WordCamp Dhaka 2023 Cancelled Due to Concerns of Corporate Influence on Community Decision-Making

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.


7 responses to “WordCamp Dhaka 2023 Cancelled Due to Concerns of Corporate Influence on Community Decision-Making”

  1. Yet again we see significant decisions being made behind closed doors and without any sort of transparency of what the process has been. The community has a right to know exactly what has happened to have invoked such a dramatic reaction. Not only will this help the community know what to look out for, it’s entirely possible that this same behaviour is happening in other communities but more discreetly or less reported, but the community also deserves to know that the Community Team is in fact speaking for the community. There has been an increasing amount of opposition to any sort of self promotion at events coming from the Community Team over recent years and it is entirely possible they have overreacted or that the individuals involved made the decision based on their own commercial interests. I’m choosing to believe they are acting in the communities best interest, but without transparency it’s impossible to be certain of that. These vaguries only damage the trust towards the Community Team and does nothing to help the community guard against this sort of behaviour in the future.

  2. So companies are not allowed to influence the process for self-serving reasons yet some WC organizers around the world try to do the self-serving influence and control things their way. NOT SAYING ABOUT WC DHAKA.

    So much secrecy goes around WordCamps. We can’t even verify that any organizer will reject a speaker because that speaker is from a competing company from the organizer’s day job company. Like an organizer works for Coca-Cola during the day job, and some from Pepsi wants to speak.

    People who want to speak at WordCamps should sign up to speak and the attendees should vote for the sessions they want to see. Have the community say who is speaking. not a few organizers. This would make things more transparent.

  3. During my IT career Iv spoken at dozens of competitor conferences. And at the same time had dozens of competitors speak at mine.

    The accepted rule was demonstrate new or unique uses of technology to solve a common problem. Don’t straight sell your product from the platform, we give you a booth for that. If your product is the best at solving problems in the matter your talk described, so be it.

    It worked pretty well for decades. I saw a lot of positive colavoratikns emerge because of those policies and the communities as a while benefited.

  4. I am not able to understand the level of secrecy in this matter. Shouldn’t WordPress community have the right to know what caused the cancellation of the event? It will be a learning lesson for others involved in WordCamps all over the world. Even if the name of the company or the individual involved is not revealed, it will be very helpful to know what happened.

    If certain companies are in fact attempting to exert influence on the planning process of WordCamps and as a result WordCamp got canceled. Why shouldn’t the community members be made aware of what caused the cancellation?

    It looks as if transparency is missing.

    I hope WordCamp Dhaka (Bangladesh) 2024 happens without all the drama and secrecy. All the best.


Subscribe Via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

%d bloggers like this: