[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the Jukebox podcast from WP Tavern. My name is Nathan Wrigley.
Jukebox is a podcast which is dedicated to all things WordPress. The people, the events, the plugins, the blocks, the themes, and did this case, how and why WordCamps might change in the future?
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So on the podcast today, we have Angela Jin. It’s the first of six episodes recorded at WordCamp Europe, 2023 in Athens, Greece.
Angela is the head of programs and contributor experience at Automattic, where she oversees the work of multiple teams dedicated to the WordPress open source project. These are the community events and engagement, education, and marketing teams. Her passion lies in building strong, inclusive communities.
Several weeks ago, Angela wrote a blog post entitled The Next Generation of WordCamps. It laid out how WordCamps have been run for many years, as well as trying to begin a conversation about how they might look in the future.
During the pandemic, online events filled the gap left by in-person gatherings, but they didn’t fully replace the experience. As restrictions eased in person WordCamps made a comeback. In 2022 there were around 35 events, with only one being held online. In 2023 there have been 20 events so far, and more a planned for the rest of the year.
Angela talks about how she’s perceived a growing need for experimentation in the format of WordCamps. Currently, most WordCamps follow a tried and tested formula, with contributor days, multiple speaker presentations, the hallway track and sponsorship opportunities.
She wanted to understand the purpose of gathering people together and what they gain from these events. To gather insights Angela had conversations with organizers, sponsors, speakers, and attendees within the WordPress community. She also sought out input from experts outside the community, such as the community manager focused group CMX.
The feedback confirmed to Angela that events are essential for communities, but also that there are many event formats being used elsewhere. She explains that there is an opportunity to add more variety to WordPress event formats, and explore the connections and opportunities they create.
We discuss some ways that WordCamps might evolve by having events focused on a particular area such as SEO, or a particular demographic such as students. We also get into how these amendments might be rolled out to ensure that interested groups and geographic locals don’t miss out.
We also chat about how sponsorship plays into these changes and how funding for WordPress events might be allocated in the future.
Angela points out that there’s no specific format which has been proposed. Rather, this is a process of trying things out and seeing what works and what does not. The goal is to say yes to new event ideas and foster, a culture of innovation within WordPress events.
If you’re curious about how WordPress events might change in the future, this podcast is for you.
If you’re interested in finding out more, you can find all the links in the show notes by heading over to WPTavern.com forward slash podcast where you’ll find all the other episodes as well.
And so without further delay, I bring you Angela Jin.
I am joined on the podcast by Angela Gin. Hello, Angela.
[00:04:45] Angela Jin: Hello. How are you doing?
[00:04:46] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Really, really good. Thank you for joining me. We are at WordCamp Europe. Angela is going to talk to us today about, well, remarkably WordCamps and possibly the future of WordCamps. Prior to that conversation, Angela, would you mind just spending a minute just telling us who you are, who you work for, what your relationship is with WordPress?
[00:05:04] Angela Jin: So yes, my name is Angela Gin and I am with Automattic, where I am head of programs and contributor experience. I am full-time sponsored and so I get to work on the WordPress open source project for everything, which is fantastic.
[00:05:19] Nathan Wrigley: So we are at WordCamp Europe. Let’s just deal with that bit first, because I was just saying to somebody, I actually think of all the WordCamps I’ve ever attended, this feels like a really, truly remarkable event. I don’t know if it’s just the configuration of the building, or how people are squeezed in by the corridors and things, but it does seem to be hugely attended.
[00:05:40] Angela Jin: It is. The attendance numbers that they showed at opening remarks this morning here, that they, what it was like 2,800 people, something like that. Over that, which is really exciting.
[00:05:52] Nathan Wrigley: So WordCamps are still popular? We might get into a conversation about whether there’s an ebb and flow to that. But big events like this are still a big part of people’s calendars.
[00:06:01] Angela Jin: For everybody here, certainly so. It is buzzing with activity here.
[00:06:06] Nathan Wrigley: More broadly though, WordCamps and WordPress events, so we might use the word MeetUp for that, but I’ll just say WordPress events. Do they follow the trend of maintaining popularity? In the back of my mind when I ask that question is basically the pandemic. So pre pandemic everything was sailing along smoothly, and then we had this massive wall in the road. Everything stopped.
