The Challenges of Organizing a WordCamp From Abroad

Earlier this year, a WordCamp incubator program was created to help three cities establish their first WordCamp. After receiving 182 applications, the three cities selected for the program were:

  • Denpasar, Indonesia
  • Harare, Zimbabwe
  • Medellín, Colombia

WordCamp Medellín is scheduled for November 5th and is the first of the three incubator events to take place. Andrea Middleton, Community Organizer for the WordPress open source project, is part of the organizing team and says organizing a camp from the other side of the world is challenging.

“The local community is still quite loose/unstructured and there isn’t a very well-established group of local leaders, so it’s been an interesting exercise in finding local organizers, speakers, and volunteers,” Middleton told the Tavern.

The organizing team consists of a U.S. expatriate who recently moved to the area, a Colombian who now lives in Spain, three locals, two members of the WordCamp Lima team who are lending their experience, and Middleton.

Spanish is the primary language in Medellín which can present communication challenges. I asked Middleton if she needs to use a translator to communicate to the team, “I lived in Mexico for 5 years back in the 90s so my Spanish is passable, but it’s a pretty bilingual group,” Middleton said.

“The last meeting was in English but most of our text interaction is in Spanish to accommodate the Colombians who are not proficient in English.

“I ask native Spanish speakers to review and or correct my written Spanish when I’m publishing content to the site. I’m the primary venue contact and all of that has been in Spanish over email.”

According to Middleton, WhatsApp is huge in Colombia but is not ideal for collaborating with members of WordCamp Central since the team uses Slack. So half of the communication is on WhatsApp while the other is conducted on a free Slack instance.

WordCamp Medellín’s schedule includes sessions by local entrepreneurs on how to contribute to WordPress, Multilingual WordPress, and SEO. The opening session features a 15 year-old speaker.

Thanks to considerable effort on the part of Middleton, the event has a female speaker, “We had no female speaker applicants, so I poured over the list of women who had attended the meetups and then researched them and recruited them to speak,” Middleton said. “It only ended up with one local female speaker, but I think she’s going to be great.”

Middleton says that when the event concludes, she’ll publish a post detailing the things she’s learned organizing a WordCamp from abroad. Tickets are still on sale for WordCamp Medellín at $10 each and includes lunch and a shirt.

To learn more about Middleton’s role in WordCamps and the incubator program, listen to episode 234 of WordPress Weekly.

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