Pantheon’s $100K WordCamp US Sponsorship Revoked the Night Before the Event

Nearly 2,000 people descended on Philadelphia, PA to attend WordCamp US last week. On the night before WordCamp US took place, Pantheon’s sponsorship was revoked and advertising materials, including the company’s booth, were hidden in a storage room inside the venue. The move generated a lot of controversy on social media and at the event. It cost Pantheon $100K to sponsor WordCamp US, but the company received a refund.

Prior to WordCamp US Matt Stodolnic, Pantheon’s Vice President of Marketing, contacted the Sheraton Downtown Philadelphia and inquired about advertising opportunities. The Sheraton hosts a number of meetings and has a couple of different advertising packages available. Stodolnic purchased advertising space on the hotel’s elevators. The advertising material was simple and didn’t make unprovable claims, such as the world’s best or fastest host. This is in line with the sponsorship rules.

Pantheon's Elevator Advertising
Pantheon’s Elevator Advertising

On December 1st late at night, Stodolnic received an email from WCUS organizers requesting that the advertising material be removed. Stodolnic pushed back as the sponsorship agreement does not specifically prohibit advertising in the hotel. At one point during the exchange of emails, the WCUS organizing team threatened to take the banners down themselves. Stodolnic responded with anger as the purchase had already been made but he quickly apologized.

The issue was eventually escalated to Matt Mullenweg, co-creator of the WordPress open source software project, who revoked the company’s sponsorship of the event for violating the code of conduct. Later that night, WCUS organizers deconstructed Pantheon’s booth and moved it to a storage room along with 600 T-shirts printed by the company.

Pantheon's Booth at WCUS Before Being Taken Down
Pantheon’s Booth at WCUS Before Being Taken Down

Day one of WordCamp US went off without a hitch but it was slightly overshadowed by the sudden removal of Pantheon. A few Pantheon employees published unfavorable messages on Twitter about the situation. Those tweets have since been deleted. At the conclusion of day two, Cami Kaos, one of the lead organizers of WordCamp US, published a post on the event’s blog highlighting what happened.

Archived Image of The Post Published on the WCUS Blog Explaining The Situation
Archived Image of The Post Published on the WCUS Blog Explaining The Situation

The post doesn’t specifically name Pantheon and says the sponsor in question violated the event’s code of conduct. I spoke to a number of Pantheon employees who read the post and couldn’t identify the violation in question. Within hours of being published, the post was removed from the site without an explanation.

Cooler Heads Prevail

During day two of WCUS, Stodolnic and Pantheon Co-founder Josh Koenig, spoke to Mullenweg face-to-face in a closed-door meeting at the venue. What was said is unknown but when I asked Mullenweg what the result of the meeting was, he said, “I think we’re in a much better place.” He also didn’t comment when asked how Pantheon violated the code of conduct.

After the meeting, Stodolnic told me that both sides agreed that communication could have been handled better and that cooler heads prevailed. Mullenweg wouldn’t comment when asked whether Pantheon was banned from sponsoring WordCamps in 2017.

We now know that the official hotel for WordCamp US is an extension of the venue allowing organizers to enforce the code of conduct and sponsorship and principles agreements. It’s likely that due to this incident, the sponsorship agreement will be amended to specifically prohibit advertising in the official hotel at next year’s event.

Pantheon is a six-year old company making inroads in the managed WordPress hosting space. Not being able to sponsor WordCamps in 2017, as they did in 2016, could derail their momentum in building brand awareness.

Is It Worth It to Sponsor WordCamps?

Many of the sponsors I spoke to at WordCamp US described what Pantheon did as genius and were disappointed that they didn’t think of it first. This opens the door to a wider conversation. Is it financially worth it to sponsor WordCamps and are there enough opportunities to see a return on investment?

Earlier this year, Tony Perez, CEO of Sucuri, started a passionate discussion on Twitter around the value of sponsoring WordCamps. As the costs of sponsoring and the number of WordCamps increases, businesses will need to be more selective of which camps they sponsor.

One of the major announcements at WordCamp US is that WordCamps will now run finances through a Public Benefit Corporation. Previously, finances were run through the WordPress Foundation, a 501(c) non-profit entity which severely limited what sponsors were able to do at events due to IRS regulations. When the switch occurred earlier this year, the sponsor rules were updated to be less restrictive.

