WordPress Community Team Discusses Return to In-Person Events

Although the promise of effective COVID-19 vaccines is shining a light at the end of a long tunnel, the world remains firmly in the virus’ grip until distribution can ramp up to cover at-risk groups as well as the general populace.

As pandemic-weary communities muster the discipline to ride out the next few months under continued restrictions, a new discussion popped up on WordPress.org regarding the return to in-person events. WordPress has canceled all in-person events through the end of the year and 2021 flagship events have already been designated as online-only. Community organizer Angela Jin cited recent successful vaccine trials as a prompt for discussing how WordPress can safely resume in-person events:

There has been promising news around some successful trials for vaccines recently! As such, it seems worthwhile to discuss how the WordPress community can return to hosting safe, in-person events. 

Any in-person event would certainly be subject to local laws and any restrictions on gatherings, as they’ve always been. Beyond what local health authorities require, the Global Community Team may need to to help organizers identify what additional precautions are necessary to ensure in-person events are safe for participants. 

Jin offered several examples of “additional precautions” to ensure events are safe, such as mandatory masks, social distancing, outdoor events, limits on the number of attendees, and no food or drink service.

Although countries like Australia, Taiwan, and New Zealand, seem to have adequately contained the virus, the U.S., Europe, India, and Russia have cases spiraling out of control. The discussion seems oddly timed, as this week the U.S., which is leading the world in deaths, has seen daily deaths climb to 2,804, surpassing the previous record of 2,607 reported on April 15, during the first wave of the pandemic.

Several of those commenting mentioned that the discussion opener neglects a critical detail about whether or not in-person events would resume before vaccines are widely distributed.

“I’m surprised I don’t see mention of the vaccine being a requirement,” Mika Epstein said. “I could assume so, but the risk of COVID is human life.

“That means that unless WordPress (or any public event) has a way to ensure that no one will contract (and die) of COVID, then they have no business having any event, indoor or outdoor.

“Not every country is handling things equally well, and just in the US alone, there are many places where the law says ‘do not have events’ but the local authorities refuse to intercede, which resulted in 80% of the people attending an outdoor party not too far from me all testing positive.”

WordPress is a global community and reliance on local laws may still put event attendees at risk in communities that have been subject to a failure of leadership in protecting citizens.

Cami Kaos, an eight-year WordPress community organizer, echoed these thoughts, saying, “The one thing we need to have in place in order to make a safe re-entry into in person events is to have wide spread access to an effective vaccine.” She commented on the difficulties of trying to ensure attendees don’t inadvertently put each other at risk:

It’s all well and good for us to say you can only organize within the recommendations of your local community, but we have no way of knowing how responsible individuals are being. Of knowing if they have come in from out of town for the event. If a member of their household is a frontline worker who might be exposed daily, if someone in their family is high risk and we could be endangering a life.

Without widely distributed vaccines, hosting in-person gatherings with the possibility of attendees traveling from hotspot locations would be unconscionable.

Kaos also commented on how difficult enforcement would be for WordPress community volunteers who would be tasked with making sure individuals wear masks properly, use hand sanitizer, maintain distance, and uphold any other requirements.

“All of this would be putting unpaid and uncompensated volunteers at risk unnecessarily,” Kaos said.

“If people would like to make the choice to see their friends and collaborators in person, that can be their choice. But I don’t feel morally comfortable legally and finically supporting in-person gatherings when I think we could prevent even one death by extending our pause on in-person events to wait for a vaccine to be readily available.”

Other commenters discussed how to manage the logistics of sponsoring masks and sanitizer for organizers by coordinating with local venues and figuring out a way around slow international shipments.

“This actually opens totally new ways to organize WordPress events!” WordCamp organizer Timi Wahalahti said. “Why not have a bicycle trip or something similar with your WordPress friends?”

Live event recordings are another consideration for hosting events in a way that is accessible to more vulnerable populations. According to WordPress community organizer Andrea Middleton, professional video recording has historically been cost prohibitive at scale.

“A year ago focusing on recordings may have sounded in some ways counterproductive to growing in-person events,” WordPress core contributor David Ryan said. “But I think today they provide a short-term fix to the head count crunch, can help bring/keep folx in-the-fold while making in-person attendance even safer, all while adding long-term value even when travel and gatherings normalize.”

The discussion on finding a safe path forward for restarting in-person events will be open until December 16, 2020. Organizers and community members can comment on the post for consideration. Angela Jin said the Community Team will continue to support online events in 2021 and beyond, regardless of any decisions resulting from the discussion.

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9 responses to “WordPress Community Team Discusses Return to In-Person Events”

  1. Quit the editorialising.

    We don’t live in a nanny state, nor should we aspire too.

    Every time I play rugby I put my health at risk. But I’m aware of the risks , it’s lawful, and it is enjoyable

    In fact people run dangerous events all the time and as long as they disclose the risks to the participants and the event is legal then there is nothing wrong with running it.