It felt like at that moment there was a bit of a change. The online events filled a gap, but they didn’t fill the entire gap. And then WordPress events came back online in various different formats. Where are we at now? Obviously this event is super well attended, but if we were to look at the whole of WordPress events, would that be the case, or are we still trying to rebuild a bit?
[00:06:54] Angela Jin: Yeah, I think we are definitely trying to rebuild, but I think that is true for everything, even not just events. So yes, prior to the pandemic we were smooth sailing. We were very active WordCamps around the world. And yeah, during the pandemic it was, we needed to shift how we met.
So we met online and it was difficult. And so since 2021, we’ve started shifting into, I think we had one in-person WordCamp that year at the very, very end of the year. Last year in 2022, I believe we had around. 35 events total, and I think only one of them was online. And so clearly we are coming back, which is great. But we are nowhere near where we were prior to the pandemic. But I think that is, that’s very understandable. As we’re trying to get back into things.
So far this year we are at, I believe we have had, not including this event because we’re not quite all the way through yet. I think we’ve had 20 events, I want to say. And so we’re well ahead of where we were compared to last year. And we do still have quite a few events on the calendar through the end of the year.
So yeah, from a pure numbers of WordCamp perspective, I think we are trying our best to come back. From an attendance perspective, interestingly during when we had online events, our attendance rates far exceeded what we expected them to be. I think because it’s so easy to have an online event and then just show up for however much of it you want to show up for. And so, that’s an interesting attendance piece there. But attendance rates are pretty much in line with what we saw prior to the pandemic as well.
[00:08:43] Nathan Wrigley: Oh really? As of now, so we’re recording this in June 2023. Broadly speaking, the numbers are similar to 2019, say.
[00:08:53] Angela Jin: So with fewer events, from a pure number of people’s perspective, fewer, but, the attendance rate for events, by which I mean expected attendance for events versus actual attendance. It’s always hovered around like 90 to 95% for events, and so we are, we’re holding study there, and also in the average number of attendees per event.
[00:09:16] Nathan Wrigley: Okay. We’re going to reference a piece that you wrote on make.wordpress.org. It was written last month, it was May 8th, and it was called The Next Generation of WordCamps. I think this will probably dominate the rest of the conversation. And in that piece you laid out the possible groundwork, I’ll say possible, for a change to the way these WordPress events are done.
I could lead you with the questions, trying to tease out what’s in that article. I don’t know if you can remember all the details. But do you just want to run us broadly what you were saying in that?
[00:09:46] Angela Jin: Yeah, that was, it was quite a post to write and to put out there. But I’m really excited by it. So, what I set out to do there was to capture some of the needed updates to our events program that I’m seeing, that I think we might need to have in our events program.
The way this came about was pretty interesting because I think prior to the pandemic we were starting to see some people want more out of their WordCamps. And I think that makes a lot of sense. This format that we have has been the staple since 2006. And what’s really changed is how many events that we have, and the scale of them, and the size, and how many people are able to attend.
However, even prior to the pandemic, we were starting to hear from people that they wanted more variety in their content. They wanted advanced topics. They really wanted to be able to have more workshops to learn things that they were able to take back to their everyday lives. And that, coupled with all of the changes with the pandemic, at this point in WordPress events, I really started thinking about how the way that we meet has shifted dramatically. And after 20 years, of course, like that makes a lot of sense.
And so, I am very much a community manager at heart, and so when I think about gathering people together, I really think about what is the purpose of gathering people together. When we ask people to come join us in this space, why? Like what are they getting out of it? What draws them here? What makes the best use of their time and attention?
And so that prompted a whole discovery session where, it was hard to write about at that time, because I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into. I started really asking a bunch of people in the community, organizers, sponsors, speakers, first time attendees, experienced attendees. And I think everybody really loves this community. Like that is a resounding sentiment that I hear all the time.
And at the same time we want more out of our events, and we want some more specific things. And it was very similar to what I was seeing before the pandemic as well. And so there was a lot of, within the WordPress community, confirmation that this seemed like something needed to be updated.
[00:12:15] Nathan Wrigley: So, where did the information that people wanted this come from? Did you do surveys? Were you just polling in places like Slack? Where did the feedback that updates needed to be done, where did that tend to come from?
[00:12:28] Angela Jin: Yeah, for sure. So it did start with a lot of conversations within the community, with organisers, speakers, sponsors. And the community team is very fortunate to have this excellent community deputy group. They’re all past organizers, and are very experienced with the make community team. So they’re very familiar with our program.