As WordCamps grow in size, especially WordCamp US, perhaps its time to rethink the benefits that are offered to sponsors to increase the sponsorship’s value. What sponsorship opportunities would you like to see considered or added for WordCamps?

65 Comments


  1. I was at WCUS and this was beyond strange. The email sent out to everyone about a sponsor violating the code of conduct was out of line at best. Pantheon did nothing wrong. WordCamp needs to take a lesson in managing sponsors and understanding what real companies need and expect for their marketing dollars.

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    1. And that’s the discussion I’d like to see happen. What is it that companies need and or expect for their marketing dollars when it comes to WordCamps?

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  2. The problem here is that we have no idea what they did wrong. $100K is a lot of money to drop (both on Pantheon’s side to offer it, and WCUS to refund it). It seems to be that it would benefit the WordCamp organizer community to understand what was so egregious that it was worth losing $100K… so we (both sponsors and organizers) don’t repeat the same mistake.

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    1. You’re right and I hope that at some point in the future, a better explanation is published so future sponsors know not to cross that line.

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    2. Exactly, being hush hush about it won’t help anyone. What exactly was violated? How? And what can be done to avoid any future repeats. This needs to be said indeed, so both sponsors and organizers are fully aware of expectations and limitations.

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      1. From the article and as others in this comments section suggest, I would guess the tone of the dialog escalated when they were trying to deal with the situation, and if I’m right then there is no point in asking what was said by bringing in the transparency argument.

        Concerning the request to remove the advertizing, it was a bit harsh since it wasn’t explicitely prohibited but still fair from the organizing commitee and from Matt in regards to the other sponsors. Leaving it as is could have provoked conspiracy theories (looking at you Mark and Miroslav ;) ).

        All in all, the Pantheon team has moved on (at least officially) and they still got some publicity out of it, not the kind of one they would have wanted but something is still better than nothing and they still succeeded to achieve some brand awarness, which was the whole point of their sponsorship in the first place.

        One last point, I guess the WPF/WCUS will probably edit their contracts to cover this but they should, if it’s not yet the case, add a clause stating that they can take arbitrary decisions in cases not covered/mentioned in the contract/guidelines.

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  3. I’ve seen this before in the comments section, but you really should feature a disclaimer about the fact that Matt Mullenweg owns this site in articles such as these. The Washington Post does it about its owner Jeff Bezos in each article where Amazon is mentioned/quoted.

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    1. +1 for that on all articles.

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      1. Yes, I know. That is no good for readers that are hit and running a single article, i.e. the majority of readers these days. Look at how the Washington Post does it.

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      2. Full disclosure doesn’t mean on the about page.

        I know this is a blog, but if it wants to be viewed as respectable journalism in any way whatsoever, there should be disclosure on any article that mentions Matt Mullenweg and his opinions on anything.

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    2. I wasn’t replying to you. I was replying to Brian re: All articles. You’re a Consumer. You choose where you consume and how you siphon your consumption. I’m actually from DC with friends at the Post. As a Consumer, I choose to not consume news from WaPo solely due to Bezos, Amazon, et al. My choice is my choice.

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  4. Disgusting behavior from WP leadership. They don’t want to say what was violated because nothing actually was and they know they screwed up.

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  5. In this case the extra advertising arranged by Pantheon directly with the venue was something new & unexpected.

    It’s often not possible to have rules cover explicitly new issues like this so organizers will have to respond to these new circumstances.

    I personally would trust Matt & the WordCamp US organizers to do this in the best way they can at the time and I’m glad they acted to deal with the issue.

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  6. I did not attend WordCamp US because of timing and concern for ROI and now I am glad I did not.

    Everything I know about Pantheon is they are good citizens of the WordPress ecosystem, but as an investor-funded company it is their fiduciary responsibility to spend their market dollars wisely. It takes an awful lot of WordPress hosting clients to cover $100k and so any good marketing director would look to maximize a return on such a large investment.

    What Pantheon did is standard fare for trade shows in any other part of the industry. To punish Pantheon for WordCamp’s naiveté reflects poorly on WordCamp, not on Pantheon.

