WordCamp Dhaka (Bangladesh) 2023 has been cancelled by The WordPress Community Team due to concerns of corporate influence on the community decision-making process. The camp was scheduled for August 5, and organizers had already secured a venue and progressed on moving the camp forward.
The Community Team published a statement on the event’s website, which cited the interference of corporate interests:
The WordPress Community Team’s primary goal is to support and nurture the WordPress community by enabling organizers to create amazing events that celebrate WordPress, its community, and globally shared values. The Community team cannot support the event if a WordCamp is not aligned with these values.
WordPress events benefit the WordPress community as a whole, not specific businesses or individuals. The Community Team expects that WordCamps decisions should be guided by the community’s collective wisdom and not influenced by any one company’s interests. When companies attempt to exert influence on the planning process, the Community Team must step in to mediate. In this instance, we have decided to cancel WordCamp Dhaka 2023.
The Community Team urged the Dhaka community to focus on collaborative organization, companies uplifting the community, and greater diversity in participation.
In an equally vague incident report on WordPress.org, which doesn’t even identify the WordCamp that was cancelled, Community Team contributor Sam Suresh called it “an unfortunate but necessary decision.” He summarized the team’s reasons for the decision:
The decision to cancel the event was not a result of inadequate planning or insufficient effort on the part of the organizing team. Instead, there were observable actions from local community members to influence decisions that would benefit specific individuals or companies. When this influence did not immediately lead to their desired results, the individuals aimed to undermine the organizing process and event success. While the Community Team took steps to mediate, the inappropriate behavior and actions we saw necessitated the cancelation. This is a rare and extreme decision and underscores the severity of the situation.
Suresh said the issues applied to the local meetup group as well, and that all co-organizers and event organizers were removed from their roles and required to repeat their orientation to gain access again. A community deputy and a mentor were also removed from their roles in the project and the companies involved in the infractions were banned from sponsoring WordPress events for a year.
“In times of challenges like these, it is important to remember that anyone can organize WordPress events regardless of who they work for and that WordPress community events are for the benefit of everyone, not any one business or individual,” Suresh said. “As a community, we will not tolerate harassment or influencing unacceptable behaviors.”
Shortly after publishing, several community members commented with objections to the level of secrecy around the issues at hand and the people and companies involved. The Community Team’s nebulous posts on the matter seem to have further scandalized the situation, instead of offering clarity and transparency.
“This post definitely abides by the ongoing policy of not letting the community know who is being censured by the Community Services team, even in cases of egregious action,” WordPress marketing and meta contributor Sé Reed commented.
“I’ve seen multiple cases of people filing harassment reports and various Code of Conduct violations, and that person/people have had various consequences, including being removed from organizing teams. However, those people then cite various reasons for leaving the team, often outright lying. But because of the secrecy around these cases, no one says otherwise and those people can and often do continue to operate in the community without any repercussions beyond secretly losing their ‘official’ role(s).”
Reed highlighted the damaging effects of the secrecy surrounding these incidents, most notably that explaining the situation often falls to those who filed the report, as the Community Team abdicates any further responsibility after validating the report.
“This action is damaging to the community as a whole, as we do not have a full picture of who we are working with and we continue to unknowingly support and empower people who have not honored their community commitments,” Reed said.
Not all participants in the discussion were in favor of The Community Team identifying the individuals involved, but in this situation they demand to know the companies that were banned from sponsoring WordPress events.
“I’m on the fence about knowing peoples’ names here, but I think people definitely need to know the companies involved; actively trying to sabotage a WordPress WordCamp is a serious breach of trust for the community,” WebDevStudios Director of Engineering Mitch Cantor said. “Especially when they may turn around and then make money from that said community they tried to sabotage.”
Dealing with these types of sensitive situations is not an enviable task, but the community, for whom these decisions are designed to serve, is calling for a greater level of transparency regarding those who act in ways that are not aligned with WordPress’ globally shared values.
“One way or the other, protecting folks who have violated the Community Code of Conduct is a policy that very clearly needs to be revisited,” Reed said.