WordCamp Speaker Blacklist Is A Bad Idea

Chris Lema Blog LogoChris Lema has put together an interesting post that details the reasons why WordCamp speakers should be reviewed. While Chris attended WordCamp Los Angeles 2013 organized by first timers, he listened to a presenter or two that shared more about themselves rather than their content. He then thought about ways in which WordCamps could better protect themselves from such speakers. If you take a look at the WordCamp guidelines, there are already a number of items in place when it comes to selecting speakers. However, WordCamps can go beyond those guidelines and add a few of their own, such as the case with WordCamp Orlando 2013.

Chris’ initial idea was to create a blacklist. However, after speaking with Andrea Middleton, the idea of a national blacklist was thrown out the window.

I’ll admit that my first thought was that we should have a blacklist. If you get on it, you have to work hard to get off it. But more importantly, a central black list would protect all our events to make sure people who were pitching themselves would be ousted, once and for all.

Personally, I think a blacklist would be a terrible idea because WordCamps are supposed to focus on the local community. These communities are made up of people most of us have never heard of. My fear is that they would speak at an event like WordCamp, screw up once and then be placed on the blacklist. It’s like taking someone who meant no harm, throwing them in a pit and wishing them good luck as they try to work themselves out of it. That’s the last thing the WordPress community needs. I think the WordPress community is excellent at policing itself, especially when it comes to things like this. If a speaker goes on stage and it becomes a session of Me, Me, Me, that information will immediately be known via blog posts and Twitter.

WordCamp Speaker Ratings And Reviews

Chris’ follow up idea to solve this problem is speaker ratings and reviews. WordCamp Central would host a centralized area where the speaker ratings and reviews could be housed and on each individual WordCamp page, using an embed link or a standard form, attendees could rate and provide feedback for individual speakers. This would give them a speaker profile that would contain ratings, reviews, etc. As someone mentioned in the comments of the post, adding the speaker information to their WordPress.org user profile seems like a natural place to put it.

The comments in his post are definitely worthy of reading as they bring up some great points. For example, many have agreed that making the speaker reviews private would be better for the speaker vs. having them in public. I agree with that. Placing the reviews as private would give attendees the opportunity to really tell the speaker what they thought of their performance without the fear of being chastised or attacked for their critical words in public. In the WordPress community, we are typically too nice to each other at times where being critical would be more beneficial. By keeping reviews private, both attendees and speakers win, although I’d give a slight edge to the speaker, as they get a chance to receive constructive criticism that can help them improve their stage presence.

SpeakerRate – A Service For Reviewing Talks And Speakers

I remember seeing this service in use a few years ago on a couple of different WordCamp sites and at the time, I thought it was a neat idea. It’s called SpeakerRate and enables users to add talks they have given while other registered members can rate those talks and provide testimonials of the speaker.

SpeakerRate Profile Page
My User Profile For SpeakerRate

After signing up, I discovered that there is no way to make the testimonial section private. There is no easy alternative to provide private feedback which is definitely a black mark against using this across the board for WordCamps. However, the service itself is a great example for WordCamp Central if they wanted to create something similar for all WordCamp sites.

Not Really A Problem For Now

I have not attended a large amount of WordCamps but for each one that I have, I’ve yet to encounter a session with a presenter that made think about their motives for being at the event. I don’t think bad presenters are a problem for WordCamps right now. At the same time, if there was a bad presentation, I’d love to be able to submit my thoughts and recommendations to the speaker in private versus on Twitter or inside of blog comments. I’d like for WordCamp websites to offer me that option after attending the event. I’ve filled out surveys after attending WordCamps and they usually contain questions with ratings that tell the organizers whether I had a good time or not. I’m with Chris in as far as that some type of feedback system should be in place for every WordCamp so attendees can rate, review, and comment on the sessions they attended. I also think those reviews should be accessible to both WordCamp organizers and speakers. This way, both parties are kept in the loop and know what the audience thinks.

This is a great discussion and I’m curious to read feedback from all parties involved. Speakers, organizers, and attendees.

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