    That said, it is reasonable for WordCamp to make the rules as it sees fit. However, it is not reasonable nor IMO ethical to retroactively enforce rules that a reasonable company that fully intended to follow the rules might inadvertently violate, and that is what is seems WordCamp US did here.

    The right approach would have been to allow Pantheon to continue as they did but make it clear that neither they nor anyone else could do that in the future AND make sure that future hotels know that if they sell said sponsorships that they will be getting their client banned from the conference. But revoking their sponsorship was just the wrong way to handle it.

    Given that I currently make my living with WordPress this news makes me really sad. Frankly, it feels a bit too much “Lord of the Flies” for my comfort level. Hopefully “cooler heads prevailing” will result in no retroactive rule applications when new yet unanticipated concerns emerge in the future.

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    1. It takes an awful lot of WordPress hosting clients to cover $100k and so any good marketing director would look to maximize a return on such a large investment.

      What Pantheon did is standard fare for trade shows in any other part of the industry.

      100% agreed. This was strategic and clever marketing and taking full advantage of a huge opportunity, as any marketing director/business that has a savvy marketing team would have done.

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    2. Agree, their additional sponsorship was nothing but professional.

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  7. Pantheon got more media coverage AND got 100k back. Seems like they benefited.

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    1. In fairness, no. We were not allowed to execute our plan at WordCamp, for which we’d flown in 12 people and had a truly mind-blowing booth experience to deliver. Our team worked for months on this, and all that went out the window.

      And while it’s “nice” to be “the talk of the camp,” it’s a pretty thin silver-lining. Instead of talking about how amazing our platform is, we’re talking about inside-baseball, and people who don’t follow closely may wind up thinking our staff are unprofessional or worse (not true).

      This was a damaging loss for us. Hopefully it can be a win for the community in the long-term.

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      1. Disclaimers: I used to work for Pantheon. Matt Mullenweg owns this blog.

        Josh, you’re going to post soon, right? Is PostStatus going to cover this?

        This is egregious, and Matt should step down from the WP foundation over it. I wonder, what was said behind those closed doors? Why the silence, until now from this blog, and from Pantheors, from Matt? People could have known what happened, then.

        My theory is someone threatened you to stay quiet so he could save face, but hopefully that’s not true. What could he even threaten you with? permanent ban from camps? Jeff referenced it as an unknown possibility in this article. If he has such a power, how sad for WordPress.

        With or without my guess on the threats being right, I hope you sue fast and win. I’d go for a new class of sponsorship – Freedom sponsors – with Pantheon permanently in it, and rule adoption keeping the new WordCamp PBC out of people’s business. It’s a software conference. Companies advertise. Stifling economic activity like this just hurts people. That’s its only effect.

        This did not protect the WordPress brand and trademark. It threatened it. Matt Mullenweg’s actions hurt 100+ Pantheors and their families, hurt official camp hotels and advertising printers, and hurt WordPress.

        Stand Up to Matt. Use Pantheon.

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      2. PostStatus has already published a post on the subject and it was sent out to paying subscribers over the weekend.

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      3. Hey Brian – to be honest this isn’t what we want. While I’m obviously not happy with what happened — as I said above it was really bad for us — I’m also 100% in the #NoDrama camp.

        The productive way to respond (for me) is not with an “us vs them” approach. We’re optimistic that we will continue to engage with the community in positive ways, and that we can provide value in the form of feedback and suggestions to improve the clarity of conference rules going forward. That should help future events go better. Lemonade for all!

        I want to be absolutely clear that we’ve got zero interest in litigating this, in the court of public opinion or elsewhere. Turning this into a fight doesn’t serve anyone’s interest.

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  8. Sounds like when requested that Pantheon be a good community member they decided to instead care about their marketing dollars. If they were given lots of opportunities to rectify the situation explained to them as being not friendly to the community, sounds like this is on them to own their final stance on the situation. I don’t blame the team, they tried, Matt made the final decision.

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    1. as being not friendly to the community

      That is a really easy thing for someone to say who did not just invest over $125k in direct and indirect costs on a marketing activity.

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  9. I love windsurfing, but I’m also a pretty busy person. The time it takes me to load the gear on the car is critical in my ability to use short breaks to hit the water.

    So, I built a small shack right behind my parking, which exactly fits the boards and sails. This had made my life so much better.