And so I started there. And then I also went outside of the WordPress community to chat with a number of event organizers, like event experts, people who do events for a living. To see what sort of trends that they were seeing as well. And one group that I really like to look to is CMX. It’s a community for community managers. And they, every year they put out an excellent report. They pole well over 400 community professionals from around the world.
And they confirmed that events are a staple for communities, and of course, no surprise there. And that it was both in-person and online events. And some of the report findings there, they were seeing where certain types of events were filling certain needs.
So I think, education is a really good one. So like trainings that we’re providing to our community, those are, really popular in both online and in person formats. And I think Learn WordPress has done a great job in continuing, like I think that helps me confirm what CMX expressed in their report, because we do have these great online workshops that happen all the time. They’re really well attended.
At the same time, trainings also work really well in person, according to the CMX report. And in-person events, it’s really good for one-on-one connection. Things like this when we’re looking at each other, having a conversation. And so, like different formats fill different spaces. And I think we are really missing an opportunity to add more variety into our event formats, and see what sort of connections that creates. What sort of opportunities that unlocks.
[00:14:33] Nathan Wrigley: We’ll get onto the new possible formats, and you’ve thrown out a whole bunch of different things that we might do. I’ve got a question around sponsorship. I don’t really know what the sponsorship picture is. I confess, I don’t. explore that data. I don’t try to find it. So, I don’t know what the state of sponsorships are. But how does that feed into this?
Are you changing things? Has there been in the back of your mind changing things in order to attract sponsors? Has there been a, an up swell in the same way that you described just now that the community are coming back, there’s more people attending. Have the sponsorships come back? Because my understanding anecdotally, at least anyway, is there was a period a little while ago where the sponsorship felt a bit sketchy for a while. It wasn’t quite getting where it ought to be.
[00:15:13] Angela Jin: Yeah, I think there’s a number of things there. As we all know, companies are very financially aware right now, and at the same time cost are extremely high. And so I think we are definitely feeling that pressure of really justifying the value of these events to sponsors and also being able to afford venues, for example. Venues are one of our, they are the highest cost right now. And then when you add on food, after party, AV, those expenses are very high right now.
And so yeah, the amount of sponsorship that we want to raise is higher, and at a time where the economy is struggling, that’s a difficult thing. However, we are doing, we are doing well overall. I think, as you can tell from the sponsor activity downstairs, it seems to be doing really well.
We raised enough for the global sponsors that we aim to raise, and we also just added another global sponsor. So overall we are doing well and I think it’s really wonderful that WordPress community support has always been very budget conscious. We work closely with organizers to make sure that we are as responsible and as aware of what we’re spending money on as possible.
With new events, I think it’s a really interesting thing for sponsorship, and I have spoken with, before I posted that post, I did speak with our global sponsors because I didn’t want them to be surprised by this change, given that they fund all of our events for the full year.
They were excited by it overall. They were seeing the same trends that I was seeing, and I was very clear that this is an experiment, and we’re going to, we’re going to encourage the community to try things out and see what happens. And that I really wanted to hear from them what sort of sponsor benefits they saw, they would like, and that we would have that conversation. Yeah, I think that’s largely what I’m seeing from our sponsors. They’re really curious to see what comes of this, and they’re excited as well.
[00:17:15] Nathan Wrigley: I wonder, does an event like WordCamp EU , which is truly on a very different scale from let’s say a local meetup or something like that, or a much more regional WordCamp. It feels as if sponsors and all of that would be falling over themselves to come here, because they can capture a truly enormous audience of interested people.
But I wonder what the trickle down of that is. In other words, if we were to have the same conversation, but we weren’t sitting in WordCamp Europe and we were sitting in a much smaller event. How does the sponsorship work there? Are we still in a strong position to put on local WordCamps with the model that we’ve got and, Meetups, regional WordCamps, all of that kind of thing?
Because it feels like WordCamp Europe, that would almost be the last thing to fail. The sponsors would be desperate to get here. How is it looking for the smaller events, the ones in, I don’t know, capital cities or the ones in regional cities throughout the world?
