WP Tech Event Will No Longer Be a WordCamp

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WP Tech is “breaking up with WordCamp,” according to co-organizer Willy Bahuaud. The developer-centric event, previously called WordCamp Nantes WP Tech, is set to be held at the end of November and was welcomed as France’s second official WordCamp.

During the course of working with WordCamp Central, the organizers decided to opt out of keeping WP Tech under the WordCamp umbrella due to a number of conflicts.

“WordCamp Central gave us too many constraints, and we would not have been able to create a great technical event about WordPress,” co-organizer Daniel Roch told the Tavern. “It will be an independent WordPress tech event, like other great events such as Pressnomics, WPSessions, WordSesh or WordUps.”

The organizing team found that some of the WC Central rules would have forced them to change the core concept of WP Tech. “In our case, we wanted to hold WP Tech as a national event, inviting speakers from France to a provincial town (Nantes),” said Bahuaud. However, this poses a problem, as WordCamps are meant to be local events and the majority of speakers have to be from the city where the event takes place.

The second critical conflict they encountered was regarding speaker expenses. “We want to cover speakers’s travel cost. WordCamp central was very firm with this point: we can’t. The WP Tech team was told that the only people’s expenses that can be covered are those who appear on the sidebar of WordPress’ about page.

“WC Central’s position is that traveling to speak at a conference is a legitimate business expense,” Bahuaud said. “But we think it’s not. We believe that if people spent time to prepare a conference, it’s normal to cover their $200 (on average) travel and accommodation costs.”

Additionally, Bahuaud reports that the requirement to use the WordCamp platform for the event’s website was problematic, since it doesn’t allow for extensive customization. The event branding requirements were also an issue. Organizers changed the event name to “WordCamp Nantes WP Tech” but WC Central required further changes to make it compatible with guidelines.

“Four months before the event, rules were still changing and we had to be accountable on each step. It was very frustrating, so we decided to break up with WordCamp, and make our event separate,” Bahuaud explained.

Cultural and Economic Differences Regarding Speaker Travel Guidelines

Jenny Beaumont, a WordPress developer and an active member of the French WordPress community, commented on the conflict with insight on the economic differences experienced by non-US event organizers:

In France, a majority of people in the WordPress community are freelancers, and as such, many of us have a legal status that’s called an ‘auto-entrepreneur’. It’s part of what is known as a micro-regime that gives us a tax break on social contributions, which are very imposing here (45% for regular business owners).

The flip side to this is two-fold: 1) We have a ceiling on earnings, 2) We can’t deduct expenses. It’s this last fact that also influences the desire on the part of WordCamp organizers in France to want to reimburse speakers for their travels costs. WordCamp Paris has been doing it for years, though in light of recent events, may be prohibited from doing so in the future.

Whereas Americans are free to deduct work-related travel expenses as a business expense from their taxes, French speakers do not share that same privilege. At this point in time, WC Central guidelines don’t currently allow for flexibility on the issue of speaker travel, but the guidelines are not written in stone. WordCamp Central is open to further discussion on the matter.

Andrea Middleton clarified the issue of speaker travel expenses today on the make.wordpress.org Community blog. She highlighted the importance of WordCamps as local events and how paying for speaker travel costs doesn’t mesh well with that guideline:

WordCamps are locally-focused, so there’s an inherent disconnect between paying for people from out of town to speak at a WordCamp and that emphasis on local community. Local experts are assets to their communities all year round, whereas visiting speakers don’t typically serve as ongoing resources once they have returned to their home cities.

Middleton suggests the more cost-effective option of utilizing Skype or Google hangouts to pull in out-of-town speakers who are unable to cover their own travel expenses. The idea is that the WordCamp budget can be better used to serve the local community.

“A WordCamp’s primary focus is on connecting local community and lifting up local experts, rather than blowing our budgets on flying people around the world when technology can get them there so much faster,” she explained.

