WordCamp San Francisco Is Not Just Another WordCamp

WordCamp San Francisco is one of the largest, annual events, dedicated to WordPress. But is it just another WordCamp, or something else? Eric Mann points out the confusing nature of the event and suggests using a different qualifier.

From an outsider looking in, the only difference between a WordCamp in SF and a WordCamp in Portland is the location. From a sponsor’s perspective, from a new attendee’s perspective, from a new speaker’s perspective they’re the same. But the “official” status of SF changes all of that for those of us who’ve been in the community a bit longer.

Back in 2011, Jen Mylo proposed changing the name of WCSF to WordCon in an effort to officially differentiate it. A community member registered the domain before Mylo, forcing a name change. After thinking of different names, the decision was made to keep it as WCSF with an effort to point out that the event is more than just a local WordCamp.

Eventually, Matt said, “Why can’t it just be WordCamp SF?” And I decided he was right (partly because the owner of wordcon.com had not given any indication of wanting to sell the domain to us). The history of the event and its name ultimately carry more weight than my desire for event naming consistency. We just need to make it clearer that WordCamp SF is special, something more than a local WordCamp. We need to say distinctly:

WordCamp San Francisco is the official annual conference of the WordPress project.

So far, the event is not being marketed or touted as being something special. The WCSF 2014 website doesn’t have any information explaining why it’s different from a regular WordCamp. However, its listing on WordCamp Central specifies it being the official, annual conference. At the very least, there should be an About page with a bit of history and an explanation as to why it’s considered the official, annual conference of the WordPress project. I’d also like to see a list of items that make it special, compared to other WordCamps. It wouldn’t hurt to have specific branding as well. The only people who know it’s a special event are previous attendees and those who hear about it by word of mouth.

A Real World Example Showing The Need For A Distinction

At a local WordPress meetup I attended, I spoke with a gentleman who recently started using WordPress. He had attended his first local WordCamp and decided that he was going to further his WordPress knowledge. Since he didn’t have a huge budget, he asked me which WordPress conference would give him the most bang for the buck. I told him WordCamp San Francisco. He asked why, isn’t that just our WordCamp but on a bigger scale? Yes, I answered, but it’s different from every other WordCamp. I told him it’s one of the largest WordPress conferences of the year and is organized by the co-creator of WordPress. Developers, business owners, and attendees from all walks of life will be there. If he could only attend one out-of-state WordPress conference, WCSF is it.

You see, he didn’t know about all this. He’s new to WordPress and its community. According to him, WCSF is just another WordCamp except bigger and he didn’t see the value or worth of traveling to attend something he could easily drive to. This is why there needs to be more of a distinction created between WCSF being the official, annual conference of the WordPress project and not just another WordCamp.

I’m not advocating for a name change because it’s already been tried. But short of one, what other suggestions do you have for those new to WordPress and its community to understand WCSF is not just another WordCamp?


19 responses to “WordCamp San Francisco Is Not Just Another WordCamp”

    • LOL I think that would fall in line with changing the name. Something I was thinking about. It can remain WCSF at the heart, but refer to it as the annual WordPress conference. this already happens somewhat from past attendees, organizers, and those who have an interest in the WP community or ecosystem. But it’s about passing on that mindshare to people like the example in the post. To them, they need to hear and see Annual WordPress Conference, not WordCamp San Francisco.

  1. So many of our events within the community are seen as things we expect people to “just know.” Our local WordPress Meetup group, for example, doesn’t advertise. Our local WordCamp doesn’t advertise. We still receive a fair number of attendees to both, but run into significant issues as we just expect people know what and where we are.

    Before a Meetup, I was across the street getting dinner with my wife. The elevator broke down, and a woman took that opportunity to spend 30 minutes berating me for how awful WordPress is as a platform and how I was a horrible person for forcing it on my clients (I was wearing a WP sweatshirt at the time and mistakenly answered the “so what do you do” question). Turns out, she was a WordPress user just frustrated with the WYSIWYG interface. After she calmed down, I explained how to solve her problem and she was a happier person.

