EP318 – WordCamps – It’s all too much?

April 19, 2019

On this episode of WPwatercooler, the conversation centers around the evolving landscape of WordPress events like WordCamps and meetups. The panelists discuss the pros and cons of event swag like t-shirts and branded battery packs, pondering if the budget could be better allocated towards enhancing the overall event experience. Suggestions include offering more inclusive food options or even closed captioning services. The discussion also delves into the need for an intermediate event between meetups and WordCamps to help beginners get up to speed. This could be a half-day workshop focused solely on newcomers, aiming to help them overcome the initial roadblocks. The conversation shifts to the social aspects of these events, particularly the after-parties. The team debates the effectiveness of on-site versus off-site after-parties, and how they serve as either a networking opportunity or just a place to unwind. The panelists also reflect on the value of these gatherings beyond the technical talks; it’s the “in-between” moments that inspire and build community. Finally, there’s a nod towards sustainability, suggesting a move away from non-biodegradable swag. The episode wraps up with some teasers for upcoming WordCamp Long Beach and WPwatercooler’s live event at WordCamp Orange County.

00:00 Introduction
02:05 WordCamp Swag: Yay or Nay?
04:30 The Importance of Networking at WordCamps
08:10 The Impact of T-Shirts & Merch on New Attendees
11:05 WordCamp Food Options & Special Requirements
14:20 Using WordCamp for Educational Opportunities
16:00 The Balance of Traditional vs Digital Scheduling at WordCamps
18:30 In-Between Events: New Types of WordPress Meetings
20:20 Onboarding Beginners at WordPress Events
22:15 After Parties: On-site vs Off-site
24:40 Socializing and Community Building
26:30 Room for Growth and Improvement
28:15 Sustainability in Swag Choices
29:45 WordCamp Long Beach Announcements & Closing Remarks

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Episode Transcription

(00:00) all right here we go what’s up everyone this is Jason Tucker and this is WP water cooler episode number 318 318 this is probably the one of the biggest times busiest times of my typical yearly endeavors that work of it’s Easter time and it’s crazy busy over there so yeah I’m super excited about that so 318 we’re gonna be talking about word camps it’s all too much question mark and we’re gonna go around the room real quick get everyone introduced Jamal hey how’s it going I have different sets
(00:42) every month so this month for the at least for the next 5 days I’ll be the lead organizer for Orange County where it can ice we still have some eight or nine tickets left so leave it leave it leave that camp six five four three two one that’s it thank you for your service as always trouble Manny how about you tell us about yourself yeah I am busy in Las Vegas I organized the I thought I was the lead organizer of what camp in Brazil Fortaleza Brazil 2016 I helped Robert a couple years ago to organize
(01:26) here in Las Vegas and we I’m we are in the early stage so now organizing the Vortech 2000 my team that f year university here for Las Vegas Joe Hawk is is leading that good to have you on good to have you say how about you hello I’m say read a Bruin my name is Leo I am the ecosystems engagement shadows xwp I’m all soaked organizing work Cambridge County which is next weekend and we are now officially in the pre planning stages of work camp Long Beach which is like I forgot I can append that to my
(02:10) thing now can I append I’m all soaked organized everywhere can’t blow it shouldn’t everybody organizing me after Freddie well I’m a corps organizer for WordPress organized organizer I contributed to WordPress there’s two missing costs per how about you I have no idea how all of you got into my messy messy office but it’s good to see you Jason Casper aka the human marquee tag AKA kurt autoloader just happy to be here today ready to talk WordPress I’m Casper good to have you on I’m Jason Tucker you can find me at
(02:59) Jason Tucker on Twitter my website over adjacent I gotta blog you find all the fun stuff that I got going on over there I also do another show called WP blab I do that with Bridgette Willard we do that on Thursday so feel free to go take a look at that and hey you know Leo’s title that’s like some title goals right there for me cuz that is insane ecosystems and engagement strategist the next VP dude that is like puts energy up in there somewhere too and it would be perfect exactly part-time yoga attendee
(03:33) full-time headache talk a little bit about word camps you know we were during the pre-show we were discussing a little bit about about about word camps in general but also very local to us so let’s see here all of us except for Manny are in California and so we have a ton of word camps in Southern California we have a lot of work camps in California in general and we have word camps that you know that that used to be here and now they’re not or maybe they’re taking a break you know another word camps taking it over you got that
(04:17) going on with Long Beach you got a couple different those sorts of things that are happening here you have ones in Riverside and they just like start sprouting up everywhere and just tons of WordCamp supper going on and you know we want to discuss kind of the the it’s more like the excessiveness or just like how much stuff is going on within word camps and and then the stuff that you get at word camps and just all the stuff that comes in with that and I wanted to kind of I wanted to kind of set the tone a little bit just so we can