Community members who want to advocate a different opinion on the guidelines have the opportunity to do so. Middleton invites discussion in the comments of her post. She also plans to discuss the issue with contributors at the WordPress Community Summit in October, which will include WordCamp and meetup organizers from around the world. Data from WordCamp San Francisco’s new travel assistance program may also factor into the discussion.

Not every WordPress event has to be a WordCamp. It’s not a failure on the part of the organizers or WC Central if there are irreconcilable differences. If an event finds the WordCamp guidelines to be too problematic, organizers can host it as an independent event. WC Central exists to nurture local pockets of WordPress enthusiasm, but not every event will share that mission. There’s no mandate that all WordPress events have to be WordCamps and many successful events run outside of that umbrella.

Do you think the economic differences in other countries are an influencing factor regarding the creation of new WordCamps? Should cultural and economic differences come into play when it comes to officially-sanctioned WordCamp events?

25 Comments


  1. To me the concept of WordCamps should be rethought. They adding more rules that the cons of organising a WordCamp are non existing. Also they don’t apply the rules equal on every WordCamp. I saw WordCamps where a lot of speakers where from outside the city/country and I don’t think it has to be a bad thing.

    For example I was not allowed to organise WordCamp Serbia because I didn’t live there. I got to hear that after a year of e-mail with WC Central. First of all it’s completely disrespectful to keep you on the line but secondly I have a huge connection with the country and I know and talk regularly with quite a few developers living there. The only thing where I come short is that I don’t really speak the language.

    By saying this, I fully understand the guys from WP Tech in their experience. It feels like this could have been prevented by saying a yes or no in the beginning. Also if WordCamp Central really wanted to help out they would have done that. In the end we are all here to make the community better and with WordCamps I have the feeling it’s sometimes forgotten.

    If it’s correct that organisers can only cover expenses for people on the about page then I don’t know if I really want to ever organise a WordCamp. First of all it’s just plain stupid. Specially for European countries since how cool it is to invite those people, I strongly suggest if they want to invite people (and pay the expenses) from outside that this still should be from Europe. That said making this kind of exceptions is unacceptable from a community standpoint. We all build WordPress. It’s not just the core team but it’s a big group of people helping out with all kinds of things to make WordPress better.Also I believe speakers did got their hotel covered 1 or 2 years ago at WordCamp San Francisco but I can be wrong about that.

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    1. Marko,

      Couldn’t you just ask one of those contacts in Serbia be the organizer?

      If you don’t live in Serbia, how would it look when WordCamp Beograd/Novi Sad/other city in Serbia go about getting local sponsors?

      Aren’t WordCamps supposed to be WordCamp (insert city name here)? Yes I know there is WC UK and WC Europe

      If you live in another country in Europe, Couldn’t you talk to WCE organizers and get WCE to go to Beograd?

      Please note that I have nothing against Serbia, I love Serbia. I think there should be a WCE in the region around Serbia as well. Ljubjana, Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Sarajevo.

      3 themes ago, the creator of that theme was from Čačak, Serbia (in case WPT doesn’t take accents: Cacak, Serbia).

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      1. Hey Miroslav,

        We did now. Also because I do know quite a few of companies, getting local sponsors would not be a big problem. Also I’m sure ManageWP would help us out. There are quite a few WordCamp out there with country names because not all countries are that big as the US ;).

        My opinion about WordCamp Europe is that it isn’t a WordCamp that is good for the local community. It help the people who are really into it but for communities as the Serbian it’s just a couple of years to early. I do believe the in the region we make big steps. A few people from Serbia already visited the meetup in Zagreb. And I still would love to visit them too. We just need to make little steps to grow in a healthy way. That said Bulgaria is in the region of Serbia ;)

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      2. How does a continent WordCamp event be handled on the language issue? There is over 20 languages spoken in Europe.

        What language would WordCamp Serbia be in? Serbian? English?

        I have been at different tech events in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia (yes they do exist – tech events in those countries).

        I was born in Croatia (Dubrovnik) but after 20-ish years living in Canada, in a part with no Croatian speakers a lot has been forgotten, I had to have a translator with me.

