Should WordCamp Afterparties Be Alcohol Free?

Inspired by an article published on Red Queen Coder on the pervasiveness of alcohol in the programming community, Gary Pendergast, WordPress core contributor asked the following question on Twitter, “Has anyone been to WordCamps that removed the alcohol focus from afterparties?”

Pendergast’s question generated a healthy discussion on whether or not alcohol has a place at WordCamp afterparties. Morten Rand-Hendriksen suggests that WordCamps should be dry events to avoid excluding people.

The WordPress Community Handbook contains a specific page that defines afterparties. The handbook describes the pros and cons of a cash bar, subsidized bar, and an open bar. The way the page is written suggests that an after party has to take place at a bar. I enjoy after parties that are either at the venue or a somewhat quiet location. After all, the point is to network with people and that’s hard to do in a bar with loud music.

I don’t think much would be lost if afterparties were dry events. Not only would they become more inclusive, it would limit potential issues that come with alcohol such as poor decision-making. Let us know in the comments if you think WordCamp afterparties should be dry events.


103 responses to “Should WordCamp Afterparties Be Alcohol Free?”

  1. Exclusion is a self-identified bias in many cases. I work with plenty of folks who don’t drink who are mature enough to deal with it when they are at public events where alcohol is served. Having a cash bar or at a restaurant with a bar does not automatically exclude minors. But if concern over minors and alcohol were the main issue, I am fine excluding minors. Most of my developer friends act enough like children sometimes without actually having to bring children to the event. Next thing you know, you will want to eliminate meat from events because you offend the vegans.

    • Three groups in particular come to mind:

      – “Minors”, which depending on where the WordCamp happens to be located ranges from 18 to 21 years of age (so, hardly “children”
      – people who suffer from alcoholism or other substance abuse
      – people who believe in various religions that ban alcohol

      These are not “self-imposed biasses” but real restrictions to entry when alcohol is involved.

      • Well yes, by definition the self imposed exclusion of ones self from an event that serves alcohol on religious beliefs is exactly that. See, a person whose religion does not allow them to consume alcohol can still attend an event where alcohol exists. That person, however, has the choice to not attend if other people consuming alcohol personally offends them. Either way, unless they are forced to drink the alcohol, their exclusion is their decision.

        When it comes to people who suffer from addictions that are triggered by various activities – I think that is a very “eggshell” way of treating such people. As someone who has lived with addiction in the family, I am very well versed in “the rules” by which most recovery follow.

        The rule I am assuming you are tip toeing around is the one that says to not put yourself in a position where you have easy access to (*insert drug of choice).

        You are taking a very literal approach to this, however in MOST recovery programs, this means do not put yourself in a position where alcohol is the main purpose and focus of the activity. For those highly sensative to triggers, of course – they must avoid parties with alcohol all together… but people may also have to avoid WordCamps entirely because they’re agoraphobic.

        You can’t account for everyone.

        Here is what I think the guidelines should be:

        1) Alcohol should not the be focus of the party. Parties should be planned in a way that non-drinkers will feel that they are participating without actually drinking. This is relatively easy by putting together a few basic party games to initiate conversations between strangers.

        2) There should be alternatives to alcohol easily and freely available. Another no-brainer. Make sure you have juices, sodas, or even mixed non-alcoholic drinks.

        The parties don’t get out of hand UNLESS alcohol is the purpose and the focus. If its’ an environment of “LETS GET DRUNK AND DANCE AND PARTAYYYYY” Then you will have issues. If the party’s environment is more focused on social connection and talking, everyone will feel included; drinkers and non drinkers alike.

        • My comments are based on actual feedback from WordCamp attendees at events I’ve organized:

          – A group of 18 year old attendees were not able to attend the after party because the bar we organized the event at had an absolute 19+ policy we had not been aware of until the day of the event.
          – One attendee reached out to me to explain he was a recent recovering alcoholic who found a way forward in the WordPress community but had to stay away from the after party because he would easily be led back to alcohol at the venue.
          – Another explained that she felt the peer pressure to drink was too much to handle, so she stayed away.
          – Three attendees had sworn an oath of faith to avoid alcohol in any setting and were not comfortable taking part.

          To me, the question isn’t whether removing alcohol from the equation will somehow damage the event or make it less fun (it won’t), but whether removing alcohol from the equation will make the event more accessible. If taking away an unnecessary component, whether it be alcohol or loud music or strobe lights or an event on a floor with no elevator access, means one more attendee can take part in the after party, I’m all for doing that.

          I don’t know what it’s like to be a person who for whatever reason cannot attend a party where alcohol is consumed, but that also means I can’t say whether their reasoning is genuine or not. All I can do is look at my job as an organizer, and that job is to put on an event that is enjoyable for all attendees. Taking alcohol out of the equation is a small price to pay to ensure everyone can attend and have a good time.

        • Morten:
          1:st point that was just a result of missing pre booking checks.
          2:nd limit others because of a few? Sucks for being a recovering alcoholic but that shouldn’t limit others.
          3:rd again individual choice. Why limit others because someone is week? What peer pressure also? People pressures eachother to drink a lot at WordCamps? Thats sounds weird, its not highschool even it seems that way sometimes.
          4:th Thats their choice again.

          Personally I don’t drink alcohol and never really have, but I would never be pompous enough to deny others the right to drink just because I don’t.

        • I agree with Andreas . . . and also don’t drink, so it’s no skin off of my back either way . . . besides an event that will limit attendance by age due to drinking, everyone else should grow up and be responsible for themselves around alcohol

  2. I don’t think it would hurt at all. I’m with you there as far as the loud music.. a decent crowd can make it noisy enough. Also, people can not attend or leave when they want to and smaller groups can gather at bars.

    It really boils down to what you want out of the get-togethers after WordCamps. It it’s networking, well, don’t worry about missing some booze and enjoy the conversations. You can always grab one later.