    It also turns out she works in the same building the WordPress Meetup group meets in and had just run across the street to grab dinner after work. Despite working in the same building, she’d never heard of the Meetup group. She’d also never heard of WordCamp at all (Portland or otherwise), but promised she’d look it up and attend when it was scheduled.

    The devs among us (myself included) often look at WordPress and argue for changes that fit just the development community – but WordPress has adamantly held on to the principle that we design for the majority. We design the software for non-technical users who “simply want to be able to write without problems or interruption.” This is not the average IRC dev chat attendee, nor is it the average reader of WP news/opinion sites.

    If the target attendee of WordCamps (in general, not just SF) is an insider who casually knows the difference between Meetup groups, WordCamps, and WordCamp SF itself, then we’ve done a great job at branding thus far. But that’s not the average person I’ve seen at WordCamps. There are plenty of insiders, but the vast majority of attendees are WordPress’ end users who don’t know or care what my opinion is about event names, don’t know or care about the difference between .com and .org (until it becomes relevant), who don’t know or care who Matt is, and who don’t know or care what WordCamp Central has to say about which is or isn’t the “official annual conference” of the community.

  2. Well what really differentiates it from the other bigger camps already? Matt’s guaranteed to be there… and ‘State of the Word’ happens there… other than that… what’s different? …the hack day is AT automattic? I mean that’s cool but.. you have core devs at the larger city camps already so. idk.

    • Ahh, the million dollar question. Not much actually. So the question I’d ask you is if there is not much of a difference, why is it then called the Official, annual conference for the WordPress Project? Which is it? That or WordCamp? Maybe WordCamp Miami or WordCamp Europe can start saying their the southern annual conference for the WordPress project or European version. That’s just semantics really.

      Using the story I shared in the post, it will take educating one new WordPress user at a time what WordCamp San Francisco really is because it’s not just a WordCamp. Seems stupid to me. Maybe a couple Google searches would help new people to the community figure it out, but is that really necessary?

      The big differences you already outlined, State of Word, organized by the co-creator of WordPress, has sessions by speakers outside of the WordPress sphere, and this year, community days and contributor days have been bolted on, because it’s THEE WordCamp aka (official, annual conference of the WordPress project). If it’s not just another WordCamp, why the heck is it called WordCamp?

    • Not redacted, just not published yet. Speaker applications/nominations just closed last month. No schedule yet, no ticket prices, so no registration. All will be posted in due time.

  3. Agree, a name change would be good.

    But the fact that WordCon.com has been taken shouldn’t be the reason for not changing the name. In the early days of Visual Basic their big conference was called VBITS for “Visual Basic Insider Technical Summit.” Thus conference names can be creative.

    • It seems at this point, changing the name is a fruitless endeavor. It would be the easiest way to clear up the confusion and other aspects of the event. At the very least, I think the initial arguments brought forth by Eric Mann for a name change are legitimate.

  4. What is the difference between WordCamp SF and other big WordCamps? Should it be a difference? Should it be split into a “WordCon” and a regular WordCamp SF?

    A WordCamp is for anyone interested i WordPress, users, bloggers, site owners, designers, business people, software engineers, theme-, plugin- and core developers, and lead developers. Changing the name will indicate a change in who the conference is for.

    Being the annual conference where Matt is holds his “State of the Word” speach is just a little extra “spice” for the SF edition, as all other WordCamps have their special and traditional speakers and focuses.

    I Europe we now have WordCamp Europe, moving from city to city each year, and will probably always have a special focus on localization. That is also something special. Some WordCamps are named after a country, some after a city.

    So, if something was to change, it would be to create a WordCamp World, being held on different continents year by year. But I don’t see need for that yet.

    And let WordCamps be WordCamps, strengthening the brand, open to all, welcoming everyone, at a fair price. Do not create elites where elites are not needed.

    The strength of WordPress is it’s community.

    I don’t mind lead developers and others may feel the need to come together at closed conferences from time to time, to plan and make strategies for the most difficult parts of future roadmaps, but don’t confuse those with WordCamps.

