What’s a Better Name for the Happiness Bar?

WP Happiness Bar Featured Image
photo credit: WPMTL2013happinessbar_13_LR(license)

If you’ve attended a WordCamp, you might be familiar with the term Happiness Bar. It’s an area within a WordCamp venue devoted to providing technical support for WordPress. Morten Rand-Hendriksen thinks it’s time to change the name to something more obvious.

The most important task of giving a service a name is to ensure the name communicates what the service does to the uninitiated. The problem, which is pretty obvious, is that the name “Happiness Bar” says nothing about what is being provided. The name “Happiness Bar” is more befitting a bar where they hand out cotton candy, hugs, or free jokes.

Like Hendriksen, I have observed WordCamp attendees not take full advantage of the happiness bar, mostly due to not knowing what it is. It also doesn’t help when WordCamp organizers fail to mention it during opening remarks. Happiness is a subjective term and is delivered differently depending on the person. This is evident in the responses Hendriksen received when he asked attendees what the happiness bar is.

  • “Is it where they hand out swag?”
  • “It’s a place where they give you life advice?”
  • “It’s a desk where they have life/business/happiness coaches?”
  • “You go there to get a massage?”
  • “Do they give away candy?”

As someone who has attended several WordCamps, I find their responses comical yet, realistic. Within the comments of Hendriksen’s post, Jen Mylo gives insight into how the happiness bar originated.

Here’s the historical reason it was called that: It used to be Genius Bar and at SxSW an Apple person came over, smiled, and took a picture, and we were afraid we’d get sued. WCSF was coming up soon and all of the natural names like WP Help Desk etc had independent businesses attached to them, and we didn’t want to have a conflict with any small businesses.

Back when Automattic ran WCSF (vs a .org community team like now), happiness bar made sense for that one event, because they were mostly Happiness Engineers and it didn’t infringe on anyone’s business. After that, other WCs wanted to copy it. I begged them not to, to just call it a help desk or something, but organizers persisted in wanting to adopt that nomenclature to be more like SF. (I didn’t use it at the WCs I organized in NYC or Savannah.)

I work for Automattic so I obviously think it’s a good company, but the devotion to that name in other contexts has always bummed me out, because it doesn’t mean a damn thing to anyone unless they have already been indoctrinated with the whole ‘focus on happiness, not support, because the happy outcome is what we want to provide’ thing, which almost no one has.

Mylo finished her comment by offering feedback on Hendriksen’s suggestions for a new name and encouraged him to post his idea to the Make WordPress Community site to start a more official conversation.

Call The Happiness Bar The WordPress Help Center

I think the happiness bar should be renamed to something that’s generic and easy to figure out based on its title alone. My suggestion is to call it the WordPress Help Center. It tells people it’s a location within the venue and is a place to get WordPress help. It’s also generalized so that it covers both WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

The only issue I see is that, WP HelpCenter used to be a service that offered WordPress tech support. However, the site and service has been defunct for a long time. Perhaps the WordPress Foundation can find a way to obtain the domain so the title can be used at WordCamps.

Do you think it’s time to rename the happiness bar to something else? If so, let us know what you would call it and why.


16 responses to “What’s a Better Name for the Happiness Bar?”

  1. This is ridiculous. The problem is not the name is, but the lack of communication to attendees on what it is. If the name is truly the problem then lets change “WordCamp” to “WordPress Camp” because those that have not attended don’t know what a “WordCamp” is.

    • Good point here. For the last two WordCamps in St. Louis we have struggled with remembering to talk about the Happiness Bar to attendees.

  2. WordPress Workbench is a great name! You could even set up a nice wood workbench as a table with laptops or screens set up all across the top of the workbench.. and maybe some swivel tall wooden stools to sit on. Or people could stand, which is ergonomically supposed to be healthier than sitting for long periods. I just went to godaddy to see if anyone owned the name and found out that no one owned it. I decided to secure it for you… before posting this comment. Sooo…now I own it. But, I will sell it to you for a song! :)

  3. If the audience is already familliar with WordPress and it’s conventions, then I wouldn’t mind a catchy reference like “The Codex”. Otherwise, “Help Center” or “Support Bar” (to keep the connection with the current name) sound self-explanatory enough to me.

  4. Does it really need a name? I’ve been to a WordCamp where the sign just said “Support”. It was clear and concise. People knew what the room was going to be. Things like “WordPress Workbench” or “WordPress Help Center” are just too long and clunky. The Workbench one is just as confusing has Happiness Bar. Am I going to make little wooden WordPress figurines? Or a table? What?

    I think we should drop any ‘name’ and there should just be a dedicated room somewhere that has a sign that says “Support”. Everyone will get it. And it’s intuitive to say, “Let’s go to the Support room and get you some help.” Instead of “Let’s go to the WordPress Help Center and get you some help.”

  5. Really? I feel the same as Nathan Driver and Chris Koerner about this. Chris is right… we didn’t have as many as we could’ve. I know I helped at least a dozen people the first day and a little more than that the 2nd day at WCSTL… and that’s not including the others who were gracious enough to help and did.

    Sorry, I kind of like “Happiness Bar”… it’s like Happy Hour, WordPress, and beer (well, minus the beer, but we WordPress devs love our beer… yum/) Frankly, it’s one of those things like the Hamburger menu icon that people just need to be educated about. If you don’t make an effort to continually announce it before and during the event, it becomes a fail.

    Yes, you do get help, but people walk away happy. At the last few WordCamps, I even started sharing funny WordPress memes on Twitter while in the Happiness Bar, in order to add a social aspect to it so people wouldn’t be intimidated to come on down.

    I remember the first time I manned a Happiness Bar, WordCamp Chicago 2011. There were only 2 of us at the table and I had a line so long at times that I didn’t get a chance to go to another session, other than presenting my own, the keynote, opening remarks, and closing remarks. And they were actually good about telling people about the Happiness Bar.

  6. I agree with what Nate, Nile, and several other said. It issue has nothing to do with the name, but with attendees not knowing what it is to begin with.

    Of course those of us who attend several WordCamps regularly know what it is, but we’re not the target here. Very rarely does an individual come to the Happiness Bar with a question they need answered, simply because they don’t know that’s what it’s for.

    WordCamp Maine did a great job with this. All speakers moved to the Happiness Bar after their session to answer questions. This taught individuals that the Happiness Bar is the place for questions to be answered.

    I feel topics like this open up a bigger discussion of the lack of embrace for users/power users. Many of those people whom it may be their first WordCamp are simply afraid to approach people in which they look up to, and those of us who are active in the community are willing to help, but are more in our own bubble. We simply need to do a better job of embracing those who are just starting out and making them feel more welcome.

  7. On Hendriksen’s original post, a commenter suggested “Answer Station” and I loved that, because it seems to me that most people will pop in for answers. People who are new to WordPress might not be at the point where they need support.

  8. I don’t think that the name “Happiness Bar” is the issue.

    It could be a perception that newer users have when they approach the area were the Happiness Bar is being held.

    Sometimes (and this is just my observation) the people who are staffing the Happiness Bar are grouped in a small area or seated close together.

    This is not the fault of the organizers or the people who are willing to help. It might be intimidating to someone who may have a question and is not sure who or how to approach the group.

    Please note that I have ALWAYS had a good experience when I approached someone at a Happiness Bar!

  9. +1 for a clearer name, even one that is not particularly clever, like “Support Area” or “WordPress Help.” The people who need it most will be the people who won’t get names like Happiness Bar. It’s easy to forget what it was like when you did not know very much.


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