    And this is from someone who enjoys a drink ;)

  3. One of the most awesome parts of one of the after-parties that I attended, was the open bar. 2 drinks is within responsible boundaries for adults, and it was nice to have the option (as a total light-weight, one drink is enough to relax me).

    I attend another networking event where there is similar alcohol involved, and it doesn’t seem to take any of the fun away having booze available, nor do young people avoid going.

    People can act like idiots regardless of if alcohol is involved or not; I was sexually harassed sober by a sober guy at one of these networking events (not a Wordcamp after party or wordpress related).

    I think venue matters more than having alcohol available or not. I skipped one Wordcamp after party because it was held at a sports bar, where there was not clearly communicated convenient parking to feel sufficiently safe as a female walking alone. I would have been more likely to attend despite the bad parking if it were at a gallery, or museum, or quiet restaurant or other venue… or even a science center or something :-)

  4. WordCamp Miami has been going on for 8 years. Learned a number of lessons related to this over the years. Some of it has been covered, but I rarely hear this piece of advise so i’ll throw out there:

    When officially showing off pictures of your after party, don’t make it all photos of people with drinks in their hands. Showcase a diverse (women, children, men, etc.) group of people having a good time. So that a year from now when people look at your event photos they might feel more comfortable. If you have a photographer, usually they know what to do if you explain it prior. And yes, others will take photos, but your official photos are what go out on the site, etc.

    WordCamps are “family friendly” by their nature, so the official after parties should follow suit. That will mean different things within an acceptable scope to different people based on location and those attending.

  5. I don’t think the music should be loud – I’d much prefer it isn’t in fact (it’s important to be able to have a discussion – of course!), but I don’t see how having a dry event would help? Why might taking the freedom to drink or not to drink alcohol away from folk be a good idea? Am I missing the point somehow… ?

    • I think drinks are fine as well, but I always feel like loud afterparties are lost opportunities. I know lots of other wordcamp attendees feel the same.

      This year at Pressnomics a group of us floated the idea of instead of a loud afterparty, lets have a hacking contest. Form a team. Core trac issues are distributed. Bourbon is poured. Coffee is brewed. The team that contributes the most code, or solves the most issues wins. Maybe even a pot of money is involved.

    • – also, in the UK at least, the legal age to drink is 18 rather than 21, and also, I’m pretty sure anyone is allowed in most (all?) pubs/bars irrespective of their age (although they’ll be limited to drinking only soft drinks if they’re not yet 18 years of age).

  6. Personally I don’t see the problem with having alcohol at the after-party, and I say that as someone who infrequently drinks. The after-party isn’t the main event — that’s the WordCamp. Having a conversation over a beer is a common way for many people to relax and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    I do think that it shouldn’t be at a bar though so that all ages can attend. I prefer more restaurant-style locations that have a bar but aren’t strictly 21+.

  7. So here is my perspective as non–drinker (by choice, not necessity) who had been through multiple WordCamp afterparties in multiple countries by now.

    There are aspects of this which are easy to improve, but there are also those that are very hard to improve. It’s not a binary decision to have or not have alcohol at the party overall.

    First let’s focus (for a change) on someone who doesn’t drink. In my case I still need to drink something for basic reasons (stay hydrated and caffeinated) and social reasons (why-don’t-you-have-anything-in-your-hands). It just needs to have no alcohol in it.

    And that is surprisingly crappy requirement at any typical party. Drinkers are bar people. They know their typical options and typical alternatives they can get in a typical bar setting. I don’t and super loud and crowded party is a really bad place to have a conversation with very busy bartender about what my options are.

    End result — my staple afterparty drink is cola, which I won’t even willingly drink outside of one. This is not a kind of drink to remember evening fondly for.

    You want less drinking? Offer interesting and obviously available beverages for starters! I saw quite a few articles around recommending that, but yet to attend a WordCamp that did this.

    Now about people that do drink.

    There must be smarter and more elaborate definition for it, but I came to refer to what happens to people when they drink as “slipping”. They start to deviate from their “normal” state to a variable degree, more often than not in unpleasant ways.

    This is not an on/off switch. There is a great amount of variables here, including specific party environment, but also person’s habits, health, mood, and where they are on a scale from infrequent to alcoholic drinkers.

    I witnessed some people drinking quite actively and keeping perfect composure with barely a hint of “slipping” at the wildest afterparties I’ve been to.

    I witnessed other people getting shitfaced and “slipping” into states that made them emotionally and physically unpleasant to be around at the calmest afterparties I’ve been to.

    Because there are great many variables I don’t think it’s realistic to foolproof the party formula against the latter. Even limiting or excluding alcohol entirely won’t stop a person set on a course to get drunk (they will procure alcohol from elsewhere or fracture away a group to head elsewhere).

    So I guess my tl;dr is this — many of WordCamp afterparties are rather simplistically aimed at drinkers, since more people drink than not and planning a party like that takes less effort and decisions.

    It is not realistic to drop alcohol out of equation, but making more effort than that for more inclusive and interesting parties would be a good thing.

  8. I really wish that official WordCamp events were not held in bars. They are the wrong environment and are almost always way too loud for conversation.

    I am a recovering alcoholic, but I don’t have a problem with drinking at a party or other people having a beer or glass of wine. I just don’t think that party should be at a place whose primary purpose is alcohol.

    In addition, I’d like to question how much money is going to pay for all those drink tickets. Can’t we come up with a better way of spending that money?

  9. WordCamp Montreal has sometimes offered a “traditional” afterparty with alcohol (and mocktails), as well as a picnic which has been an all-ages, kid-friendly, alcohol-free event. This was partly organized to help create an inclusive atmosphere that was more welcoming to women.

  10. As a part-time KJ, you don’t do karaoke for an after-party as it’s loud and hard to have a conversation. I bring this up because some venues are too loud to network.

