WordPress Photo Festival 2024, A Five Part Retrospective, Part 4, Next Generation Events

In the penultimate episode of this series I talk with Julia Golomb from the WordPress Community Team about Next Generation WordPress Events. We’ll include how the WPPhotos Event was a great template, and other ideas that could come.

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[00:00:00] Topher: Welcome back! In this episode, we’re going to talk with Julia from the community team about next generation WordPress events, what that means, what they are and how you can be involved. There are a lot of great ideas coming out about different things that we can do for events and I’m really excited about it.

So come along with me while we have this conversation. I’m here with Julia from the community team. please tell us your, your full name and where you’re from.

[00:00:50] Julia: All right. Hey Topher. My name is Julia Golomb and I am bi-coastal in the US I spend half my time. Well, a little more than half my [00:01:00] time in the Bay area of California, just outside of Oakland, California.

And the, maybe a third of my time in the Northeast United States, mostly around New Hampshire, outside Boston. Very nice.

[00:01:12] Topher: And I know you’re in the community team, but, what do you do? you know, what’s your role there?

[00:01:19] Julia: Yeah. So I am a full time contributor to the WordPress community team and I’m sponsored by Automattic.

So AutomatTic donates my time to work full time with the WordPress community. And my role involves helping meetup organizers and helping WordCamp organizers and WordPress event organizers all over the world, create great events that. Bring folks together to celebrate WordPress and learn from each other and build community and gain inspiration and connections.

All right. That’s very cool. And I’m also, I’m, I’m also on the lead organizing team for Word Camp US this year and was for 23 as [00:02:00] well. So I bring that flagship organizing experience too. Yeah.

[00:02:04] Topher: our, our main story is about, the photos event that happened, Carla, but I keep hearing the organizers say things like, second generation event.

What does that mean?

[00:02:19] Julia: All right. So glad you asked. In late spring of 2023, the community team kicked off a pilot project that was called NextGen WordPress Events. And the idea of this pilot project was to think outside the box about how WordPress organizers, WordPress enthusiasts around the world can organize events that are different from the traditional WordCamp format and the traditional Meetup format.

Because previously, those were the two main formats that the community team offered. For word camp event organizers. [00:03:00] The next gen pilot project offered an invitation to organizers around the world to experiment. So we said, bring us your ideas. What sorts of events do you want to see that are different from a word camp?

Or it could be a word camp, but a different flavor and style of word camp than we’re used to seeing. And. We at the end of 2023 concluded that pilot project and learned from that experience that yes, the community is thirsty for experimentation and there’s a lot of an opportunity for different types of events besides WordCamps.

And so now we’re,

[00:03:40] Topher: what kinds of things that people do?

[00:03:45] Julia: Great question. so I know you are talking about the photo festival. That’s an example of a. That’s an example of a next gen event that was part of the pilot project. But I will just say [00:04:00] that now we are we’ve closed the pilot project stage. And now the community team has created an ongoing invitation to WordPress organizers to organize innovative, creative WordPress events.

And so we’re not. Not even calling them next gen. Although I think people still, that language has stuck, but WordPress events now.

[00:04:29] Topher: Yeah, that’s really cool.

[00:04:32] Julia: and next gen at the time, the name came up as. It means next generation of WordCamp. So we were so used to work. What’s the next generation of these events that people learn and connect and build real world skills and all of that.

[00:04:51] Topher: Yeah. I will admit I love WordCamps. I love the traditional ones, but I haven’t really been to a session in [00:05:00] years because I’ve been to so many of them, but I really want to do is hang out with my friends. Yes, and a different kind of event could facilitate that without the guilt of my other friends being in a session that I’m not listening to.

[00:05:16] Julia: Absolutely, I’ll share another example. You asked for some examples. Yeah The photo festival that just concluded in Japan. There’s a monthly series of community building workshops and those are online events That I think they helped started as online events, but then became in person events and it’s an opportunity to, for community members to come together and learn about how they can be community wordpress community organizers across.