    Having been to WordCamp SF 2011, WordCamp Europe 2013, and WordCamp Norway (2012, 2013 and 2014), the similarities are the most striking.

    Little me, have contributed code to WordPress, talked to Nacin twice, been seated close to Ryan Boren, and had a beer at the same table as Matt Mullenweg, listened to hundred of the best and most knowledgeable WordPress community members, understanding most of wheat they talk about, because even I, know WordPress fairly good, from both user and developer standpoint.

    WordCon? Not for me. That would be for the excellent people. Please don’t turn WordCamp SF into that. I have plans to revisit SF.

    • And let WordCamps be WordCamps, strengthening the brand, open to all, welcoming everyone, at a fair price. Do not create elites where elites are not needed.

      Is WCSF really a WordCamp though? I tell people who attend our local meetup that it’s called WordCamp but it’s different than any other WordCamp. So if it’s so different. why not have a different name than WordCamp? It can do all the WordCampy stuff but at least it’s public knowledge that the event is the official, annual conference for the WordPress project. Changing the name wouldn’t make WCSF an event for elite people, it would simply clarify its status among all the other WordCamps.

  5. Let me get this right… there hasn’t been a name change that will *greatly* benefit all concerned due to someone squatting on a domain? -__-

  6. I couldn’t agree more. WordCamp SF is not a “WordCamp” as WordCamps are defined but rather the main conference about WordPress. I understand the need from the Foundation’s standpoint to give off the impression that all these events are the same thing but that’s not how the real world works. People outside the community (sponsors, speakers, new members) have no clear understanding of the differentiation and that is a serious problem, not just a matter of education.

    To turn your example on its head I met a woman at WordCamp SF last year who was new to WordPress and just went on a whim. She was impressed by the experience and asked if all WordCamps were like that. Someone else at the table quickly responded “I wish! You just went to the ‘real’ WordCamp. The other ones are glorified Meetups.” I don’t agree with this gross generalization, but there is truth there: WordCamp SF is not the same as other WordCamps. It costs exponentially more to be a sponsor, the speaker requirements are different, and the overall event is different (they have a live band at lunch for crying out loud!).

    I think the community as a whole and WordCamps in general would benefit from a rebranding of the SF event. WordCon is an awful name in my opinion but it’s still better. “WordPress Days” or “WordPress Conference” would be better. The whole camelcasing thing again only makes sense if you’re in the know and we need to start catering to the majority outside the circle, not the minority inside.

    • People outside the community (sponsors, speakers, new members) have no clear understanding of the differentiation and that is a serious problem, not just a matter of education.

      Bingo! That’s the point I believe Eric Mann was trying to make and it’s the same one I made with this post. As for a new name, every suggestion I’ve seen so far has been terrible lol.

  7. Just call it WordPress San Francisco. Or WPSF. The WordPress Foundation owns the trademark rights to WordPress does it not?

    Call it what it is, and end the confusion.

  8. This has been causing confusion for years and there’s been no solution because they couldn’t get the domain they wanted?

    They could have used wordcon.wordpress.org or sf.wordpress.org or con.wordpress.org.

    I just checked and if they’d call it WordConf instead of WordCon, then they could get wordconf.org. Okay, I just registered that to stop anyone else getting it, but if they want it, I’ll give to them free of charge.

    Personally I like sf.wordpress.org, but whatever they use, it would be great if we could find a solution to this in time for next year.

    • Well, they have CSS Conf, SASS Conf, JS Conf, Backbone Conf, etc, so it’s not a new pattern. Not that I’m particularly fond if it, but I think we need to come up with something other than WordCamp. Call it WordCon, call it TheWord, call it anything and use sf.wordpress.org as the URL.

      Mind you, we’ve all managed to live with having two different WordPress sites (.org and .com), which goes to show that we’ll make do if it doesn’t change… :)

      • I’d like your comment if I could. I didn’t realize all those other conferences were using Conf in their name. Also, I too was thinking about how the .com and .org site fits into this discussion. I wouldn’t hold my breath and I think we’ll end up just having to make the best of it and continue to rely on educating the public. But we’ll see.


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