    As far as drinks, it should be up to the bartender to decide who should be allowed to drink more. Communicate this to the bartender. They will police everyone and kick out people who are out of line.

    Then you have community guidelines. These will weed out the rest.

    Have a venue where all ages can attend, where alcohol is optional, but there.

  11. I think an important part of this conversation is the question why alcohol is expected at such events, and what people believe is removed if the alcohol is not there. What does alcohol bring to the table that can’t be added through different means?

    I personally enjoy a drink or two (or six) when I go to large industry events, and I’ll gladly join anyone for a drink after the after party, but WordCamps are open and inclusive events that, as David mentioned above, are marketed as “family friendly”. That should extend to the after party as well. It’s simply not a good setting for alcohol consumption – it’s a networking event.

    Somewhat relevant to this conversation:

    Research has established that if people think they are drinking alcohol, they get as inebriated as if they were drinking alcohol. I can attest to this first hand: At an event we organized some years ago, we served effervescent fruit juices from IKEA in bottles that kinda looked like champagne. About two hours in we were starting to wonder if someone had spiked the drinks because people were getting quite tipsy. It got to the point we had to publicly announce that no, those drinks you are getting drunk on do not have any alcohol in them. It made for an awkward immediate sobering of the entire room, followed by nervous laughter that turned into a collective realization that things are not always what they seem.


    I think this remains some of the best writing on alcohol at tech events and how to make a party inclusive to those who do not drink. Although I am not sure the “alcohol is currency” argument really holds for WordCamps, I do think her explanation of why people don’t drink and why they may avoid events where drinking is advertised as the main entertainment is completely spot on. Exposing a pregnancy, revealing that you are in recovery, revealing your medical history, and discussing your religion when you may not wish to are all extremely valid reasons why someone would avoid an alcohol focused after-party and which are rarely considered by event planners.

  13. it sounds as if there’s no choice.
    people who want alcoholic drinks do, others don’t. they still get to talk and mingle in one spot.
    if you decide to split interests, you lose that. very simple.
    just as when you decide to not serve coffee at the event (ppl will go elsewhere ), just as when all your food has meat (veggie ppl will go elsewhere) or just as when you decide to schedule only talks on backend development (designers, ux, biz ppl won’t come)

    there IS choice for everyone, everyone IS catered for. THAT is inclusion right there

  14. If we value inclusivity, alcohol has no place at WordCamp afterparties. Morten and Josh gave great examples of this problem.

    That said, I’m a proud social drinker. I genuinely enjoy events where I can get inebriated and talk shop.

    As a young adult, I enlisted in the Marine Corps. Alcohol in excess was easy to see at every turn. It creates problems, especially for underage adults. Not to mention the general dangers of human beings dealing with alcohol. We probably all have a story.

    This discussion will likely result in the discouragement (or banning) of alcohol in afterparties. Yes, that will create divisions in the community.

    My first-draft proposed solution:

    1. Official Wordcamp afterparties must be held in inclusive venues (not a bar).

    Examples: (coffee shop, local restaurant, etc.)

    2. Those afterparties will be listed as a 1 – 2 hour event. Allowing for groups to break off into their preferred unofficial groups afterwards.

  15. If we value inclusivity, alcohol has no place at WordCamp afterparties. Morten and Josh gave great examples of this problem.

    How do you tandem include while excluding via inclusivity? Alcohol is fine. Loud bars? …not-so-much. Value is a personal preference, just as drinking or not drinking. The environment and the synonym for the event are the 2 key models here. #PostCampInThePark ;)

  16. After a 10-12 hour day, if the party doesn’t have beer or a simple gin and tonic available, then I won’t be at it. Nothing personal. I’ll find some people and we’ll go somewhere else to relax.

    Don’t get me wrong. I hate clubs. I detest loud dance music. But a relaxing evening with drinks and friends and chatting is no big deal. You want to not drink? Then don’t. Juice is good. Sometimes I get straight apple/orange juice too. My purpose is not to get drunk, but to relax, have fun, and chat. Gin and beer helps me do that, but not in excess.

    Sometimes, excess happens. But only in loud places. A quiet place, with a relaxing atmosphere is my ideal choice for an afterparty. Maybe it’s not everybody’s choice. Hotel bars actually tend to work well in that respect, sometimes. Clubs and loud bars, not so much. Bowling alleys are places to drink, not places to chat.

  17. So from reading the comments, it seems that if we allow alcohol, we exclude people and if we don’t allow alcohol, we exclude people…

    The only fair way to resolve this it to have two after parties! Or none! Note, I’m not serious about those suggestions, I’m just pointing out that there is no way to please everyone.

    I think organisers should be encouraged to organise after parties that are inclusive of as many people as possible – people who want alcohol, people who don’t want alcohol, people who are vegitarians, people who are allergic to nuts, people with disabilities, youngsters, etc. Yes, it’s probably a little more work to find a suitable venue and the organisers are all volunteers with not much time on their hands, but it will result in a much better after party than the alternative.

    Personally, I’d someone who does like a drink at the after party. I’m an introvert by nature, so without alcohol I’ll probably only talk to people who I already know. I *can* talk to people I don’t know, but that makes the situation more stressful for me. A drink or two often eases that and makes for a much more enjoyable experience.

    Now, I’m someone who already knows a lot of people in my local community, so I’ll have plenty of people to talk to if we ban alcohol. I’m also older, so I can manage this a lot better than when I was younger. I’ll be fine. But there are others who are new and some of them are probably introverts as well. I know if I was attending my first WordCamp, I’d appreciate being able to have a drink to help me relax and then meet people. I suspect this would be true of quite a few others. Extraverts probably can’t imagine how much of an issue this will be for some people.

    How does this weigh against the needs of those who will have a better time without alcohol? I can’t answer that. I certainly acknowledge that alcohol can cause problems when people do not handle it responsibly. But personally, I think we should be aiming for after parties where alcohol is available, but not the focus, in venues that don’t exclude anyone, which are quiet enough for conversations to be had and that are as inclusive as possible.