    Problem is, it didn’t exactly comply with the building code, with which I wasn’t familiar. Who checks the building code before assembling a little shack?

    Fortunately, there’s a process to handle these exceptions. You fix whatever faults exist, get retrospective permits and pay whatever fees you owe. No big deal.

    I don’t know how I’d respond if I came back from the beach, car loaded with wet gear and found the the city had decided to demolish my little construction.

    Obviously, I have no idea what went on behind the scenes, who communicated what to who and what they responded. The situation with my surf shack has nothing to do with this WordCamp sponsorship. Just saying.

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    1. The difference, I think, is that they didn’t demolish Pantheon’s little shack without notice. They asked Pantheon to remove the advertising, and had a whole conversation late at night via email. In the middle of that conversation:

      “Stodolnic responded with anger as the purchase had already been made but he quickly apologized.”

      None of us know, except those directly involved, but my suspicion is that this “angry response” was seen as a violation of the WordCamp code of conduct, not necessarily anything specific to sponsors, and that’s what got them in hot water.

      I think the tricky part is that this all happened ‘late at night’, when folks are running high on caffeine and emotions can run hot quickly.

      I can see the perspective of the organizers seeing this huge ad layout, and someone had to make the call. Sometimes it isn’t laid out in plain English the way we like it, but when it doesn’t feel right, you take action. IRS/tax law isn’t something you take lightly, when in doubt, you play it safe, or risk losing your (huge) non-profit status, especially when it is someone else’s non-profit status that you are responsible for guarding.

      Regardless of any of that, Josh (presumably from Pantheon) is absolutely correct. Letting the drama blow-up is in no one’s best interest, let’s move forward and do better.

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  10. This is really sad. I had never heard of Pantheon until I went to WCUS last year and spoke to people at their booth. I feel bad for them. Even if they broke the code of conduct it could have been handled in a better way.

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  11. Thanks for the update Jeff, being away and all, I was not really up to speed with what happened between WP Foundation and Pantheon.

    That said, no matter who was at fault, this whole situation could’ve been handled in a better way. Most of the comments I read over at social media were not happy by this incident.

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    1. Hope nothing like this happens at WordCamp Lahore, Inshallah, Alhamdullilah,

      Ali Muhammad.

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  12. I guess more #wpdrama. Being transparent and open about this issues would be beneficial for Matt and Automattic but hey, I’m not in charge…

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  13. What i think is that Bad Publicity is better than good publicity. This might have been a short loss for Pantheon. However, not only did they get refunded 100k, they also got WCUS to write about them, everyone is still talking about them, and it will go down in history of WordCamp…Not a bad deal at all, worth much more than the 100k they initially invested for advertising, and they didn’t have to stand at a booth all day to advertise themselves, WordCamp did it for them :D

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    1. There are a few comments here about the benefits of this “Publicity” Pantheon is receiving. While you can certainly argue the benefits re: being a protagonist in drama, we would much prefer (and anticipated) Pantheon being the center of ongoing conversations for much different reasons. Pantheon’s platform is unique in the hosting world in that we offer free dev and test environments plus feature branching. WordCamp US brings some of the top developers in the world to a single location. These professional developers are the types of people that we like to speak with about scaling WordPress to tens or hundreds of millions of daily visitors, feature branching strategies when working with distributed teams, automated testing, etc. We built a mind-blowing demo that we had hoped to share with hundreds of attendees but were unable to, I consider that to be a great loss despite becoming the talk of the town.

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      1. I have used Pantheon sandbox sites for client dev sites.

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  14. I don’t understand where the WordCamp US organizers get off thinking they could remove the advertising from the Sheraton hotel. The convention center and the Sheraton hotel are different entities owned by separate companies.

    Whatever agreement WCUS had with the Sheraton obviously didn’t include a say in what advertisements could be displayed at the Sheraton during WCUS. If it did, the organizers would have gone directly to the Sheraton to have them removed. That didn’t happen.

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    1. As a company that is heavily invested in the WordPress community, Pantheon decided to invest about $140,000 to sponsor WordCamp US (sponsorship fees, travel, booth, T-shirts). I wanted to maximize the value of our participation in this event and evaluated several branding opportunities in close proximity to the Philadelphia Convention Center. Putting our logo up in the Sheraton Hotel seemed the obvious winner.

