What is WPSessions and what is its goal?
My main focus with WPSessions is to provide high quality content to help train the greater WordPress community. I’m hoping to accomplish this in two ways: 1) Pay expert presenters for their time so that I can curate high quality presentations on an on-going basis; 2) Eventually release the presentations for free on WordPress.tv to expand and improve our collective knowledge base. I’m also doing this for myself, because I really want to learn from all the presenters I’ve selected, specifically.
How will WPSessions be different than say, WPClassroom.com?
The focus of WP sessions is largely based on the idea of an on-demand WordCamp, broadcast directly into your home and available on your own time. It is not intended to be a course-based learning site, or a series of instructional lessons, but a monthly event featuring live presentations and Q&A with lots of different experts. I didn’t want to build something that competed with the many great resources that already exist in our community (e.g. http://webdesign.com, http://wp101.com, http://bobwp.com, etc), rather I wanted to build something that complimented them.
Will any of these sessions find their way onto WordPress.tv?
Yes! All of them, in fact. My primary goal when I set out to launch the site was to build something that could benefit everyone, regardless of how much money they had set aside for their own education. So, because of that, every presentation will make its way to WordPress.tv four months after the session has aired. The time delay, for any curious, is indeed to help sell more tickets and offset the up-front cost of hosting these events.
If people have to pay for a seat to attend a session and these sessions will at some point arrive on WordPress.tv, where is the incentive to pay now instead of wait and watch later?
The incentive, I think, is to help fund a new community-focused project and reward those who are willing to teach. Certainly, it grants you earlier access to the content, but it also gives you an opportunity to put some money back in the pockets of each expert who is taking time out of their busy schedule to impart their hard-won knowledge. Paying for the sessions, I think, also helps underscore the value of the knowledge and experience being shared. Sure, you can find much of what these experts have to teach on your own for free, but not all of it, and definitely not in such a conveniently packaged and digestible format (nor do you have such direct access to ask these experts questions).
Additionally, paying for sessions will also help me fund scholarships for people who are looking to bolster their knowledge and skills, but have no money to invest just yet (e.g. students)
I have spoken with 27 different experts from our community so far, and all of them have said yes to presenting. I can only tell you about the next two sessions for certain, though, because I haven’t planned anything out beyond that. All of this depends on the first two sessions not being a total flop :)
The third session, happening sometime in August, will focus on Performance-driven Development and feature the mighty brains of Daniel Bachhuber, Aaron Jorbin and Zack Tollman. I’m planning on a double-session for September, a WP Theme Bootcamp so to speak, featuring six different theme experts each talking about a different aspect of the theme building process. From there, I already have enough experts and topics to carry us into February.
The idea of scholarships is intriguing. What kind of scholarships were you thinking of offering at some point?
I’d like to be able to offer a couple of different scholarship levels: semester (4 months) and year-long. The limit of how many I can give away really depends on how many tickets I can sell, but I’d love to admit 10 students to each level at each interval. This could also be a good opportunity for responsible sponsors and/or donations, perhaps, we’ll see how things go.
Can you tell us some of the technology that will help WPSessions tick such as what you’ll be using for streaming live video and if the site will be utilizing any special plugins?
Sure! At the moment the storefront is powered by WooCommerce. I’m running Stripe to handle credit card payments, and PayPal to facilitate anyone who can’t/doesn’t want to use a credit card. For these first two sessions I’m using Google Hangout to handle the presentations, but I’m looking into other options for the long-haul. The session viewing page itself is powered by a custom plugin I wrote just for this purpose. It registers a “Session” post type, and then uses custom meta fields for storing relevant information and posts-to-posts for connecting the session to its experts (users) and product. Beyond that, it also has a bit of logic to control who can see the content, and what content to show at what time.
I’m also running Gravity Forms to power the contact page and follow-up surveys, BackupBuddy to facilitate scheduled site backups, and a couple of other utility plugins I wrote to make WooCommerce more friendly for my purposes. I might also integrate BadgeOS for awarding digital badges for each session attended, which I think might be pretty neat to collect.
Last but not least, anything you’d like to say to the general WordPress community concerning WPSessions?
What I’d really like is some critical feedback on the project. I think it’s a great idea, of course, and I’m really excited about it, but I’d love to hear more from a broader scope of people. Are they even interested in this style of live-training? Is there anything I could add or do differently that makes it more attractive? Which time of the week is most convenient for the largest number of people around the world? Do more people want deeper, high-level presentations, or entry-level/introductory presentations? I have lots of guesses, but no firm answers.
At the moment it’s all just theory and one great experiment. I hope that others are interested and excited, and I hope they vote with their dollars that this idea should exist so I can help it grow :)