    There would be nothing “unconscionable” with running meetups, wordcamps etc as long as the organisers disclosed the risk to participants.

    Informed choice within the law is in fact a good thing

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    • There would be nothing “unconscionable” with running meetups, wordcamps etc as long as the organisers disclosed the risk to participants.

      The problem is here that the participants do not only take the risk for themselves, but also put their surroundings and their community at risk.

      And the situation is even worse because people who are willing to participate a large event in the midst of a global pandemic are (at least in my experience) the ones that are in general more open to not following the rules set in place to protect other people – and especially those with a greater risk of severe infections.

      If I were in the community team, I would absolutely not support an in-person event under these circumstances, knowing that the people who participate are largely those who give a damn about protecting others.

      Sorry for my harsh opinion, but I’m absolutely fed up with people believing they would put no one but themselves at risk by giving a fuck about the rules set in place, and the recommendations given by international non-profit organizations.

      I’ve seen people die because people in their families gave a shit about these rules and did not tell their loved ones they participated a large event or meet with everyone without protection, so they could make an informed choice of at least not meeting these people.

      I know a case of 3(!) a..holes having participated a (legal where I live, at least in the summer when it took place) wedding with 50 participants knowing they were tested positive (which in turn is clearly illegal where I live) without any protection and without telling anyone, while the rules clearly say you need to stay at home and not have contact with anybody if you were tested positively. And even if you were tested and still waiting for your results. On that wedding, 48 of the 50participants got infected, and 3 of them died, including the bride.

      So stay! at! home! – if not to protect yourself, then to protect the people you love and the people in your community and maybe work environment who are impacted by your choices.

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    • Every time I play rugby I put my health at risk

      You are absolutely right Peter.
      Do you put your family at risk though? I guess if you get a really bad concussion you do, otherwise, it’s scratches and bruises and it’s only about your health. No one is getting scratches and bruises by being in close contact with you. But this is how a virus spreads.

      Not to mention that in many countries, at least in Europe, there are restrictions to in-person events. The number in Italy is six: they need to live under the same roof or being related.

      @sarah, the reason why the discussion is being brought up now it’s because, in the announcement made in July, the team said they would re-evaluate them for Q1-2021. So nothing odd about the timing, just the team giving updates as promised.

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    • If we allow events to kill people because they consented with the so called risks, then invite the politicians to the discussion: I want to ask why our states for decades do not allow tourism to access nuclear plant without appropriate equipment.🤔 If I consent to the risks involved, why can’t I visit nuclear plants at the weekend, right? Why can’t I allow Google to steal all metadata from me? “If I gave them my consent, they should be able to treat me as much as a product as I want, and not the contrary.”, that’s the line of thought in which your argument is. 😨Why not allow people to jump from planes if they consent? Much more possibilities to euthanasia… You see, I just switched the objects and subjects from your argument: a world of possibilities your argument is not so far from. May the world never reach it, I pray. It is not meetups and wordcamps that need to offer consent. Just wait for the vaccines, if they work: good, as expected. For now, encouraging events rather than encouraging protection from a lethal and uncommon disease is a decision, and the reason why we are eternally sick is because some people lobby for googles, nuclear plants, covid… I don’t know if I was clear enough. I don’t have much time to write. I hope to be readable. I am trying to show you what you didn’t see (because no one sees everything) when saying that ‘running meetups would not be unconscious’. Would be conscious to desires and for the ego, but it would be unconscious to the conscience ruling your body, yes.

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    • And then, when the participants become infected, they will have a respirator tucked in the throat at the hospital, full of tubes, and the other participants will not even be able to visit them at the hospital, if those are their last days. Events may require consents regarding involved risks, but consent regarding death, you wanted to say? The real event is health. Let’s promote it on our bodies while we still have it. It does not need a law, a decree of mayor, or a governor. The concern to take care of ourselves has to be the person’s and not anyone else’s permission. That’s why in some states, currently Meetups are able to be organized, and not in other states (Consciousness is everything). The first vaccines are around the corner, and will allow us to reassess the situation soon.

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      • “That’s why in some states, currently Meetups are able to be organized, and not in other states (Consciousness is everything)”

        I want to correct this, that no one gets a wrong understanding here. Currently all WordPress events, Meetups included, are held only online and there’s no state-by-state or country-by-country exceptions to that. That will be the case until Community Team decides and informs something other after the discussions taking place in it’s blog.

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  2. I’ve quite enjoyed the virtual conferences so far that I’ve been able to engage in.

    Usually these meetups and conferences are in foreign countries that I can’t afford to travel to. I’ve often wonder if these conferences are just elaborate setups. Like are they really necessary and needed.

    So far in 2020 look at how far things have already progressed for WordPress without the necessary need for an in-person event. Like Gutenberg for example and the progress WordPress has made for this year.

    As much as I like to meet people face to face sometimes things are better left to a video presentation for personal viewing. Just my opinion and thoughts on that.

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