Yeah, meant to build up the community team and that roster of. Organizers. And in Rome in September of 2023, there was a community day and that was a day [00:06:00] dedicated to WordPress community event organizers. There’s, ah, coming up in Rome, an event called Core Days. Okay. And that’s focused on, I believe, focused on core WordPress core contributions.

Right. that’ll be in November of this year. So that’s a ways from now.

[00:06:23] Topher: Okay. That’s really great. I’m really glad to hear that because I have thought in the past myself about trying to do a core focused only event that is days long because I’ve, I’ve been to work camps where I joined contributor day.

And I say, I’m going to contribute to core today. And eight hours later, I have Docker halfway set up and I’m lost and I’ve never contributed anything at any of those, but what if it were four days long and you spent two days getting Docker set up and then [00:07:00] contributing? That would be great. So I’m really happy to hear that they’re doing that.

Now I have to go to Rome. So thank you very much.

[00:07:07] Julia: Yes. And something that we’ve observed in the U S in particular and North America is that word camps. And meetups have been slow to reenergize and reactivate since. Yes, I’ve noticed. And I think there’s gradual momentum building, but the landscape has really changed.

Things are more expensive. Venues are more expensive. Mm-Hmm. Covid was a real disruption in the flow and progression of. WordCamps. And so, I think that WordPress events, more broadly, my hope is that WordPress events offer

the opportunity for more creativity for, for organizers to think about what is it that their community really wants and needs and what will enable [00:08:00] people to come out of their houses. Right. And working from home to actually be together. What are the skills that folks are looking to build? For example, I’ve heard a New York city meetup organizer talk about the possibility of organizing an event that targets recent graduates who are looking for jobs and, and want to learn about how WordPress can actually help them gain employment.

And that’s something that is different that people can’t just go on YouTube for like identifying what is the real value that this particular community. Is looking for and how to Yeah, like a more targeted event.

[00:08:43] Topher: That’s a great idea because looking back, basically every session I’ve ever given, talked at could be just a YouTube video.

And if we can make something that you can’t get on YouTube, that’s going to be really valuable.

[00:08:57] Julia: Yes. And so it really depends on creativity. It really [00:09:00] depends on an organizer in the box and trying something new and experimenting. And probably some events won’t. Won’t work so well. And that’s okay because that’s a learning and I hope that organizers will share their learnings with the community through posts on make a community.

For example, from the community team recently posted a recap of the Jakarta WordPress website challenge. Website pitching competition. That was just held in January. And Devon’s share is it’s great. She really shares a lot of good info and good, good lessons learned.

[00:09:38] Topher: That’s really great. I I’ve, I’ve talked to a number of organizers since COVID during COVID and things, and have heard, as you mentioned.

How much more expensive things are a venue or food? I think, I [00:10:00] think I heard a meetup for an evening in London, England was going to be 10, 000 or something. And yeah, I mean, it’s outrageous and New York City is the same. the organizers there will have a cap on their meetup of 10 people because they, their, their room doesn’t hold more than 10 and it’s 2, 000 for the evening.

For 10 people to get together and chat. So we, you know, we need the creativity. So, I would love to hear if you can tell me some of the financially creative things people are doing to have a great time, get good things done without spending 10, 000 an evening for a meetup.

[00:10:44] Julia: Absolutely. Well, sponsorship, I will start by saying the WordPress events program depends on our sponsors and really important to.

Make sure that that’s a reciprocal relationship. [00:11:00] So think about how can we, what value do sponsors receive from their sponsorship and how can community events support our sponsors? Our sponsors are part of the WordPress ecosystem, just like the rest of us. Right. That’s one piece. sponsorships are really important and that could be an in kind sponsorship of donating a venue.

It doesn’t need to be. It doesn’t only need to come in the form of financial or monetary.

[00:11:30] Topher: That would be so cool. Like I’m on meetups at the WP engine office or the Automattic office in San Francisco.

[00:11:39] Julia: Yes. And I’m here in the Bay area and I’m really trying to get the San Francisco meetup reactivated. And I, it is amazing to know that the Automattic space in San Francisco could be made available.