    • I just heard of this post from the WP Sofa podcast. And my very first thaught was the same. Let attendees decide to pay for alcoholic drinks and give them some free non-alcoholic drinks. So it’s everyones own decision to drink or not to drink alcohol any pay for it. A WordCamp and their after parties are not about “Free Beer” but about meeting and talking to people. The sponsors money can be better used for other things.

  18. In the Asian context – drinking is part of making businesses.

    Tech events generally have a drinking based after-party.

    After-parties that do not have alcohol do not get attended. I do not say this lightly.

    A guide towards being more inclusive and promoting moderation, I would support fully.

    I would not support a rule to curb alcohol in after-parties.

    The freedom to do what you want with WordPress is one of the reasons it got so big. The freedom to be free, easy and relaxed after a tiring convention is something I look towards to.

    Last year, I got a sponsorship agreement for WordCamp Singapore at WCUS’ after-party and I’m not going to discount that the environment made it a lot easier for me to make that connection.

  19. Would I attend an after event where there wasn’t alcohol? definitely … would I stay that long? probably not. I haven’t attended that many WordCamps but after attending conferences all day and chit chatting with people it’s nice to be able to unwind with a beer and it loosens up some people who are maybe a bit shy. I attended WordCamp Paris for example and the group I was hanging around with went for a few beers both nights and there were some interesting conversations had. I stayed right till the end of the after party and everyone was just in good spirits. You know if you’re going to start leaving out one thing or another … should we avoid having pork (ham) at these events? Should the events be vegetarian or even vegan? It’s Ramadan at the moment so any food or drink during daylight at any upcoming events should be avoided until July 5th, we are being all inclusive right? Personally I’d have more of an issue with loud music at events where you can’t hear the other people. While restaurants can be nice places to get to talk to people you’ll generally end up stuck beside people and have a limited circle of people you interact with which can be hell! If you’ve got a problem with alcohol my advice would be not to drink it. As mentioned by others having free soft drinks would be a plus and also means people you stay hydrated. In Ireland for example you’ll find it’s generally more expensive to drink non alcoholic drinks in pubs and clubs. ( which is insane ). I will say however that this is all from a European perspective where the legal age to drink is 18 for most countries. If it were a case of excluding anyone below 21 then I’d probably say you’d need to rethink the venue as you’d be excluding a hell of a lot of people.

  20. Thankfully i read a lot of good replies here saying no to dry after-parties. One word can be added: freedom. Everyone has still the freedom to choose. But as long as there is always respect for each other, coming from both sides (non-alcohol vs alcohol)

  21. “I don’t think much would be lost if afterparties were dry events.”

    My first thoughts
    I lose the status of an adult woman who knows how to behave.
    What do you think about me?
    ==> Any prohibition indicates what one thinks about his visitors.

    I’ve never been drunk. I enjoy a glass of wine when I talk with friends.
    I am a grown woman. Grandmother.
    Such rules incapacitate.

    Are WP user so immature that the organizer must respond like a mother with prohibitions?

    What’s the next?
    a) After parties without meat, because it might disturb vegans…
    b) On after parties you must wear WC shirts because it is the only way to purge social distinctions…

    After the first shock….

    Mostly what Caspar says.
    Banning alcohol altogether would feel not only a bit over the top for me.

    If alcohol is banned altogether then I must not be there. Neither at the afterparty still at WordCamp.
    Influenced by the 70’s I never endorse such incapacitation rules, no matter who set it up. This is a matter of principle.

  22. I think it’s cultural here.

    I personally would avoid a dry event after a WordCamp, and go to another event. As a WordCamp organiser (who tends to not drink during the event, FWIW), I think in most of Europe it would be considered daft to have a dry after party, where social drinking is a lot more acceptable. Whereas in other places I could see it being a

    I’m with the others, a bar with loud music can promote a boisterous activity. I try when putting such an event on that if people want to do something else to socialise, they can do (I think London with it’s video games and board games did wonderfully for this this year).

    Incidentally, I’ve worked with developers before who have got over caffeine addiction who feel a bit excluded at events when people wax lyrical about good coffee, so even something that simple can be see as unintentionally exclusive. And I’ve learned so much more about all various types of intolerances from running such events too!

  23. Although I completely understand the discussion and the sentiments that surround it, it’s my opinion that an afterparty is specifically held to be a social event, more than a WordCamp itself (which is more an educational event).

    It primarily exists because of “OK let’s relax a bit, have a few drinks and just chat around, after all this learning and thinking“. Having a drink is simply what a lot of people do to relax and decompress, and instead of asking that age-old judgmental question “can’t you have fun without alcohol?“…..let people just have it.

    The one point I can agree with is that it will keep minors from attending, and that sucks. Or not. Maybe we’re trying too hard to please everybody all the time, and that will endanger our own freedoms.

    Next thing you know:
    – you can’t have events that also have meat; it might offend vegans, like someone said.
    – can’t have outdoor events; or else those with hayfever can’t attend.
    – can’t do events that have music; or else some people might be turned off as soon as a Chris Brown song comes on.
    – no one can ever swear at any afterparty; some people get really offended when you use those four-letter words in a conversation.
    – can’t do any activities that take place after work; it would not be fair to those who have young children to take care of at home.
    – can’t ever address Donald Trump during an event. We might upset those people who support him!

    (I’m not even addressing anything related to religion, but I’m sure that would come into the discussion if we just keep giving in.)

    The fact of life is that some people are unable, for whatever reason, to attend certain types of events. And that’s alright. If we continue to tweak events with the goal to have everyone attend, we’re gonna end up having events at the local playground and we can only drink water and eat crackers.

    If it would be *easy* to have a social event without alcohol, and everyone would agree, then great. Indeed, then you could easily say that alcohol is not a requirement to have fun. But in the real world, alcohol is part of a party and a lot of other social gatherings and we’re already polarized about it.