[00:18:14] Angela Jin: It is different, given the scale of WordCamp Europe. Overall our events large and small, have, they’ve been able to raise a good amount of money locally. We do augment that with global sponsorship. That’s what the global sponsor fund is there for. And so yeah, we do our best to, the priority of WordCamps is the attendees. And so we really want our organizers to be able to focus on creating the best experience for WordCampers, as opposed to spending so much time raising money. Because fundraising is challenging. I’ve done plenty of it myself and it is hard work.
[00:18:53] Nathan Wrigley: Do you have a list of WordCamps which in an ideal world, these ones would be put on? In other words, I’ve got a list of 800, here’s the top 10 that we must make happen. Here’s a further a hundred, which we’d love to happen. And sadly there’s a few down here which might not make the cut. I don’t know how that decision tree looks.
[00:19:11] Angela Jin: Oh, it’s very much up to the community. Any organizer that wants to have a WordPress event, the community team wants to support them in having that. That is very much what the community team is there for.
And so I think one of, bringing this back to Next Gen events, one of the things that I was seeing that I think a lot of community members are seeing, from organizers, is that they have interest in doing something that’s a slightly different format from the WordCamps that we know and love.
But they feel like they can’t do that because it’s not a WordCamp. And I think we should be saying yes to those. We should be encouraging all those, all those really creative ideas for how to connect and engage with each other, not do them for sake of doing what we know and love.
[00:20:00] Nathan Wrigley: I think it’s always true that things have to evolve. That much is clear. So let’s get into that. You just called it, them, Next Gen events. Whether or not that’s the word we end up using, I don’t know, but for now, let’s go with that. What are some of the things that you are proposing could be a Next Gen event? How do they differ?
So, a WordCamp at the moment, at least the ones that I’ve been to, is several days. You show up, there’s often several tracks. There’s a whole range of different topics on offer. There’s usually a hallway track where people engage. There’s an after party, all of those kind of things. So that’s how we know it at the moment. What are you thinking of doing to change that?
[00:20:39] Angela Jin: Yeah, I really am curious to see what people come up with. What I propose there was a really, I consider it more of a evolution as opposed to a change. We’re not doing away with any of the WordCamps that are currently on the calendar, that want to come and organize. What we are doing is encouraging community members to express what sort of events they want to see. And so a few that, I think I had included in that post, were things like, focused on contribution.
They were focused on all day workshops that really help people learn specific skills. One thing that I’ve heard over and over is that people want to learn advanced skills. Advanced WordPress development, design, content creation, things like that. And so we could really do a lot with that.
One interesting format, it was described to me as a shark tank, but nice. We’re a very, I know, I love that. We’re a very entrepreneurial community and if we’re going to help everybody really succeed in that, then we need to give them some place to come and explore their ideas. Learn from each other around what it really takes to make all of that happen.
Yeah, coming to an event, sharing a pitch, and getting feedback from people who have been there before, who are able to help them refine and strengthen their ideas and then make connections to make those happen. That’s pretty exciting.
[00:22:13] Nathan Wrigley: I’m going to quote directly from your piece because I think it perfectly sums up what you’d hope. What you are looking for in the future. So this is not a cast iron set of things which are going to happen. These are just some possible suggestions, and it says, so I quote, the hope is that a period of innovation and experimentation will follow this critical shift in the purpose of our rents with the following outcomes.
Events curated for clearly defined audiences, resulting in a clearer idea of what attendees will gain from participating. For example, events for students, for designers, for contributors. So that’s point 1. Point 2, a more precise focus around event content types or topics. This will also help further clarify who the event is for. For example, maybe an event on AI and WordPress, user experience enterprise, et cetera. That’s point 2. And point 3, a variety of event formats that are freshly exciting and engaging for attendees. For example, workshops, unconference, job fairs, pure networking, et cetera.
So there’s the three points, and each of those, if I attended an event like one of those, it would be radically different to something that we’re attending now. So let’s just take those piece by piece. This idea of defined audiences. So you mentioned here, for example, students, designers, contributors. That’s an idea, it may have legs, it may not. You’re trying to figure that out.
Is the intention there then to literally put an event up where it’s advertised toward students primarily, or to designers primarily. So people seeing that, who are not students, or not designers would feel, do you know what, that’s maybe one I’ll hold back on. I’ll look for a different one at a different point. Is that the idea of that one?
[00:23:51] Angela Jin: Yes, kind of. The point is definitely not to, I don’t want to exclude anybody from any of these events. However, I do think that, where we are in a world where finances are tightened, and it is expensive to commit to the time and to commit to the travel to an event, that people want to know what they are going to get out of it.