And similarly, Automattic is offered to donate the know how right.

[00:11:59] Topher: [00:12:00] Yeah. In New York.

[00:12:00] Julia: Yeah. Yep. So it’s a resource. It’s a space that’s available and takes a little bit of coordination, but it’s, it’s there for the New York city meetup organizers. So my first encouragement for. Organizers. There’s a couple, there’s many things I want to say here, but my first encouragement is think about how you can find a donated space and okay.

Number two around finances, they are, the landscape is different and I do budget reviews often with meetup organizers and I mentor WordCamps and help them shape their budgets. And the community team recently has been telling organizers, sharing with organizers, what we observe because we’re working with a lot of different WordCamps and WordPress events.

And so I patterns. And one of the patterns is there’s less sponsorship, money available now than There used to be another pattern is that WordCamp [00:13:00] organizers really want to organize several hundred person events and it is. It’s just not there. And that is okay. Small events are so meaningful and important and impactful.

So I could not measure the success of an event by the number of attendees. I would set expectations, encourage organizers to set expectations at the outset for number of attendees. And understand that a 100 person event is, from my, absolutely from my perspective, as important and valuable as a 500 person event.

Okay. And I’m just going to pause and, and think for a moment. There’s something I want to say around this. All that to say, I think that creative WordPress events are really helpful for shifting out of the mindset of like the idea that, oh, it needs to be a WordCamp and that a WordCamp needs to be a big endeavor that feeds people and maybe is multiple days.

WordPress [00:14:00] events open up the possibility of offering or organizing a half day workshop. That is specifically for digital marketers or a half day session that’s about building job skills, or is for folks focused on SEO, or want to contribute to the WordPress photo, photos team, photos library. There’s, there’s so much that can be done that can be low budget and still really rewarding and impactful.

[00:14:37] Topher: That’s really, really cool. I’ve always wanted to do a, a seminar or whatever in my city on WordPress as a career. Maybe you’re laid off, maybe you’re just out of college, maybe you’re just out of high school. What do I want to do? I don’t want to do what I was doing before is web development for [00:15:00] me, you know.

[00:15:01] Julia: It sounds like you’ve got some really good ideas. I want to see you organize a WordPress event.

[00:15:08] Topher: Yeah, wow, that’s another thing all together. I want to see WordCamp San Francisco, so. You do yours. I’ll do mine.

[00:15:16] Julia: And my idea for WordCamp San Francisco is that it would be small. I’m thinking like, I know WordCamp San Francisco used to be hundreds of people.

I love to start with a one day. WordCamp San Francisco at the Automattic space, the Automattic office of the mission, which people that can accommodate maybe a 100 and fewer than 100, keep it a one track one day gathering. That’s about bringing community together and creating the Bay area WordPress community.

And it, it, it doesn’t need to be, I’m not benchmarking it against something that happened in the past and thinking about it.

[00:15:55] Topher: It was, it was the flagship. Yeah, you know, you’re not going to do that again, [00:16:00]

[00:16:01] Julia: but but just having any event that brings people together in the Bay Area would be so meaningful.

And this is what the world, any event that brings people together is meaningful, whether it’s 50 people or people are 150.

[00:16:16] Topher: So I want to take what you’ve said here and abstract it back to the photos event. there was no venue, so that was not a thing. We didn’t, you know, there’s no money spent on a venue.

the, I don’t know, I want to say talks. The, it was like, there was a few talks on the first day and a few at the last day, but there wasn’t a time when everybody sat in front of their computer for six hours and listened to people talk. people got out, got outside, wandered around.

So, and I, and I know they they mentioned that they were going to do [00:17:00] some ads by ad space to get people to participate, but they got so many people just by word of mouth that they didn’t need that money for that. And so they’re right there and there’s, you know, pushing back the financials. and a testament to their, their ability to get the word out.

they did a great job. given the number of people around the world, it would, it seems like it’d be hard to To make it really international and they did a good job. I was very impressed. I was sick. I was at death’s door through that whole week and I was very sad. So I missed it all.