  24. Imposing bans on the grounds of inclusion seems somewhat extreme. It’s a party, nobody is forced to drink. Or smoke. Or dance. Or…

    Local habits should be considered and respected. After-party venues should be opened for every WordCamp attendees, of course. Going beyond this, for me, is interfering with each other’s freedom. WordPress shouldn’t advocate that.

  25. In other tech conferences lots of the “after parties” have a way of including everyone without anyone having to “give away their secrets” of why they are not drinking. They have kegs of beer that are poured into red plastic cups…mixed drinks are served in a red plastic cup… and the sodas/juices are also poured into the same red plastic cups. So the choice to drink is a personal one and nobody has to wonder why you aren’t drinking a beer or something because everyone is holding the same type of plastic cup.

  26. In Kansas City, we put on a 3 day WordCamp – and we have an after-party each day (June 10th – 12th in 2016).

    On Friday, the after-party is at No Other Pub by Sporting KC – a very large restaurant and pub that has many games, such as foosball, darts, shuffleboard, golf, bowling, and more.

    On Saturday, the after-party is at Tapcade at Screenland Crossroads – a barcade with restaurant, with 50+ arcade games from the 80’s and 90’s – plus a movie theater.

    On Sunday, the after-party is at Snow and Company – a frozen drink/cocktail restaurant and bar.

    At all after-parties, attendees pay for their own tab (unless a sponsor picks up part of the tab).

    I feel like this method works well. There are plenty of food options and activities for everyone and by WordCamp KC not paying for or providing alcohol nobody is “excluded” from getting something FREE.

    WordCamp Central describes WordCamps as “informal, community-organized events.”

    Let’s be honest, over the past few years, WordCamps have become more and more formal, with more and more rules, regulations, and restrictions from WordCamp Central. (Side note – some are great and streamline the process for people who have never organized an event this size)

    If WordCamp is truly “informal, community-organized events,” each city and each group of organizers should be different, and each WordCamp should reflect the individual city, the personalities of the individual organizers, and reflect each individual local WordPress community.

    Ultimately, no matter what you do – in any type of event – there will be some way for someone to feel “excluded.”

    • A few years ago in KC, an attendee said they felt “excluded” because she didn’t arrive early enough and she didn’t sit with the speakers she wanted to talk with… and she didn’t have the confidence to go up to the group and jump into the conversation. Her solution was an “speed dating” type of after-party, so everyone would be required to talk to everyone.

      Now, THAT sounds terrible!

  27. I am vegan and hate being around people eating meat, it very much offends me as a person. So maybe we should make after parties meat free too?
    But I am also not daft and know that’s never going to happen… so I can’t see the difference, why would alcohol be banned and not other mediums?

    • @Siobhan McMinn PLEASE! Have YOU not learned “each is his own”? was last year (Dec) in Philly @WordCamp US. I’m open and free to you and others, “Let’s ALL get Along!” ALL need to STOP “restrictions” About ANYTHING “we”
      (as individuals) will do what we want to do – with people/vendors we want to hang out with! If you do not want to drink or go to after parties – good for you; PLEASE do NOT Mock People that DO! AND – if you “hate being around people eating meat,” Then STAY HOME!!!

  28. Here goes nothing.

    I was the WordCamp London lead organiser this year.

    The concept of an alcohol free WordCamp London social is simply a joke. We can make events and evening socials more inclusive, and about more than consuming alcohol.

    Here are a few things we did at WordCamp London 2016 :
    – No communication content which had any lanuague that suggested * Lets get wasted *

    – Have non alcoholic drinks on offer and center of attention.

    – 2 Drink tokens per person to redeem free drinks were only given to people who went for their dinner ( evening meal ). The concept here is if we are going to feed you drinks – alcoholic or not – we are going to line your stomach with food first.

    – Make sure dinner is a meal of substance – aka a proper meal, so it actually lines people’s stomachs properly.

    – Have some kind of entertainment. We had retro games and boardgames everywhere and on every table.

    – Have a chilled chatting area. This was the dinning hall at WordCamp London. We had low level relaxing background music in the hall and people stayed up in the dinning hall chatting away. There is also no bar in there so suitable for anyone who doesn’t want to be near a bar.

    – Ensure that there is a organiser who is sober. We had two.

    – Work with the bar staff to ensure anyone who was getting drunk was also refused service. Our social, our rules. We do not want to be responsible for anyone being drunk at our event. We’re gratful that our attendees know how to behave and we never had to do this. But it is also good to know we could.

    – Hold the social in a private venue. This way you have full control of what goes on. Our venue were suitable for under-18’s, but we would be willing to make an extra effort to ensure that if there was ever an issue with under-18’s at a social/after-party we would be willing to change the venue to accommodate them – and this could be something other WC’s/conferences could do too.

    – No music playing. We had full control of the stereo system and since everyone was talking, music was pointless in the bar area.

    – PA system to hand. Nothing beats a PA system you can use to quickly make annoucements to everyone in the room so that you can be sure everyone is paying attention to your public annoucements.

    – Have on hand details to the local religious buildings around the venue so that if anyone asked, we could point them in the direction they need to go for prayer. We had a multi-faith room which was open during the event, but was unaccessible during the social hours.

    – Finish the social at a sensible hour – aka before midnight.

    What we will do differently for next year:
    – make it clear that the bar tab is not prepaid. Any drinks tokens which are not used means a smaller bar tab which we appreicate. It means people do not feel they must drink their allocated two drink tokens.

    – Don’t call the event an “after party”. The notion of a party is one thing. Call it a social and the mentality of what to expect and how to behave will be different

    – Have a multi-faith room accessible during the social hours.


    I know this is not ideal for every WordCamp, but I just wanted to show you that it is possible to have a WordCamp social not be about alcohol yet have alcohol at the venue.