And by clearly articulating who this event is really designed for, we can provide an event that really delivers that kind of content. I was recently at Open Source 101, was held at a community college, and the mix there was very clearly students. Or people who were looking to change jobs into open source. And they were very clear from the beginning that this was,
I mean, it’s in the name Open Source 101. This is introductory content for anyone who wants to learn about open source. It’s really broad, but at the same time, very clear about what you’re going to get by participating in this event.
[00:24:55] Nathan Wrigley: I guess because WordPress events have largely tried to scoop everybody up in the past. You know, if you’ve got in any way a connection to WordPress, you could attend this event. But I suppose I wouldn’t really be attending an event about, oh, I don’t know, let’s pluck some subject out of the top of my head. Cisco networking. It’s in the technology space. I’m not interested in it. I’d far rather attend a WordPress event. So what you’re really trying to do is subdivide what we’ve already got into maybe something that you would be just slightly more interested in, because it’s more directly related to what your business does or what you’re interested in.
[00:25:30] Angela Jin: Yes, and I do think that there is a space where we are undeniably multidisciplinary. It does not serve us well to just have events where we only have developers meet in one location and community builders meet in another location. And yeah, there are many developers who are also community builders. I’m just pulling those two groups as examples. And so yeah, I would also love to see events where we do celebrate that multidisciplinary community, and bring all of them together because, amazing connections and ideas come from that.
And so I’m not trying to segment the community into all these events, but to increase the variety in events and to help people understand what they’re going to get by participating in one or the other. And I think that for many WordPressers, they would benefit from an event that is specialized for them, with content where they are going to learn more than what they currently know and further their career, further their skills, further their interests. And to participate in another event where they can focus on learning more about something that they touch in their life, but don’t necessarily know a ton about.
[00:26:47] Nathan Wrigley: The third bullet point that I just talked about there was event formats. And you mentioned workshops. I’m quite familiar with that. We have those at WordCamps, so it’s more, instead of being presented at, from a stage, that’s more, okay, let’s all try the things together. You bring your laptop and we’ll all try to figure out the same problem at the same time. But there are some other ones in there that are really new to me. So an unconference. What is that?
[00:27:12] Angela Jin: I think it’s also referred to as like birds of a feather. I think it has its roots in the tech community where we basically just get a bunch of people together in a room, around one topic, and the attendees really drive the agenda.
They suggest a topic around what everybody is brought here for. And then people will vote with their feet and go to those discussions to talk about them. And so the conversation is very, very attendee driven and very organic. There’s no one speaker. Sometimes there is, whoever proposes the topic can be the facilitator, but that’s not a requirement.
[00:27:50] Nathan Wrigley: I think the other ones we probably understand a little bit more as well. So we’ve just mentioned workshops, unconferences, job fairs, and pure networking. They probably speak for themselves. So I’ll leave those to one side.
Is there a danger that one of the consequences of trying this out is that we will end up with events which are more specific? That therefore would attract a more specific audience? At the moment, if you wander downstairs into the hall, there’s just this broad church of people from all over the world with different backgrounds.
You know, you’ve got the SEO people, the marketing people, the coders. You name it, they’re there. And because of that, you get this serendipitous collision of people meeting in the hallway track. Unexpected connections are made. Unexpected partnerships are forged, and all of that. Is there a danger that we may lose a part of that? And that’s an unquantifiable part because nobody’s really writing up what connections they made. It just is what people talk about.
Is there a danger that that may be lost, because we’ve just got a bunch of SEO people in the room, or we’ve just got a bunch of AI people in the room
[00:28:55] Angela Jin: I understand that worry, and I see where the post might make that feel more like a reality. But I can never imagine a WordPress community that would ever let that go. I want to encourage that as well because I love it. One of the concerns that came, that I’m hearing after this post, is are we going to lose that community led feel of our events?
And I do not want to. Like that is, that is our strength. We are community first. All of our events are very community first. And we have a number of values that come along with that that I truly feel are non-negotiable. Things like our ticket prices to attend WordCamps are very low.
We want to make them as accessible as possible. I don’t want to lose that. I want to be able to have everybody come to these events. And so things like diversity and inclusion and creating welcoming spaces, those are all non-negotiables. And so I really believe that we can take this experiment, this evolution, and make it community led.