      The Sheraton Hotel was the Official Hotel of WordCamp US. It is not unreasonable for an event organizer to view the official hotel of an event as an extension of the event itself. It was not unreasonable for the event organizers to ask Pantheon to remove our branding from the hotel. The situation escalated in an unfortunate way and Pantheon lost our privilege to sponsor the event. Conversations between Pantheon and WordCamp US organizers were courteous, respectful and professional during the conversations leading up to Pantheon’s removal as a sponsor. This situation was regrettable all around, and all parties are eager to move on and continue the good work for WordPress. There is a lot that Pantheon can contribute to the WordPress community—code, financial support, developer support—that is where we are putting our energy.

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      1. Mr Stodolnic,
        Don’t worry, some of us understand running a business, and actually do not think that putting stickers on an elevator door is a big deal. Definitely not a big enough deal to refund a $100,000 sponsorship.

        #IStandWithPantheon

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  15. I see that the planet is broken again and doesn’t get the feed from the tavern….

    conspiracy theory? me? no way!

    on a more serious note there is a very big problem with the foundation not being transparent. 27% of the internet is asked to trust a foundation operation (the wordpress.org site) and it is very hard to maintain that trust without transparency.

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    1. The planet feed is fine. It’s showing there. It just doesn’t update every few seconds or anything so crazy.

      Conspiracy theory averted.

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      1. There probably was a problem as it took more then 12 hours. to publish so either some caching is/was too long or feed failed to read. Now it is published but only after 3 other long posts, conspiracy theory still alive! ;)

        (mostly joking if it is not clear)

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  16. As an attendee, I thought it was extremely strange that there was Pantheon marketing in the hotel, something I haven’t seen at any other WordCamp I’ve attended.

    The issue is likely because there was no discussion on the topic and no clarification about it – for all intents and purposes, it appeared that Pantheon was getting extra attention from the WordCamp, which isn’t fair to other sponsors. In my eyes, it was a bit of a sneaky move – sure, a “good” marketing tactic, but it would have taken a simple email to the organizers to double check this was okay beforehand. I don’t think placing blame on the organizers is fair when it was clearly on both ends, and ultimately a lack of communication.

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    1. At any other computer-oriented tradeshow in the modern world, this type of marketing is common place. WordCamps are a conceptual island of ideology and that’s why you have not seen it.

      But what was not reasonable is for the organizers to realize they never previously considered this issue and then punish Pantheon because they had the creativity to consider it.

      What they should have done instead was just taken note and disallowed it in the future. But what they did was put the burden of their lack of foresight on Pantheon rather than acknowledge they had never previously considered this issue.

      Imagine if you did something that your city council objected to, so they pass a retroactive law and then come and take you to jail for it. That would just not be justice. Same principle at play here.

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  17. As a web developer for a very active marketing team, I can’t imagine what the response would be for a large, exciting effort like this to be nixed over something this petty. I didn’t attend, but to be honest, seeing companies so vested in an open-community product I feel lends a bit of legitimacy to what we do. We still deal with the perception that WordPress is limited to blogware, particularly in corporate management. Our company is at a crux where the powers that be are considering moving to a “professional” (i.e. expensive and probably less malleable) product across all lines, and squabbling over decorum such as this at a premier conference doesn’t help WordPress’ image in that regard.

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  18. The way I am taking this is:

    Pantheon decide to advertise through the venue instead of through WordCamp.

    Matt Mullenweg got upset because Pantheon didn’t go through Matt Mullenweg’s route to advertise. Even though Pantheon can do that.

    I see no problem of any company advertising directly at the venue that an event is going to be held at, as well as the event itself. Double advertising.

    I think Matt got upset that he/WordCamp US/WordCamp Central/WPFoundation, etc…didn’t get that Pantheon’s money.

    Matt talks all the time about the community but situations like this makes it look like it is his way or no way. I don’t like this.

    I have volunteered at WordCamps, I have attended WordCamps, Companies I worked at have donated to WordCamps, I have paid for people who can’t afford to attend to attend.

    This whole thing makes my stomach feel queezy.

    If WordPress and related companies/products/events then Matt Mullenweg should not be the final say. It should be a Council, Board of Directors, or even have a vote on things.