    • Totally agree with this – the London WordCamp I went to was a great atmosphere and there were no issues at all. It was a social gathering for those who wanted to stay on and chat / interact more with the people there. All ages, all religions, that was irrelevant :) no one was seemed left out to me.

    • I Also agree, the drinks tokens worked really well too. I spoke to a lot of people at WC London, I wouldn’t put anyone I met the category of thinking * Lets get wasted *

      But if people want to do that then fair enough; I don’t know them, I wouldn’t tar anyone with the same brush and I also probably wouldn’t choose to socialise/network with them. It’s not a big deal.

    • Totally agree on London approach. Last year’s WCEU after party was the worst of all worlds – packed public venue, music so loud you had to shout to speak to the person next to you and a therefore a fractured after party. Nothing to do with the fact that alcohol was served.

      London, this year especially, got it right and was a credit to the organisers. A well-organised social (prefer that to after party) will mean ways to include everyone, whether or not alcohol is served.

    • I would say that there are many more ways that you can make a WordCamp accessible to all beyond having a “Dry” after party and WordCamp London was a really strong example of this.

      I, personally, use conferences as an excuse to have a good sleep (I have a 4-year-old and a 4-month-old so not being jumped on and shouted at at 6am is a real boon of being away) so I don’t really stay late at parties, but all of the things that Jenny mentioned above seemed eminently sensible and a great way to make a party easier for everyone.

      Aside, given the kids thing: what about an early morning “pre-party”? No? Oh. OK then. ;)

    • Now, I’m sad I didn’t attend this year. I think this sounds like a perfect “after-party”. Looking forward to the one next year for sure.

      Whether it’s an after-party or a social event, I think the entire purpose would be to meet people, network a bit more and have a good time after a long day of talks.

  29. Jenny got me thinking: Maybe this is about language?

    So, based on her suggestions, here’s an idea for a compromise:

    Start the evening with a 2 hour After-hours Social with no alcohol. Then follow up with an After Party with alcohol in moderation.

    To ensure people don’t skip the Social, hand out drink tickets for the After Party only during the first hour of the social, and add incentives like free food and non-alcoholic beverages.

    The purpose of all this is to have an After-hours event where everyone can mingle and socialize. This solution placates both those who can’t drink and those who want to.

    • I like that idea. What Jenny describes sounds great. For me personally, the loud music is a bigger problem than the drinking: I haven’t noticed people getting offensively drunk at the WordCamp after-parties I’ve been to, but that might be on account of going home at a civilized hour.

      As a non-drinker I definitely do not enjoy being around people who are noticeably inebriated, and I think holding the event in a bar–whether or not people have to buy their own drinks–encourages heavier drinking than using a different venue and making some alcoholic drinks available.

      Just on the basis of being utterly exhausted by the end of the event, I would probably end up going to the social and not the later party, but I don’t want to dictate what other people do based on my own situation.

      • I was going to suggest, the difference of

        Alcohol at a bar – VS – Alcohol at a held WordCamp Social Venue location, not being a bar

        How-ever the bid for bars to cater at a non-bar WordCamp Social Venue

        could be a potential solution

        the two drink token idea is cool

        now after the respectable hour is over at,
        WordCamp Social Venue,

        a party bus is available
        to drive our loved community to the after – after socializing caterers bars

        an incentive is to invite the community party goers
        the the no wait in line entrance
        for them to keep on keeping on with
        making good times

        these layers would be potential solutions for making sure our community, wanting that party late environment
        offer a, get me home safe token
        just for that event

        non drinkers in the community ( the good doers ) can still hang out to get people safely to their local destination, with good doers stars.
        ( is the plugin available yet? )

        also maybe keep on serving H2O, coffee and tea
        along with your other drinks till the end of all
        events to too

        it is a good idea to not highlight Alcohol
        having to do with the function

        maybe even serve the Alcohol beverage in a non
        advertising glass,
        because if that photo goes online
        its becomes advertisement.

    • I would be all for either this idea or Jenny’s London approach. For me, having alcohol is not the issue, making those who do not drink feel like they are the minority via language (“come drink with us, ” “free booze,” etc) or drink options is the problem.

    • You’re close! Just don’t call the “social” anything “after hours.” Makes me wanna kick back, light-up and sip a bottle ’til dawn (did I say that out loud?) She’s right. The name of the event should not be synonymous with “after party” if you want to detour/navigate agendas. Your 2-part token incentive sounds doable. But remember: more moving parts #GrrEventsAintEasy

    • Wording is everything. Even in your comment you use the words “After Hours”, There is no after hours, its still part of the event, it is just the Social part, so let’s call it what it is – a social.

      People did not leave, because everyone knew they were going to get served a proper meal. In fact the time between the last talk and the dinner being served, the bar was open, the retro and board games were out and people paid for drinks themselves or waited around.

      On reflection, I guess one thing we could do is keep the tea and coffee station open till dinner was served.

      It’s all about engineering the atmosphere and social culture you want from your attendees. This is why our ownous was on the retro and boardgames.

  30. Agreed.

    Also no Coca Cola so that way we don’t exclude those who drink Pepsi. And no Pepsi so we don’t exclude those who drink Coca Cola. And no bringing significant others, so we don’t exclude those who don’t have one. And no men so we don’t exclude women. And no women so we don’t exclude men.

    See the logic? Yeah, there’s no logic. There’s no logic in “no alcohol so we don’t exclude those who don’t drink it” either.

  31. Just wanted to thank everyone for contributing to the conversation here. Good thing is, the idea of removing alcohol at WordCamp after parties is just that, an idea proposed by a member of the community. There’s nothing set in stone nor being discussed at the WordCamp Central level.

    There are a lot of great ideas shared here on how to make events more inclusive without taking things away like alcohol. I appreciate the civility in this conversation, something that’s hard to come by these days.

