have you organized, been on the organizing team for a WordCamp before?

Yes, I did.

So actually I was part of the two editions of WordCamp and one edition of WordCamp.

So my question related to that is how is this different from an organizer standpoint?

Yeah, since this is a purely online event, so there is no interaction with people physically.

So basically that was a challenge in some way, or maybe we can say we, we can cut out few of our teams.

Like we don’t need to organize a venue and all things related to that.

So basically, yeah.

So anyway, the reason we choose to go for an online event, because since it was basically a contributing photos to the photo directory, and if we do it on one day, we may not have get enough photo contributions.

So if it was a longer event or an online event, then everyone can participate.

So with their own time.

Okay.

So would you say it’s easier, harder or just different?

I think it’s just different.

So it’s not an easy part.

So yeah.

So I can imagine some parts would be easier and some parts would be harder.

Yeah, some parts would be harder.

So the organizing their talks and all the things, the interaction between the attendees.

So that was a bit different from an in-person event.

So I’m not sure if we get enough networking experience or networking opportunities with these online events.

So yeah, that’s an issue.

But the easy part is, like I mentioned before, we don’t need to worry about the venue and the core setup for the speakers and all sorts of things related to that.

So that’s…

That makes sense.

Yeah.

Let’s talk about the future a little bit.

Specifically for a photos event, not just virtual, but specifically for a photos event.

What would you do differently in the future, especially from your standpoint as the tech guy?

What would you build differently?

How would you come at it?

So I think the easiest way is to, we can build an efficient system to, I mean, display the photos one.

So currently we have some limitations with the API, how we get the photos and display them.

So sometimes it’s harder to get all the info we need in one go or something like that.

And the other thing we might need to change is if we can accept more photos from a user.

But that’s…

I think it’s different.

So if we get more photos from one person, I think it’s a bit harder to moderate.

So I think the other thing, the one thing I would do differently is if we can serve first, maybe we can approve the photos of the person who submitted it first.

So maybe that way everyone will get a decent chance.

So something like that.

So yeah, I think I know some of the photos from the users.

So since the queue in the admin is random, so maybe some of the photos from a user will come to us to moderate regularly.

So yeah.

Anyway, I think also in the recent update they fixed the sorting issue with the date.

So maybe that will help in the future.

So, and the other thing, maybe we can, this time I think we didn’t get enough time to plan things perfectly.

So we did in the short amount of time we got.

And so maybe next year if we are planning to do this kind of event, mostly I think this is a hybrid kind of event.

Maybe some, if anyone can, anyone wanted to attend the event in person, they can.

And also if it’s going to be a longer event like this, maybe one week or something like that.

So yeah, maybe the initial day we can just gather like a regular webcam and we all have the talk and all the opportunity to do the networking and all sorts of things.

So you mentioned more time to prepare.

How much did you take?

How much did you have?

Just one week or two?

I think less than two weeks.

So that’s okay.

So if I wanted to do one of these myself, I should plan on three or four weeks preparation.

Yeah, that would be perfect.

So I think the main reason is we need to prepare the site and the contents.

So once it’s ready, I think the rest is spreading the information around the community.

So what we did was we just reach out to all our friends in the community and they share the update or the social media post.

So that’s how we get all the attendees.

So we didn’t do any like a promotion or social media advertisement or anything like that.

So it’s mostly word of mouth.

So yeah, that’s it.

Yeah, that was very impressive.

And it worked well.

It got me.

That’s why I was there.

So pretty great.

Okay.

The other thing we did differently is we translate the how to post in different local languages.

So that way we will get more inclusion from different parts of the region.

So in India, there is officially 26 or 30 or something like that language is in this standard.

Right.

You personally translated all of them, right?

No, no, no, no.

I think I only can read one or two of the languages.

Some I can understand and some I can speak.

So maybe only I can read and write.

So yeah.

What are those two that you know really well?

Actually, my mother tongue is Malayalam.

So, okay.

Yeah.

Yeah.

So the other I can talk in English.

So it’s not an official language in India anyway.

But we all speak communicate in English since everyone knows it.

The other two languages I speak Tamil.

So yeah.

And the nearby Hindi.

Yes.

Also Hindi.

So I know a little bit of Hindi.

And also I know some Canada or something like that.

I have my translation badge on WordPress.org.

I have translated WordPress into Canadian, Australian and British.

Okay.

That’s how far I’m multilingual.

Okay.

So I mean, I’ve translated to Malayalam.

So from English.

Yeah.

Yeah.

Well, thank you very much for your time.

I appreciate it.

Okay.

And I look forward to talking to you again.

Okay.

Thank you.

Bye.

Bye.

And that’s our story for today.

I hope you enjoyed it.

Be sure to stop by tomorrow.

We’re going to talk to some volunteers from the event and find out what it’s like to work at an event where you don’t really interact with the attendees or the organizers or anyone else.

What’s it like to run not just a virtual event, but a photo walk like this.

I’ll see you tomorrow.

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