        What if someone who lives in Hungary or Romania, close to the border with Serbia want to attend and WC Serbia is the closest, would they have to learn Serbian?

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      3. WordCamp Europe is English only and most sessions on WordCamp Serbia will be helt in Serbian. Like most WordCamps in Europe most sessions are helt in their own language. I have spoken at several WordCamps where I was one of the few sessions in English and I do accept that because I expect that to be.

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  2. I was part of the mentorship program for WordCamp Nantes WP Tech and I’d like to share my perspective as well.

    While Daniel (whom I was in touch with) is a great guy, I wouldn’t agree with the team’s motives and the way the event has been prepared.

    Name-wise, there have been way too many WordCamps already and all of them are structured as “WordCamp X”, where X is a country or a city name. It’s not a common practice to add two separate words after the WordCamp name, especially when WP is one of them.

    Regarding the local presence, while it’s generally the preferred practice (the 80-20 rule), it is still possible to lean to 60-40 or 70-30 in some cases. If the majority of the speakers are not from Nantes, then the question is: is Nantes ready for a WordCamp yet? If the local community or a meetup group is large enough, then it should be easy to find local speakers – otherwise growing the meetup group might be a better idea.

    Regarding the costs, I have two general concerns. First off, as Andrea pointed out – there have been public guidelines and each WordCamp organizer has to comply with them. While some are set in stone, others could be recommendations, but paying for speakers in general could cause a number of issues – conflicts with the local community, arguments with the sponsorship money, and so on.

    There are plenty of WordCamps held in countries with much, much lower economical standard than France where speakers have been covering their own expenses (not to mention that a lot of us also pay for travels outside of the continent even, and have a personal “travel” fund deducted from our source of income). I wouldn’t like to get into politics, but France doesn’t strike me as a 3rd world country with outstanding financial problems (especially with the $200 mark mentioned in the post).

    I wouldn’t mind at all if I didn’t have to pay for speaking abroad, but as long as the policy is written as is, we have to comply with it accordingly.

    There’s nothing wrong with non-WordCamps for sure, but trying to get under the WordCamp name comes with a set of requirements, and that’s the price one has to pay in order to join the WordCamp community.

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  3. I have so many issues with WordCamp Central,

    Isn’t the whole WC supposed to be about COMMUNITY? Not every community will have an expert on every topic.

    I am in Toronto, Canada. What if I wanted certain topic that Clark Wimberly knows a lot about? (I never met him). According to his twitter profile he is from Austin Texas. I wouldn’t be allowed to bring him in.

    What if I want to bring in an expert on for WP Multiuser (whatever it is called now).
    For that I would want to bring Andrea & Ron R. They both live in New Brunswick Canada. Toronto is in Ontario province, then Quebec province is in between Ontario and New Brunswick. Two provinces over.

    What if I want to bring………get the idea?

    I have told Jeff (WPTavern General Manager) on so many occasions over the years that he should speak at WCTO

    Disclosure: I have been volunteering at WCTO since 2008 or 2009. I can’t remember. NOT a WCTO organizer.

    I have said this before over and over again. All communities start growing somewhere, until some growth, you won’t find local speakers on certain topics at first. You need to bring people in.

    I think speakers should be compensated. Air and accommodation. I don’t mean a 5 star $800 a night hotel room.

    It could easily cost a speaker $1,000 when you add up travel (air/driving/train/bus) + accommodation, parking and so forth.

    Speakers promote WordPress. I see Matt Mullenweg on the sidebar on about page. So HIS expenses can be paid for yet not others?

    WordPress/Automattic boats about having a world wide workforce and it is all about community. Yet no world wide speakers are allowed?

    Why is WordCamp Central defining MY community as the municipal boundaries of the city (Toronto) that I live in?

    I have spoken at other conferences and some tech related conferences. Travel/accommodations have been paid.

    I never travelled to those conferences 1st. class. Most of the time they re-reimburse me.