[00:17:40] Julia: you made it to the other side.

I’m glad you did not walk through death’s door.

[00:17:42] Topher: Yes. I should have at the last minute to be a judge and that’s it. But, but you know, I got to see that. I got to hear. hear them in a zoom meeting talking about it and, and things like that. And, now I get to do this event. So [00:18:00] I’ve been talking for a while now.

tell me some of the things that made the photos thing really stand out as a great model for next gen events.

[00:18:13] Julia: Yeah. Oh, so many, so many things. the first is that it is such a creative format. It’s new, it’s different. It’s something that I’d never seen before as a WordPress event. It was targeted. It had a very specific, the communication around it was very clear about what it was and how to get involved, including for folks for whom it was the first time contributing to the WordPress photo library.

Yeah. in fact, I contributed my first photo. I don’t think I officially registered for the event, but it inspired me to contribute my cat. Yeah. And then I looked through at all the other cat photos that had been uploaded. [00:19:00]

[00:19:01] Topher: So cool. It needs more.

[00:19:02] Julia: I can help you out with that. There’s a lot. Yeah, a lot of WordPress can help you out with cat photos.

That’s for sure. So one thing was simply like the outside of the box thinking to come up with the way in which it was regionally targeted and yet online so that I felt like folks around the world were invested in it and could participate in it but also had a sense of Interest. So it’s sure. Interest to folks all over the world, super low budget online.

And I do, I think there’s a huge value to in person events too. So I am not by any means saying we should have online events and not a mix of both is useful. And this was a really engaging online event. It’s different. It’s not something that. You can go onto YouTube and find it’s, it’s an interactive format where everybody contributes and learns.

[00:20:00] those are some of the pieces that I would highlight and it’s fun. It’s like, it’s fun and rewarding and interactive. And I love all of that. I think it was just fantastic.

[00:20:15] Topher: Yeah, it was really fun to watch all of all the pictures come in and see everybody do everything. I have an RSS feed of. Of everything it’s the fire hose and for until now it’s been 30 or 40 a day and I just go through them every day.

I, I was at 2000 photos to view after the end of the event and I’m down to 980 now. But it is fun to see everybody’s photos to see their home, you know, not their house, but you know, like where they’re from what they do Yes, and takes so many pictures of Southern California mountains, [00:21:00] and they’re great and Bigel he lives in Kerala, but it’s so many photos from Europe.

They’re all over the place And now I want to, I want to have a conversation with him, you know, tell me about this. so yeah, go ahead.

[00:21:19] Julia: This is something that is really cool about that particular event format or event type. It connects people socially. So it’s, it really is a way of getting a glimpse into people’s lives, a glimpse into what people care about.

And there’s a personal touch to it.

[00:21:39] Topher: And what’s interesting to me is that when I think about personal touch in WordCamps, I think in person. We have a conversation, you touch someone’s shoulder, but you’re never going to sit at a WordCamp and look at an iPad for an hour of their photos. You know, but you would at home, you know, you’ll flip through [00:22:00] a couple of hundred photos from the day of an event and see where everybody was and what they did and all that.

And it’s a different, it’s a very personal thing. You’re not gonna get in person. I think that’s pretty cool.

[00:22:13] Julia: I agree. I’d like to ask big, who is the organizer of the event to write a recap for the community team page around Sure. What the, was like organizing it and what, what lessons did he learn? What were the successes, what might he do differently at really with the purpose of inspiring other folks to organize events.

Not the same type of event, but Mm-Hmm. to think about what, what are they passionate about? That Yeah. They, and bring people together around.

[00:22:43] Topher: Yeah, there’s a lot of wisdom there from now. Now people have done it. I have already interviewed him So if you keep your eye on the tavern in the next few days You’ll see All right.

[00:23:00] I don’t know that I have anything more for you Have I mentioned at the beginning? I don’t know a whole lot about next gen. Did I miss anything? Anything you need to get out there?

[00:23:12] Julia: Let’s see.