    I honestly think the WordCamp rules should be put up for a vote by the community.

    Obviously I am going to say, harassement, abuse and so forth shouldn’t be allowed.

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  19. This was an unfortunate incident. It did remind me of a different marketing tactic that another SF based company, Optimizely, did at the Dreamforce event some years back.

    The 3 minute video sums it up.

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  20. What Pantheon did is standard procedure at most conferences, software or any other industry. I’ve gone to conferences where even the hotel room keys had conference-specific ads on them for the duration of the show.

    If the organizers didn’t have it in their agreement with the Sheraton to not sell advertising space in the hotel to WordCamp sponsors (or anyone else, since this would have been a great “guerrilla marketing” technique to bypass an official WordCamp sponsorship), then the organizers had no right to push the hotel’s hand on this. However, most professionally organized conventions/conferences think of things like this ahead of time and include it in their sponsorship agreements and hotel contracts — essentially so that only paying exhibitors have the ability to display ads like Pantheon did and so that the conference organizers make money from it.

    Look, volunteer-run conferences are great…but when one starts talking about $100K sponsorship packages, it’s time to put on the big boy (or girl) pants and start running things like a professional organization.

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  21. Tech, blogging, and social media conferences outside of WordCamps, I’ve often seen marketing propoganda displayed at hotels.

    However, I’ve never seen an agreement to which prevented the separate hotel venue from the conference, from displaying such marketing materials.

    I’ve also worked in hotels for a few years and been a part of arranging blocks of rooms for events. It’s usually, depending on the facility’s policy, done with either a contract stating the number of rooms held, pricing, and dates. These are then put into the reservation system as a group block, that the individual event attendee reserves under their name and expressing that they are a conference attendee (otherwise they are lopped into the regular hotel stay, or have to go elsewhere if the facility is booked.) Usually there’s nothing about marketing, unless the actual event arranges something… much like BlogHer does (and did at BlogHer16, in Los Angeles, where BlogHer16 event signs were seen even from the 1st floor of the hotel, that their conference was at. That part cost money, aside from the conference rooms. They also had a gift bag for those who stayed at the hotel, filled with really valuable items from sponsors and the event.)

    I could see if WCUS paid to block off rooms or an agreement with the hotel, this would be added to the sponsorship agreement. Was it prior… obviously not or this wouldn’t have come to light. Will it be added in the future… perhaps it will? Hopefully it will.

    While I’m glad some type of understanding was made, how it was done, was not done right. Going forward, make sure it’s in the terms, and make sure that the hotel facility is aware of those terms and will make sure sponsors are aware that it is not permissable to display marketing propoganda in the “official” hotel.

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  22. What are the hotel’s guidelines for placing advertising? Since the hotel was separate from the actual convention venue, it seems to me that *anyone* could have placed advertising at the hotel and that WordCamp US is pretty darn lucky it was *Pantheon* that advertised there and not just anyone from the convention and entertainment industries (and after being exposed to far too many tacky Viagra ads during the World Series this fall, I can think of a lot of, much more awful advertisers that could have taken that space).

    The only logical way I can see clear to having any amount of control over this situation is that WordCamp organizers themselves should first buy or reserve the event-venue-related advertising for *themselves* when they book an event.

    If WordCamps are not willing to put their money where their mouths are, then the sponsors should be able to place the advertisements themselves.

    In fact, depending on the venues’ policies, it may behoove WordCamp to *beg* their own sponsors to take up those advertisements so that no one else can.

    It is unlikely the hotel is going to allow WordCamp to ban them from selling their own advertising and if WordCamp doesn’t book up the advertising slots, then probably *anyone* else can, depending purely on the hotel or venue’s own policies.

    Well, that’s another $0.02 out of the kiddo’s college fund …

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    1. Spot on. When will we see weebly and wix ads at the con hotel?

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    2. Indeed: this is called ambush marketing and part of the reason why the Olympics has (overly) such strict marketing rules in the interest of protecting their sponsors’ investments and rights. We are still missing a lot of crucial information.

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  23. In my opinion, this article sounds like a “glossed over” account to cover up the extent of a few (maybe just one person’s) ego. And from what I’ve heard from people actually there, it was way less professionally handled than this article indicates.