And we do have a ton of businesses in WordPress, and I could see a more business focused event, where it is for agencies, for enterprise, because they are a part of this community. And I believe we can do those events as community led first.
[00:30:19] Nathan Wrigley: I guess there’s something about geography in here as well in that if, let’s say, you have a business event and it’s in Miami. Then Miami has had its business event. But Sydney didn’t. Brussels didn’t. So there’s got to be some new piece of the puzzle where, okay, we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got these new event types and we’ve got to spread them out evenly over time so that we don’t exclude Miami. They never get the SEO event, it never comes their way.
So there’s a whole other piece about, there’s more management to be done about the topics and whether a certain geographical area has had something recently, or if it’s been five years ago. Do you know what I mean?
[00:30:55] Angela Jin: Yeah. And in my mind, this goes to one of our open source philosophies that we create things because we’re scratching an itch. And so yeah, if Miami has an amazing contribution event and Brussels says we want one too, then let’s do it. Like I said, the community team it wants to encourage events, so let’s have it.
[00:31:19] Nathan Wrigley: With this change over happening, presumably there’s going to be a period where the events that we’re used to will carry on. So, I think you said a little while ago that if you’re already on the roster, if you’ve already put in a proposal and it’s been accepted, we are going to be staying with how it always has been. So it’s more from now on. You’re going to be encouraging people who haven’t yet submitted proposals. Is that true? Is that how it’s going to be rolled out?
[00:31:42] Angela Jin: Yeah, we want to support all organizers to know the latest and greatest in the program. And so yeah, as new organizers come, we will let them know about what the community is doing, and where we’re going, where we hope to go.
This is very much an experiment and it seems to be getting a lot of interest. We already have, I believe, over 60 idea submissions. We do have an idea submissions page, so if there is an event that you would like to see, please, please do go and share it with us. By sharing an idea, you are not committed to it.
But part of what we’re trying to do is to collect all of these great ideas and share them with everyone so that if something sparks interest in people, they can do it in their community. Or if they have an idea to add on top of that, let’s try it out. I’m really hoping that we learn from each other to see where this goes. It is an experiment. If we all decide that we don’t like it and it doesn’t work, then we can definitely go back to what we know and do really well.
[00:32:44] Nathan Wrigley: You’ve already anticipated one of my questions, which was do we have a reverse gear?
[00:32:48] Angela Jin: Yes.
[00:32:49] Nathan Wrigley: In terms of this being rolled out, if I have already submitted a proposal, we know where that’s going now. How though are we going to make the transition? Are we going to do it all at once? So we’re going to, let’s say two years from now, a new event and it’s about this one topic. Are we going to mix what we’ve got now? So say one day, just like it is at the minute, with another day of the new format, so that people can attend both at the same time and vote with their feet if you like?
And a poll afterwards to figure out, okay, everybody like the new format, let’s push forward with that. In other words, how are you going to manage the rollout? Is it going to be sudden? So a new event is a new type, or are you going to gently mix it in with the old ones?
[00:33:29] Angela Jin: I don’t know. I think it’s really going to be what the community would like to see. We are starting to see people, there’s a lot of excitement for this from what I can see. We already have organizers reaching out to the community team to host these events. We are also figuring out the tooling for it right now.
So, there’s another post about that, please go share your thoughts on that. But we do have some that are being scheduled. I believe there is one event that is, actually we talked about this, an event for organizers to, to help train other organisers.
[00:34:04] Nathan Wrigley: Like an event for an event?
[00:34:06] Angela Jin: Yes. I’m hearing about events that want to bring WordPress to communities that don’t necessarily have a strong WordPress community or any WordPress community at all. And see how bringing this technology to a different place, how it goes. And I’m also hearing events where we want to provide, new to WordPress, come to this day of workshops and learn how to use the site editor and learn how to, launch your own website.
[00:34:36] Nathan Wrigley: So new events will be more refined? At the moment if we attend an event, we can see, let’s say an event like this, we can probably see 30 different topics. We’re going to refine the events. Are there certain things which are outside of the remit of an entire event?
So, for example, SEO feels like a big enough subject for an entire WordCamp. There’s enough content there. But maybe there’s something a bit more niche, which you hear once at an event like the one we’re at. But it wouldn’t span the whole weekend say.