There’s a last piece, which is the idea of these other WordPress event types. Is that we really want WordPress events that are, that don’t require too great of an effort by organizers. So they’re doable, right? Are workable, meaning if an event inspires somebody across the globe or across the country, or.

Down the road from you that another organizer could replicate it. Right. Available. Meaning that if you wait, say that word again. Scalable, so scalable, meaning if 10 people participate, that’s great. If you want to grow the event or someone else wants to grow an event, a similar event and have 100 people [00:24:00] participate, that could work as well.

And then desirable for attendees, meaning it serves a purpose, it offers some value to attendees, that value could be Tangible skills or knowledge. It could be connection. It could be job offers. There’s, it could be contribution. There’s so many different ways to offer value to attendees, desirable and meaningful to the attendees.

So doable, replicable, scalable, and desirable. Those are the key metrics for what would be a successful WordPress event.

[00:24:35] Topher: Well done. I’ll put those in bullet points on the screen. All right. I did think of one more thing. I was thinking about more Photos events. Do, do we want to have many per year or one per year?

despite the fact that this was an international event, A lot of [00:25:00] Indians were took took place because it was based in Kerala, which makes sense. And I almost think I’d like to see it be sort of like flagship events, but there’s a city that organizes it and it’s still international, but. It’s not big and his team, you know what I mean?

And it’s and, and we would end up seeing a lot of photos of each, like the city that it’s in as well as international. But I’d like to see it move around and have it be organized by different people. And I don’t know if we could handle more than a, more than one a month, it would kill us. .

[00:25:46] Julia: Yeah. you say it would kill us, you, the photos, the photo team?

[00:25:50] Topher: Yeah. Do you know, Michelle Frechette, of course. Yes, she personally moderated 1, [00:26:00] 200 photos last week. That’s just insane. A lot of photos. And so we would need a much larger moderator team if we were gonna You know, ramp this up,

[00:26:15] Julia: next to the idea of the WordPress event being replicable. The idea that right.

We quit big old created and replicate it elsewhere.

[00:26:29] Topher: Yeah. Wow. This has been really great. I’m really excited. yeah, I’ve had a ton of ideas over the years.

[00:26:37] Julia: Yay. And if your readers, listeners, viewers are inspired by event. Yeah. and this conversation . They can apply to organize a WordPress event and, and where each team receives those applications. We vet them and then we follow up with that orientation and get them [00:27:00] going.

And really like I’ll, I’ll share, I’ll let you know where they can apply. But one thing I want to. I really encourage organizers to think about events that are manageable, that will not cause burnout, that will not be too stressful. And having low cost events is a really good way to help manage that stress level, because the more expensive an event is, the more stressful it gets.

More more on the line, right? Doable piece like we want organizers to find the process of organizing event to be so rewarding and for them to want to come back and do it again next year and and managing managing burnout, making managing overwhelm, making sure that event is. It’s doable. It’s a really good way to support that.

That’s where, where can they, where can somebody apply? I have to find the link. So [00:28:00] this is going to, would, could I?

[00:28:02] Topher: You can send it to me later. I’ll put it on the screen. during editing because editing is magic.

[00:28:10] Julia: Yeah. That’s indeed. I’ve got it right here. Okay. I will say if folks have questions also, they can always come to the community events channel and slack.

And that’s a great place to,

[00:28:21] Topher: Oh, that is a great place. Yes. You’re right. Many eyes from all. Yeah.

All right. Well, thank you very much for being here.

[00:28:31] Julia: Thank you so much. This was awesome. It’s so fun to talk to with you.

[00:28:35] Topher: Yeah, it is fun.

[00:28:37] Julia: Cool. Well, good luck. I hope you have a great rest of your day.

[00:28:40] Topher: You too. And that’s it for today’s episode.

Thanks for stopping by. I know that I’m pretty excited about all the different kinds of events that are coming, all the different places that we can go, and people we can meet, and different ways that we can interact and build things. Be sure to stop by tomorrow for the final episode of this [00:29:00] series.

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