(04:44) make sure we’re able to kind of hit a couple of those spots but there’s just a lot going on in you know setting up working out getting sponsors for a work camp and then all the tchotchke type stuff that we hand out at word camps you know you got like things like this you know we just get tons of stuff at work camps and so let’s discuss this a little bit about like work camps in general and then we’ll get into before the the absolute and crazy meta type stuff of products in all sorts of those sorts of
(05:14) things yeah before that we should say that what camps especially for beginners it’s an amazing thing I think it’s I I think we should even give a discount for beginners like first-timers what do you think about that if you would the first time what the discounted price of like $40 what are you well actually I think I started like a few years ago we have this special ticket price like you are like a micro sponsor or something mm-hmm you can pay a little bit more I think that’s a great idea to you know
(05:54) especially for the what camp junkies like you know a few of us how many of us have Gondo word camp and never actually like sat in on a talk like I went to two word camps where I never actually sat down and learned anything I just walked her around and talked everybody the entire time I was there yeah and you learn things that way as well but I did you actually I feel like occasionally I learned more in the hallway than I do in some of the sessions and that’s not just like any of the sessions but sometimes
(06:26) there are things that are booked you know like oh okay I have a grasp and an understanding of this subject this subject in this subject I’m just going to hang out and talk to John the hallway for an hour you know and and we’ll be s and he’ll put me on to something I’ll put him on to something you know it’s like oh wow that conversation was I especially if you see that the talk is being recorded for what Press TV right so we could the budget later oh that’s being recorded I’ll watch it
(07:02) later to be like oh I’m gonna take this video or something and then you like never go back through your videos again and watch them and you’re like oh totally I’ll see that but I don’t know maybe you’re a different type of person I hit the watch later button on YouTube all the time and I would hate to go back and look at my watch later queue a reading list in in iOS and Safari I think I hit I add stuff to reading list instead of bookmarking it like all the time and my reading list is like seven
(07:32) hundred items deep I mean I think that I think that part of the strength of the WordPress community in terms of conversations know people who people are like that hallway chat concept whether it is for going to the workshops or the sessions or we’re used there to connect with people I mean I don’t think that’s too much because one we’re getting out of our offices which is a difficult thing to do when you’re a computer-based worker right and also we’re all tend to be geeks so we also hang out on our
(08:07) computers and so getting up and being somewhere in person even just that is nice it gives people an excuse to travel and have write-offs for their companies it it creates a sense of community beyond the digital and it gives kids an excuse for people to meet and I don’t think without without the word camps I don’t think the WordPress community would be remotely as strong as it is it also creates stronger local core communities like for example leo has been organizing the long beach meet up for miles now and two years ago at some
(08:43) and I never go to meetups because you know that’s just not something that I need to do at this point in my but I am gonna be on the organizing team forward camp Long Beach and that’s giving me an opportunity to connect more connect more with the rest of the kind of not like hardcore community but basically that the core WordPress community in my in my community and that creates like this opportunity to just form relationships and and you know just be like human and I think that that brings that human angle to WordPress
(09:16) that is not just doesn’t exist in in any other ecosystem because of this unique structure anything that gets me out of like most days I wear pajama pants while I work because I work from home anything would actually gets me to put on like jeans or you know a pair with your troop yeah yeah yeah a formal teacher that’s that’s a good one maybe yeah yeah exactly exactly a clean hoodie instead of the one that just sits draped over the back of my chair all day you know that is that is absolutely a good
(09:54) thing but I mean let’s just Southern California like Jason kind of alluded to we have Orange County Wow while Jonathan appears we have Orange County we have Los Angeles which is taking a hiatus being replaced by Long Beach we have Riverside we have San Diago we have you know let’s see what other ones am I missing and then we have the ones that are accessible to the west coast we have Phoenix we have Las Vegas which will be making a comeback go up north there’s one up in Sacramento what happened is
(10:40) they were going to do its fifth year Denver these are all really honestly on there was about an about a 90 minute plane ride away for for most people on the west coast and then you know you go up to to Portland and Seattle it’s it’s basically and and you see a lot of the same faces at this i I’ve kind of historically likened it to to like the nerdy version of going to see the Grateful Dead I’m not a Grateful Dead fan necessarily but it’s like going around to a dead show you see the same people hanging out I feel I feel like I