  32. Agree with Jeff. We’ve gotten to almost 80 comments and great comments and thoughts.

    This is my first time coming back after my comment yesterday. Reading the majority of the comments deeply, I can see where various parties are coming from. I may not agree with some of the feedback, I respect it. And acknowledge that even if organizers (like myself) for almost a decade haven’t had problems, doesn’t mean other organizers have run into issues.

    I think there’s alot of common ground on what organizers should try to avoid (no escape from loud noise for those who want to network, no adult non-family friendly bars or similar venues, etc.) . However, declaring a simple “have it or not” rule and then apply that rules to ALL WordCamp after parties or social events is wrong at this time. Period.

    WordCamps are local events. Organizers should know their local area and poll attendees for input on decisions. If the organizers decide to not all alcohol, that’s their choice. I wouldn’t question that choice if i was attending such an event, since i would assume that decision was made due to various factors i don’t need to be privy to.

    While i agree 100% that the tech community as a whole puts alot of undue attention on alcohol (and honestly, this goes beyond the tech community and is a global issue, not a tech-only issue), I think some WordCamps want the opportunity to set the example of how alcohol can be included in an environment that’s welcome and friendly then I don’t think we should prevent that. Having alcohol/non-alcohol really should be as a non-issue as meat/vegan food.

    I’m glad the idea has been thrown out there and I think for a few has generated some good ideas to apply to their events.

    If you haven’t read Andrew Norcross’s post on this, please do. I agree w/ his thoughts.:

  33. 21+ is only in the USA.

    Ontario (province) has 19
    Quebec (province) has 18

    Most of the rest of Canada is 19, one or two more provinces are 18.
    Most of the world is 18.

    Just so you know…you don’t have to drink alcohol. I drink one beer, then a lot of coke/pepsi.

    You DON’T have to go to a bar for after-party. you can use the college/university campus cafeteria, a local restaurant or the college/university’s pub.

    If people don’t like alcohol, DO NOT DRINK ALCOHOL.
    I have no problem with a ginger ale.

    Guess what? so many restaurants are licensed (they can legally serve alcohol), are we going to stop going to restaurants for after parties? So many events (not just WordCamp) go to dinner at a restaurant instead of bar.

    • Yes – the inside area and the outside area.

      Inside is where you mingle with people and talk and can enjoy a beer or two.

      Outside is where those go who drink too much – and those who cannot be tolerant of others drinking. ;)

      On a more serious note, I’m against creating all these “separate areas”.

  34. hm .. sounds both like a US-centric issue, and also indeed the focus.
    In Europe, esp. German-speaking countries, I do not really know of any kind of venue / location that is strictly non-alcoholic.

    About the focus: Events I organized in the past, including the Webmontag Karlsruhe, had their focus in networking, not getting drunk as a skunk. So the venues were primarely selected for their ease of networking, socializing, arrival and maybe food (vegan / vegetarian option is always a nice touch). As locations go in Germany, none of these were without alcohol, but they weren’t what one would call “party” locations, but local pubs / inns, restaurants, and the like, with the option for a separate room or at least off-space corner / tables.

    So, back to topic: “Should WordCamp Afterparties be alc-free?” – Nope, as long as the focus is PRIMARELY on networking, not excessive drinking. If I want to go on a drinking spree, I’ve got enough folks spread all over the world to go party with – wouldn’t want to do that as an “afterthought” of a WordCamp ;)

    cu, w0lf.

  35. An after party is the time where you are meant to wind down and socialize.

    For me that means having a beer or two in a relaxed atmosphere and talk to / get to know others.

    I wouldn’t attend an after party – or whatever you call it – if you have written rules that state you are not allowed to drink alcohol there.

    I’m not a teenager or a child anymore, I don’t need events – and don’t attend events – that try to be inclusive for minorities by diminishing the rights of the rest.

    Like it or don’t like it: Drinking Alcohol is a part of socializing in European and Asian & American countries.

    There are many reasons for that and the goal usually is not to get hammered. But to relax, indicate “Hey, free & fun time now!” and get to know each other.

    Getting truly hammered is something you do with close friends… And regret the next morning.

    To those who say: “But do you really need alcohol to have fun?”

    The answer is: Yes! In a scenario with the premise of being the after party to a learning event, for me it is part of it. If others prefer to stay sober or must stay sober because they are too young – they can.

    For those who say: “But the after party is just to discuss biz and…”

    Perhaps for you. Most certainly not for me. The place for that is between panels or at open panel discussions.

    Not so long ago I read the code of conduct for another event:
    1. Women not to wear overtly sexualized clothing
    2. No to drink alcohol
    3. Not to use swear words
    4. Not to flirt

    There were so many rules – with explanations – it was over a page long. And most monasteries I have visited are more relaxed.

    So I thought: “Oh, well… I can meet with my bushcraft or gaming buddies instead & watch the core speeches on YT later… At least there I’m treated as an adult of 42. Not like a prisoner.”

    WordPress is about freedom and free exchange. Taking away from many people’s freedom, just to placate a few – who have to live with the fact alcohol exists and is readily available every day anyway – is not.

    In addition, it is insulting. You insinuate that if there is alcohol around people can’t control themselves and down they go in dozens.

  36. For WordCamp Toronto 2011 and 2012 we held our after parties at nearby restaurants. Alcohol was available, but food and socializing was the focus. Plenty of tables and (relatively) quiet music created an atmosphere where people could come together and have conversations.

    If people wanted to get their drink on, they were free to take off and bar hop around the area. Many did just that.

    I don’t see the need to remove alcohol completely. Just don’t make it the main focus. It’s not a kegger, it’s a WordCamp.

    …though a WordCamp Kegger would certainly have an appeal as well. But I digress. ;)

  37. I’ve had to skip WordCamp afterparties here in Cape Town for the very reason that alcohol is served. I’m a practicing Muslim and can therefore not even be around people who are consuming it.

    We as a group have complained about this to the WordCamp organisers here but it’s fallen on deaf ears.

