Tulsa’s first ever WordCamp, which was scheduled for August 29-30, 2020, has officially been canceled due to uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. The event would have been the second WordCamp in Oklahoma in four years, following WordCamp OKC in 2016.
“We were trying to go for a hybrid event that was live streamed and included an audience,” lead organizer James Bullis said. “This was something that hadn’t been tried before and with Oklahoma opening up it was a possibility.”
The six-person organizing team had already selected speakers and were going to notify them but had not yet set the WordCamp schedule.
“Unfortunately we were told that due to uncertainty we had to choose to do a virtual event or postpone it,” Bullis said. He said WordCamp Central cited a few reasons why a hybrid event would not be possible: social distancing, cleaning requirements throughout the day, the extra cost of a local crew to film, and the quality of the stream with live audience elements.
When presented with the choice to either go full virtual or postpone the event, the organizing team took advice from WordCamp Central’s approved streaming company. Having free virtual tickets available would likely limit the in-person ticket sales and put a greater burden on local sponsorships.
“Since this was the first WordCamp in Tulsa, the organizing team felt it would be better to postpone until 2021,” Bullis said.
Oklahoma is currently in Phase 3 of reopening, with businesses back to operating normally for the most part. Despite COVID-19 cases steadily rising in Oklahoma, along with hospitalizations, Governor Kevin Stitt, said he has no plans to scale back the reopening process. While there is a chance that Oklahoma would be open at the end of August, the situation is too precarious for WordCampers to pin their hopes on an in-person event.
Although many WordCamps are opting to go virtual and have attracted record numbers of online attendees, it’s not easy to measure attendees’ engagement without comprehensive streaming data broken down by hour/session. Bullis and his team decided against holding Tulsa’s inaugural WordCamp as a virtual conference, because they didn’t think it would hold the same value without the in-person interaction.
“We noticed that other WordCamps had gone virtual,” Bullis said. “People on our organizing team registered for these virtual WordCamps but didn’t go to them, or they left early. We felt like this was a pretty common response. We felt that a virtual WordCamp wouldn’t be as effective and would take away from the real value of a WordCamp.”
WordCamp Tulsa is technically canceled but the organizers plan to attempt an in-person event next spring. They will have to start the application process over again to plan for 2021 but hope to host the WordCamp on the first weekend in March or May.