The pandemic has dramatically slashed the number of in-person WordPress events that volunteers are organizing and events have been slow to start up again. This has caused the WordPress Community Team to reconsider the guidelines for hosting regional WordCamps.
Historically, these guidelines have generated lengthy discussions, as many vocal opponents found them to be needlessly prohibitive. WordCamps began as local, city-based events, and organizers were not allowed to put together a regional WordCamp without jumping through a lot of extra requirements. These included having experienced event organizers that represent all WordPress communities in the region. The guidelines state:
Before applying to organize a regional WordCamp, there should be at least 3 cities in your region (but very possibly more) with a local group that meets monthly, and that have hosted at least one WordCamp. The size of your region (in geography and population) will affect the expected number of established communities.
In 2017, WordPress Community Support (WCS) shut down WordCamp Netherlands in favor of city-based WordCamps, sending the Dutch community into an uproar. The region, which is roughly the size of Maryland, had successfully held six editions of WordCamp Netherlands before WCS decided not to approve its application.
The camp was reinstated in 2018 after organizers agreed to meet additional requirements in the guidelines outlined above. This was not without a significant struggle, as the project moved to shed its “one-size-fits-all” approach to WordPress events. WordCamp Netherlands is once again on the schedule for 2022 as an in-person event.
In 2017, WordPress Community Manager Hugh Lashbrooke proposed the idea of micro-regional WordCamps, which makes exceptions to the meetup requirements for regional camps in situations where neighboring cities share meetup organization responsibilities. The idea received widespread support, as it makes sense in certain instances.
“Exception is the keyword here,” WordCamp Netherlands organizer Marcel Bootsman said at the time. “If these local communities are active and healthy, let them organize a WordCamp. Be happy with the fact that people want to organize.”
WordPress is slowly coming around to this idea – that volunteer-run events thrive better with more flexible guidelines that allow for cultural and geographical differences.
In 2020, the Community team relaxed a number of guidelines, including some for regional online WordCamps, in order to help keep communities connected during a difficult time.
“This resulted in a bunch of online regional WordCamps in Centroamerica, Greece, Finland, India, Italy, Japan, Spain, and Taiwan, among others,” Community Team Representative Hari Shanker said. “These events were quite successful in bringing together local communities even despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Now that WordPress events have taken a hard hit, the Community Team is considering loosening these restrictions for in-person regional events.
“Some local communities have also approached WordCamp Central, expressing their interest in organizing regional events,” Shanker said. “At this time, our organizers are still encouraged to plan smaller city-based WordCamps over larger regional events (especially in the light of COVID restrictions that are still in place in many regions). However, I strongly feel that the Community Team should revisit the existing guidelines for regional events due to a renewed interest in the same.”
Shanker is asking for feedback on the discussion before April 4, 2022. A few contributors and organizers have already weighed in.
“Switzerland is such a small country that having separate WordCamps for Geneva, Lausanne, Bern and Zurich seems to be unnecessarily complicated,” Mark Howells-Mead said. “By re-establishing WordCamp Switzerland – which takes place in a different city each time and which was organized as a regional event until 2015 – we can better ensure that the visibility of the event and repetitive work can be more efficiently organized.”
Marcel Bootsman once again called on the Community Team to use common sense as a guide when evaluating whether a region is fit to host a WordCamp.
“We’ve had quite a few discussions about regional WordCamps in The Netherlands,” Bootsman said. “Let me just say I’m happy WCNL is back on the agenda, and I hope regional/local (city based) WordCamps are evaluated according to the country geographical size, and the feedback of the people organizing them.”