    • As lead organiser of WordCamp Cape Town for the past 3 years, this is the first time I’m hearing of this as a complaint, so nothing has fallen on deaf ears as nothing was received.

      For the record though, I have chatted to Ashraf over email about this and we are working out a way forward together :)

  38. As a WordCamp organizer, I have grappled with the question of where to hold the after parties and speaker-sponsor events.

    My biggest consideration is to find a comfortable place where people can mingle and easily talk to each other. This allows people easily to meet new people rather than be stuck at a crowded table with the group they came with drinking because that is all you can do.

    I think the majority of people would prefer to have the option to have a beer, wine or non-alcoholic beverage after a long day. It is called a party after all. Otherwise why wouldn’t you just have a mingle after the event right where you were? But can’t we find places where that is the sole thing you can do if you are even old enough to get in?

    It also is bad to have the event in a location that does not accommodate the number of people who would want to attend. When the venue is a loud crowded bar, it is a fail in my mind having nothing to do with whether or not drinks are served.

    Lets get creative and make events that are planned around having a good time, encouraging interactions between people who may not know each other yet, and don’t make this around the types of beverages served.

  39. I’d say a bigger issue is with smoke and noise. Whether people like a glass of fruit juice, a glass of wine, a sparkle of champagne or a mug of beer it shouldn’t really matter. But as WordPress is a publishing platform and hence attracts both writers and geeks, articulate conversation is a priority for almost everyone. Short live sets of not particularly loud music might add a cultural and party atmosphere without killing the social interaction.

    On the other hand, if WordPress aims to be the platform of choice for party-poopers, banning alcohol, flirtation and fun would be a very good start.

    PS. Some great comments above from judi, suriel, fwolf. I’ve just come off of three months of teetotaling (wanted to reset some habits, was quite busy). During that period, I certainly didn’t want to stop attending events where other people were enjoying themselves or to stop them from so doing. There’s lots of people out at high profile social events not drinking or drinking very minimally. There’s no reason that alcohol at events should degenerate to a frat party. Ambience mainly depends on the venue and not whether the party is dry or not. I thought we’d solved the prohibition issue back in 83 years ago.

  40. I am a little late to this discussion but I thought I would give my two cents :)

    I was at last year’s European WordCamp in Seville and I am going to this year’s in Vienna.

    Firstly, I think we need to recognise that the organisers are doing their best to please everyone. Not only is it a thankless task, it is also impossible to please such a large group of people.

    Morten Rand-Hendriksen noted three groups:

    – Minors
    – Those with a problem with alcohol abuse
    – People who do not drink alcohol due to religious reasons

    With the age of drinking being 18 or younger in Europe, I don’t think this will be a major problem at European events, but I can see how it will be a problem at events in the USA.

    With regards to those who have a problem with alcohol, I appreciate people who are in this position. I drink once or twice per month at most, but even I don’t like attending some social events as I know that alcohol will be prevalent there.

    That being said, I don’t think it is fair for the whole event being dry because some people have a problem with alcohol. For others, who do drink responsibly, this event could be one of the few times they can get away from their normal work and family commitments and enjoy themselves.

    As others have said too, if the event was alcohol free, you would find that people would just go elsewhere anyways.

    The real question is whether after-parties should be considered social or whether they are a continuation of the conference itself.

    Reading the comments here, many people want the music put down low and alcohol removed so that they can mingle and network. Personally, I feel there should be more opportunities for that at the conference itself so that the after party can remain a social event.

    Again, it is hard to please everyone.

    This whole debate centres around exclusion.

    Siobhan McMinn mentions above she is vegan but accepts she cannot stop others eating meat at the event.

    I am vegetarian. At last year’s event I practically starved during the day time since there was next to nothing there for me to eat and when I advised staff about it they didn’t do anything.

    It didn’t help that the venue for Seville was a good half an hour walk to the city centre so I could not just pop out and grab a sandwich. I spoke to some people with other dietary requirements who suffered much more than me and were frustrated by it.

    It’s not something that hurts me too much as I am used to it as a veggy; but it is a little frustrating after being advised that you will be catered for.

    For me, the biggest problem with exclusion came from the organisers themselves.

    There were parties organised by (or for) Matt Mullenwegg and others that only certain people could attend. The guys at WPMU Dev noted that only some of their team was invited and others were not. Some went, others didn’t as they did not want to exclude anyone.

    The following night at the after party a VIP section was set up. Most people there didn’t seem to mingle.

    So if we are talking about exclusion, why were the organisers so keen on setting up different parties and setting up VIP parties at the official after party? Surely that is a bigger concern than whether alcohol is available?

    I know that important players in the industry need to connect as that is how deals are made etc, but I don’t think you can talk about exclusion without noting the fact that the organisers were part of the problem.

    For the record, it does not bother me too much whether the after party is free or not. If it’s alcohol free, I would probably attend a while and then go elsewhere so that I can have a beer.

    With music being played etc, the after party is not a great place to network anyways which is why I am looking at the after party as just a party to have fun.

    On a side note, if any of you are going to Vienna, be sure to come and say hello :)


    • I just want to clarify that I was invited to Human Made’s party at WCEU last year through a personal connection with another fellow Tasmanian. It wasn’t that the rest of the WPMU DEV team was excluded, just that I have better friends ;)

      I gotta agree with Kevin about the VIP section at the official after party. It did feel exclusionary, kinda like Automattic versus the rest of us. The alcohol didn’t bother me at all – it was nice to have a drink after a big weekend, though obviously everyone’s going to have different views and organisers aren’t going to be able to please everyone.

      All that aside, I had the best time at last year’s WCEU and I’m so jealous of everyone going this year! Definitely going to next year’s event, for sure.

      • I believe there were some other parties too.

        I do understand that companies want to connect with the people they work with, but it meant that after the first day at the event some people were going to parties and some were not. I think this creates more exclusion than any rule on alcohol.



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