    What if let’s say WordCamp Toledo (Is there one in Toledo?) wants me to speak there? Depending on how you travel, speakers are putting up $1,000 for that weekend.

    Things have to change. If it’s about the community then the community should speak.

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  4. WordCamp Belo Horizonte, Brazil, a country with much lower than Europe’s financial problems, had 24 speakers and they all paid their own travel without any help from WordCamp.

    Some were from Belo Horizonte, but many came from nearby cities to help power the local community.

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  5. I have no issues with WordCamp Central having guidelines or rules. It’s a foundation. That’s what it’s supposed to do. Anytime we forget that it’s a foundation, we do everyone (ourselves included) a disservice.

    But here’s the flip side of that coin, and it comes with the maturity in any sector.

    The reality is that you can have TONS more events than just WordCamps. WordCamps are defined by the foundation and they’re trying to keep them organized and consistent. Great. But if you’re developing a WordPress community in your area, or around your company’s brand, nothing stops you from creating your own event.

    There is nothing magical about the “WordCamp” name that makes the power of gathering people together special.

    You lose the sponsorship assistance, but you lose restrictions as well.

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    1. I’m in agreement with Chris – pretty much sums things up for me. If you want to create a great conference based around whatever you wish you can as long as you don’t use trademarks. If you have a solid schedule, great venue and awesome speakers then you can run it how you wish, charge if you want (or not) and pay for speakers (or not). It’s a free market so do what you need to do.

      If however you wish to use the branding, infrastructure etc that is offered by WordCamp Central then you go that route and abide by the foundations rules.

      My personal view, and I’ve only managed to get to a few WordCamps so far, is that although great events for mixing with people, I don’t learn much that I want. That’s a personal thing of course, but I think it’s because of rules in place for promoting services, products etc. that I believe is in place.

      I understand the reasoning behind this but again it opens the door quite well for those events being held that don’t fall under the regulations or the WordCamp stamp.

      With regard to the initial post, I don’t see an issue. They had a square block and it didn’t fit in the round hole supplied. So they make a new square hole and carry on right?

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    2. What Chris Lema said. Plus, when you’re capable of putting a professional event together and compensate speaker’s traveling, you probably don’t need sponsorship assistance anyhow.

      You admittedly won’t be able to leverage the WordCamp trademark’s popularity when you choose a different name, but heck, our meetup group of 5 people organized 2 WP Camps in Berlin 2012 and 2013, and we didn’t need any assistance! (Yay, Axel!) Those events, btw, where totally by the community, for the community and of the community, and a great success — just not labeled WordCamps. This year, there was a “real” (=labeled) WordCamp in Hamburg then, and everyone was just as enthusiastic about it.

      So horray diversity! If anyone think everything always has to be I/O all the time, give yourself a break. :)

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  6. “Pressnomics, WPSessions, WordSesh or WordUps” – wow, two of these I’ve never even heard of: it would be nice if these were links… to save me having to Google each… just saying. ;) Interesting post though – maybe WordCamps have too many restrictions then…

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  7. Hi. WP Tech is a specific case (even I know there’s something similar in Toronto if I remember well). It’s an event which aims to have a national scope and if possible which may attract well known foreign technical experts. So I understand why it doesn’t match WordCamp Central rules and I am fine with that.

    @nofearinc. You’re right France (my country) is a rich country. However you may understand that it can be difficult for some people to cover expenses (rich country doesn’t mean that everyone is rich). Many times, I’ve seen these people doing great things at WordCamps. Regarding Nantes, please remember that not every city in France is as big as US cities.

    I’d like to see rules that take in account local realities if possible because in the end we all work to develop the WordPress community and it appears that at the moment, France probably needs to work at a national level.

    Different places, different paths, where’s the problem if at the end there’s a strong WordPress community?

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  8. I’ve organized two WordCamps and was part of one in 2010 (pre Foundation involvement). The Foundation does a lot for the organizers to try and make the experience of running a camp as smooth as possible. They don’t really have a lot of hard rules in place but there are many “recommendations.”