(11:18) struck a chord there with say you’re muted say like the fish every last movie is short and short and the ones that are a little further up north I have spoken out I have applied to speak at like over since 2011 I’ve been speaking at all these different like very like west coast south west word camps and I’m sure that I know a number of you have as well either you know speaking or in a support role I know Jason gives a lot of his time with working with video and stuff Cece do you see a lot of the same faces
(12:18) and in a way and maybe it’s because I’ve been around doing this stuff for so long that it kind of gets it can get to be a little routine I’ve taken a few work camp la is off and it’s nothing against away but I was also the motivator for WordPress TV we have the problem of choosing these sessions because most of them are similar so now we are publishing everything and we see that most of the viewers are usually the beginners they want to learn something it’s not like a the way that we talk oh
(13:11) I missed this session let me go and watch it again nobody does that it’s only people who has no access to the word caps goes and watches if there is no word cap in your area those people are though was that call to work Press TV now when you have it on the YouTube so we can’t get more the data Jamel how many it’s the first timers for boot camp already come to this year well this is more than one church so we are having it’s going up and up so we are having first-timers this time this year board and normal
(13:47) it’s really good yeah I mean I think it’s it really important that we don’t we as the grizzled jaded people have been in WordPress for a long time you know be like oh well this is so boring weird camps are useless like that wasn’t our experience when we were starting and learning this stuff and forming the community and I think that be part of this evolution of WordPress is that we touched on this a little bit last week with some of these like kind of extra word press conferences like press stomachs and like you know some other
(14:21) ones but you know I think that there’s there’s probably room for a you know word camp us sort of serves that role as like the greater conference for more and kind of not I don’t wanna say advanced necessarily but like people who’ve been in the WordPress community longer I don’t think I don’t feel that we’re camp us really caters to beginners in the way that a lot of word camp locals do but I think there’s actually room for that there’s room for a conference word camps that are more for people who you know
(14:56) maybe want to talk about different angles or even you know governance and things like that versus just you know here’s how to set up your page and here’s the difference between themes and you know that stuff that you can literally go find a million different talks on and you know all that stuff changes daily like themes change all the time plugins change all the time and so even if it’s the same essence of a talk you know it still can be a different talk so there’s I find there’s a lot of value
(15:24) for people who are just getting started small business people to go to those I recommend they go those word camps to get a taste of that so I just think it’s important for us to make that distinction between what we think is valuable versus what the Greater WordPress community especially the beginners who are just getting involved would find valuable now see I I think I think that all of it is is valuable absolutely I mean I keep going I’m on track to go to you know at least five or six word camps this year or you
(15:56) know five or six like you know WordPress related events and one of the things that kind of in doing this for so long and I know the beginners kind of maybe have a different perspective on this and I am pretty sure that if I walk through the door with any more WordPress swag and I don’t mean to you know beat my when it’s gonna kill me if I walk through the door with another wordpress teacher if I walked through the door with and and as a speaker I get you know these nice little gets like you know pint glasses occasionally a branded
(16:30) battery pack or something like that I just really wish that there was a way that I could opt out of this stuff but I could say hey you know what instead of giving me a t-shirt like you know still given t-shirts to the people who want t-shirts the people you know who who need it you know who want to show that they were there but if I could opt out if other people could opt out and then that money could be spent on something that would you know especially for us older jaded heads who that money could be spent on something like closed
(17:04) captioning I know Jamaal you were telling you this year that word Camp Orange County isn’t gonna have closed captioning where you guys had it last year and you know from an accessibility standpoint being able to say you know what I don’t want a word camp Orange County t-shirt I’m doing judging plug-in Palooza and I’m doing water core so I’ll be participating in word camp Orange County I might get a speaker get if I could have said hey you know what whatever you guys give me this great thing you’re gonna give me for a speaker