So that’s my question really. Are there some things which are within the purview of this and some things which you are excluding? You maybe don’t have any thoughts on that, but I’m just curious to know if there is going to be some things which are in scope and other things which are not.
[00:35:21] Angela Jin: Yeah, it’s an interesting question because, I think everything that we’re seeing proposed right now does very much feel within the scope. But I’m sure at some point there’s going to be some topic that raises some eyebrows. And I think this is why having a purpose is really helpful for that. Because we are asking that. How does your idea align with the purpose of what we’re trying to do here?
And I would really encourage us to be experimental because WordPress is not an island. We are a part of a much larger tech ecosystem and understanding the external influences to WordPress, and how WordPress influences those areas is really important, and will help us grow. And help us bring new people in, new ideas in.
I would like to, I keep coming back to this word, but I would really like to be very experimental about it. And like I said, if we don’t like it, we can always go back and we have a very strong track record of being responsible with sponsor dollars. And so if there is an event that we’re like, hmm, like, we’re not quite sure how that’s going to work out, maybe we try it in a smaller scale and see how we can scale it.
[00:36:34] Nathan Wrigley: You could try something a bit novel in a smaller event and see if it’s popular, see if it gains traction and what have you.
[00:36:40] Angela Jin: I’m really excited to see where this goes. And it is really lovely being here at WordCamp Europe to talk about this, because I’m excited by how excited everybody else is about this.
I think there are a lot of questions about it, which is totally understandable, and I really believe that we can figure them out together. So, yeah, let’s see where it goes. And the only thing I would add is, please come and share your thoughts. Please share your thoughts on the idea as a whole, what ideas you have for events, and on what potential tooling needs we might need.
[00:37:13] Nathan Wrigley: Where do we share the thoughts?
[00:37:15] Angela Jin: Uh, yes. There are three posts on the community, on the make community blog, and that is where a lot of the discussion is happening. The community team has regular meetings where this is a regular topic of conversation. And so yeah, come chat with any of the community deputies. Come chat with me and yeah, let’s see where this goes.
[00:37:36] Nathan Wrigley: So I will link to those places in the show notes. So if you’re curious about anything that Angela said, you can find the post on WP Tavern, and click on the links. Angela Jin, thank you very much for talking to me today. I really appreciate it.
[00:37:47] Angela Jin: Thank you.
On the podcast today we have Angela Jin. It’s the first of six podcast episodes recorded at WordCamp Europe 2023, in Athens, Greece.
Angela is the Head of Programs and Contributor Experience at Automattic, where she oversees the work of multiple teams dedicated to the WordPress open source project. These are the community events and engagement, education, and marketing teams. Her passion lies in building strong, inclusive communities.
Several weeks ago, Angela wrote a blog post entitled The Next Generation of WordCamps. It laid out how WordCamps have been run for many years, as well as trying to begin a conversation about how they might look in the future.
During the pandemic, online events filled the gap left by in-person gatherings, but they didn’t fully replace the experience. As restrictions eased, in-person WordCamps made a comeback. In 2022, there were around 35 events, with only one being held online. In 2023, there have been 20 events so far, and more are planned for the rest of the year.
Angela talks about how she’s perceived a growing need for experimentation in the format of WordCamps. Currently, most WordCamps follow a tried and tested formula, with contributor days, multiple speaker presentations, the hallway track and sponsorship opportunities. She wanted to understand the purpose of gathering people together and what they gain from these events.
To gather insights, Angela had conversations with organisers, sponsors, speakers, and attendees within the WordPress community. She also sought input from event experts outside the community, such as the community manager-focused group CMX.
The feedback confirmed to Angela that events are essential for communities but also that there are many event formats being used elsewhere. She explains that there is an opportunity to add more variety to WordPress event formats and explore the connections and opportunities they create.
We discuss some ways that WordCamps might evolve by having events focussed upon a particular area, such as SEO, or a particular demographic, such as students. We also get into how these amendments might be rolled out to ensure that interested groups and geographic locales don’t miss out.
We also chat about how sponsorships play into these changes and how funding for WordPress events might be allocated in the future.
Angela points out that there’s no specific format which is being proposed, rather this is a process of trying things out and seeing what works and what does not. The goal is to say “yes” to new ideas and foster a culture of innovation within WordPress events.
If you’re curious about how WordPress events might change in the future, this podcast is for you.