    I’ve moved from Minnesota where I organized the event and I’m now organizing a conference called http://PrestigeConf.com which is outside of the WordCamp model. We are doing things a little differently than a WordCamp would do them and speaker travel is one of the things we strayed with. We’re organizing a single track event based around business and wanted to have the best speakers we know at the event. We feel that paying for their travel was a great way to help facilitate getting those speakers.

    There is room for many types of conferences built around a platform that powers 22% of the Internet. The Foundation took the reigns of the WordCamp brand and has brought with it some guidelines. There is room to have different types of conferences based around WordPress and still not impose on what WordCamps are or will be in the future.

    I’ll continue to support WordCamps but I also want to see these other conferences flourish. Competition is good for any ecosystem and I believe quality will always rise to the top. People get really worked up about a conference that isn’t called WordCamp. Remember it is an Open Source community, to get upset about a competing model to WordCamp sort of flies in the face of how we all make our livings. To run a conference is really no different than starting a theme shop from a philosophical perspective. Non WordCamps can still be strong in community building. I’d argue in some ways it can be even stronger…

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  9. As a few said, I think there is room for both. Having been a organizer for WordCamp Seattle, I have no qualms about the Foundation rules. In fact, I wasn’t in the business of being an event organizer, and with their assistance it took a lot of load off us organizers.

    On the other hand, I think it’s great to see other conferences emerging and individuals giving the community other venus to learn and connect. And I imagine more will evolve over time. It’s all about choices, and I think they all have their place in the WordPress community.

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  10. WP is one of the few communities I’ve seen that has these branded conferences on the scale they are at. That, combined with the Foundation having it’s own restrictions (being a 503c makes some things different than a normal for-profit enterprise) makes a WordCamp be a specific type of event. And that’s totally OK.

    There is *nothing* preventing people from doing their own thing and incorporating WP in some capacity, whether it’s specific tracks or otherwise. Personally, I find most camps now don’t have the depth of advanced developer focused topics I’d want, but that’s because they want to appeal to users as much as developers. So I’d be well served attending conferences outside of official WordCamps to expand my skill set. This isn’t the fault of WordCamps, nor is it an issue that even needs to be addressed. It’s called choice.

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  11. If you don’t like the WC rules, just opt out. PressNomics (which we organize) did not make a bunch of noise about being an independant event. Mullenweg and Jaquith even spoke at the first one, so clearly there is no conspiracy to blackball/hamper non-official events. Just hold your event, respect the trademark, move on. Making a big public statement about it just kicks the WP-Outrage machine into high gear, and the community looks worse for it from an outside vantage point.

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    1. Strebel – I hear what you’re saying, but I also think there’s value in looking at different cultures and areas to see if the guidelines for officially-sanctioned WordPress events might be in need of reevaluation. As community’s grow and change, guidelines will naturally need to be adjusted from time to time. I think it’s interesting to examine how economics and culture might influence organizing teams in creating events that they hope to place under the WordCamp umbrella. The discussion is healthy and not meant to incite outrage.

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      1. Sarah, agreed. Just saying to handle it privately, or in a more constructive tone. Raging against the machine in public is a dead end. The foundation is less likely open to make changes with their back against the wall in a fight, then they would face to face over dinner.

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      2. I don’t think the discussion should be private, as it effects thousands of people and communities. It isn’t a black or white question of should an event be a WordCamp or not. It’s about how WC Central defines communities and whether culture comes into play. The question is whether or not WC Central guidelines are in need of reevaluation. Xavier Borderie makes an excellent point in his comment on the make.wordpress/community blog:

        “It might all boil down to what’s local, and what’s “out-of-town”. Is it to be limited to the city itself, its province, its region/state, the whole country… or people speaking the same language? While I understand the need to bring together local communities, you just cannot compare a US State-wide community and places where “local” really means “country-wide, and then some.”

        http://make.wordpress.org/community/2014/08/27/speaker-travel-for-wordcamps/#comment-11480

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