(17:35) get nevermind and give the people closed captioning if that can help offset the cost because if you speak your gift is not gonna pay for closed caption but say yeah it does that if more speakers at more attendees you know I don’t mean another teacher this year mm-hmm take that t-shirt or take that branded battery pack or whatever and use that as an opportunity to connect with someone who is new and give that to them and be like hey I’ve noticed your new you’ve never been here before and here’s
(18:12) this and they you know it helps you bond helps from relationship maybe pass on some of your knowledge so you know I I totally hear what you’re saying in terms of just keep the money for the word camp but just being able to have like a simple like check like select your size a t-shirt and say like hey I weighed that one yes I would just to be able to say hey you know that and then if not Kelly’s up to you know maybe a better food option for the people who are vegan or vegetarian if that adds up to closed-captioning if that adds up to you
(18:53) know printed program so people who don’t have to like pull up the website over the sometimes spotty work camp Wi-Fi and see like what talk is coming up like you know do that you know do something that actually helps the account and doesn’t make my wife or any of your partners upset when you walk through the door with yet another t-shirt I mean there’s only so many quotes that Andrea can make for other work camp teachers right I totally I have an entire sorry I just moved and I went through all of my
(19:31) t-shirts and I have literally like this giant bin full of WordCamp t-shirts that I am going to have turned into a quilt that don’t aware them they’re not whatever so it’s totally happening that’s a real thing well that that that will help to the cost of the world cap but what I understand from what we are just speaking is I think we need something in between meet ups and work yet sub sub another kind of meeting maybe a day or so without any gifts without any food so people can come in like beginners I
(20:07) learned something and meet the new people and then they decide if they want to go to a regional workout rather that in every city so we have to come up with a new type of meeting in Long Beach we actually have seen I think probably fifteen or twenty beginners show up randomly over the last few months and it’s like we wanted to the formal work cram process it’s gonna take six months to ten months depending on what you want to do and how big or how small you want to make it and those things are great but I want to get the beginners all the
(20:39) tools resources I need tomorrow one thing that we did he bag is a few years ago couple years ago I called the NIH’s the warmest meetup here in las vegas and we did the half half a day walk shop free for everyone that could work to come and set up like this store and it was xx we had like 30 people come they had nothing in and we started like setting up the hosting setting up the most common bukhoma settings and everything that was great you know it was like kind of happiness bar but focusing only on newcomers it was
(21:13) awesome for them you know because a lot of we could help them overcome a lot of roadblocks that they had and I think they should we could do that again we can bind like the the grizzled old jaded people can come and bond with the newbies and all the stuff and with no pressure and no t-shirts and everyone can bring their own lunch I also have a question for you guys think about microsite and off site after bars because I think la-dee-da know site couple years ago yeah so what do you think because I’ve seen you know like a
(21:53) very few people at the name after bodies now and maybe on site it’s a better way to have people that will actually wear to watch the sessions if you connect and you have like the hallway experience right I know word camp Sacramento a couple years ago did an on site it was basically the second word camp ended it was the on site after-party absolutely everybody just hung out and then had you know they had some some white eats like you know some some appetizer sort of things that were sponsored you know some
(22:30) some just very quick easy drinks I think because it was on a college campus it had to be non-alcoholic which is also a thing that you know should be considered you know the folks who bring their kids and they want to go to the after party but oh no it’s at a bar and nothing nothing against dirty Nellie’s but you know anybody anybody 21 basically it depends on your goal right like is the after-party a place to party and you know like drink and you know get crunk or whatever or is the after-party a place to to do the kind of extended
(23:14) hallway chat where you’re networking and conversing and you know basically discussing and digesting what you talked about today like oh my gosh did you see Leo sob oh my gosh did you see Casper stop like why’d you miss I gotta put that on my wordpress TV list so I don’t ever watch it but like you know that is I think that’s what I’ve always felt that an after-party you know does best it’s not about like loud music and you know getting getting drinks getting your drink on which is actually what a lot of
(23:46) WordCamp us after parties have looked like they’re very loud there’s a lot going on and it’s not it’s more like a party versus like an opportunity to network and connect and build these relationships that again as I said at the beginning I think are the most important part of this community this year we have called the that event Sunday social so it’s on site as soon as the event adds everybody will walk outside by the sponsors are we will serve some light food at some drinks no alcohol so it will be another hour