    Pantheon was committing $140,000 overall to the event. That’s a lot of money they could have poured into other marketing channels to reach the WordPress market. Rather than pour it into Google and Facebook’s Ad coffers they chose to invest the bulk of it directly in the WP community. And quite honestly after being treated this way, Pantheon should look at other channels. And other sponsors should consider these warning signs as well.

    But beyond sponsorship, the WP leadership’s actions don’t bode well for it’s own future. As an agency we are now more cautious. In my experience, no open source software has a very good future of being a widespread business solution if it’s subject to the emotional whims of a few people. We can’t recommend clients base their web strategies on a platform led by volatility when there are other options available.

    At the end of the day, most clients and end users don’t care what technology their web solutions use — as long as they work. The WP leadership needs to pick real battles not petty arguments. (In my opinion.)

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  24. I am a professional sponsorship consultant, and because clients keep asking me about online fundraising tools, also a WordPress site builder.

    People makes mistakes. People get angry. People do stupid stuff. Umm..Stuff happens. So, what’s important is how we work to fix things as best we can after they have been broken. Sounds to me like things fell apart because of a disagreement, and that the original issues were less significant than the disagreement itself.

    If Pantheon was sponsoring one of my clients, I would now be focussed on finding a way forward even if I had to give away a few sponsorship assets. Based on the comments above, I don’t consider a refund to have resolved the matter.

    If I was sitting on the other side of the table representing a sponsor, I would be watching what happens next before recommending my client commit any partnership funds. This issue has bigger implications than this one deal.

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    1. William, what implications?

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  25. I think that this highlights the fact that the Code Of Conduct doesn’t provide enough guidelines about what to do when things go wrong, including determining whether the code of conduct was actually violated.

    In this regard, I think it would be helpful to look at creating a WordPress/ WordCamp guide similar to the one that GeekFeminism has, and trying to separate the people involved with the incident from deciding on the consequences of the incident.

    These are not easy issues to resolve, but with good faith and transparency, hopefully, the community will be able to learn from this.

    Making mistakes does not matter so much as how the mistakes are fixed.

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    1. More like: Making mistakes is important. Learning how to avoid them in the future is even more so ;)

      cu, w0lf.

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    2. Realising that CoCs are bad is a better takeaway. To expect CoC to handle complex matters(or even less straightforward things) is naive and as we have seen here CoCs can be used as a copout.

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  26. Volunteer organizers should be treated like the saints they are, but Cami Kaos is a full-time employee of Matt Mullenweg (Jeff Chandler, please check). At least she was two years ago when I was organizing a WordCamp – she was the authorized signature on all contracts we undertook on WordCamp’s behalf.
    I, too, got caught in an 11th hour rule invention that caused embarrassment. Josh, Pantheon obviously has a first rate staff. If one of them called out a paid organizer over a mistake of this magnitude and hurt their feelings, please give them a raise. And then take your sponsorship dollars where they are appreciated.
    I’m fine with WordCamps being whatever Matt wants them to be, he’s paying for the privilege. But his employees shouldn’t hide behind rules written to protect true volunteers, and vaguely libel others in the process.

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    1. +1 – The email sent out showed a surprising lack of judgement.

      Personally, I think all the continuing noise about this issue distracts from a different point. I am still thinking about my experience there and can’t recall one session which stood out. This WC pales in comparison to my experience at Ann Arbor, Kent OH, and MSP. Am I the only one who felt underwhelmed?

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      1. Nope, you weren’t. I’m the guy that asked Matt point-blank during the Q&A after his state of the Word why there weren’t any security-related presentations.

        This was my first WordCamp event ever, and I too was underwhelmed. There were some good sessions (Joost’s, Maile’s and Lema’s), but those sessions had nothing to do with WordPress and could have been at any web-related conference.

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  27. The marketing Pantheon did was smart and I know the code of conduct doesn’t list the hotel as part of the venue but as noted in the article it will be in the future.

    Josh and team are great folks with a ton of enthusiasm for the community as a whole and for building solid tech, so it was disheartening to see how things played out. Obviously we don’t have all the pieces from this story, it’s unfortunate. I’m glad Pantheon chooses to be in the #nodrama camp. Top company.

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