(24:22) – just to socialize that’s work so we call it Sunday social rather than golfing parties this year that’s great because the people want to go party later they can make plans at the social to go meet up somewhere and they can use the fancy technology like you know Yelp if they’re not local or something or they can ask people so having something that is is that again it’s kind of like that in-between part right like so it’s not the talks and it’s not just like a party but it’s creating that space where
(24:53) we computer heads can then go and you know be real people and connect and get past the the profile pictures yeah my favorite part about word comes not it’s not beginner stuff it’s not even the talks it’s not that it’s the that weird in-between where I find myself inspired by people who are half my age by twice my age by people who are more experienced or less experienced and repeatedly what I find is that the human story has something to give and as long as we’re open to it you can take something from it I must say why are you
(25:36) looking at me Leo may you say twice or three times by age half my age every time there’s Jenson Henschel who spoke what two or three times at work MLA which is an incredible thing to see he has more real insights than anyone I’ve ever met on the industry and there are definite people I’ve met who are twice my age who are doing far more interesting things than I’m doing in my career and there’s also people who are spot-on in the same age as I am who are just getting started WordPress with a
(26:09) lot of interesting stories it’s an exciting thing to see in this space when you stop and look at people around you what are we actually doing and are we all leading hopefully in the direction we want to go right every few months we get the opportunity to stop and reflect and say yeah we’re pointing the right direction or no we’re not or just [ __ ] and moan that’s actually cathartic to sometimes get together and be like oh my god that latest update was so bad and then get over it you know like that
(26:35) there’s there needs to be space for that and that’s what this provides so to answer that question right is this too much I don’t think so I think there’s like with everything there’s room to evolve there’s room to grow in terms of are we creating swag that’s just going in the trash are we creating t-shirts that people aren’t using and what are we doing with those t-shirts maybe there’s a homeless program we could give those two at for extra t-shirts or something like so as long as we don’t just get
(27:02) complacent in this is what it has been and therefore this is what it always needs to be I don’t think it is too much I think it’s a strength not a weakness it’s a feature not a bug the other thing that I thought was really interesting I talked to the team that helped organize chrome dev summit last year and one of the things I mentioned was that they’re trying to move away from non-sustainable swag so the amount of things that I have that I’ve thrown away that are probably not good for the world makes me very sad
(27:29) but socks you throw them away and they’re biodegradable I wear all my word camp socks don’t don’t take on the socks socks are green is my twist what I’m saying is that they fit everyone for the most part and not everyone but almost everyone and you know maybe not can’t see got people with bigger feet but you get a vast majority of people within this little bubble and they’re relatively cheap and you know they don’t yes love it just don’t hang out plants okay guys we don’t need plants being
(28:01) handed out because they’re sustainable and they’re gonna grow and do all that fun stuff I have this frontward give us this was a bit it’s our most they gave away these bulbs which by the way can you take this across state lines I’m not sure but I did anyway it wasn’t bold our in here and then I just found it in a swag bag it’s dead so plants maybe not the best choice one minute left teammate you may have a final final word you want to speak on weird camp long reach is gonna kick all the bugs and we are working on it plus
(28:40) like 14 other people like come on now make your plans now what is it – we’ve a JetBlue flies to our Airport right here if we have an airport in Long Beach so maybe it is my favorite airport in the LA area is such a lovely lightful airport you actually get to walk on the runway to your plane and it feels like you’re you’re in the 70s and except for everybody wearing sweatpants it feels like the Golden Age of air travel perfect restaurants upstairs yes it’s great here and we have all the recommendations so just know that we’re
(29:21) gonna be different and better not better because it’s not a competition but we’re just gonna be great so yeah or the winter we haven’t quite decided yet either October or December and it depends on stuff now that’s a day I want to say thank you very much for all of you for coming and hanging out if you want to watch the AP water-cooler live we’re actually doing a live event which is gonna be over at WordCamp Orange County on April 27th and 28th so we will see you there thank you very much for all of you for coming out and
(29:54) hanging out with us and watch this all the different social media channels no joke I stream this thing out to nine different places now on the Internet’s it’s it’s crazy my mom’s getting very upset with all over the different places I’m pushing this stuff out there so talk to y’all later you have a good one bye.

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