First things first: WordCamp San Francisco 2011, the official annual conference of the WordPress open source project, will be the weekend of August 12-14, with three days of sessions for publishers, bloggers, and developers at the Mission Bay Conference Center and another day or two of related events around town, including a core contributors summit and various mini-meetups. Save the date! We’ll be posting calls for speakers, sponsors, and volunteers on the WordCamp SF 2011 site over the coming weeks.
Second things second: Why am I announcing WordCamp SF as the official annual conference for the WordPress project instead of a WordCon — a la DrupalCon — like I proposed at last year’s WordCamp SF?
WordCamp SF: WordCamp or WordCon?
For anyone who wasn’t at WordCamp SF last year and/or didn’t follow the buzz on Twitter, I started some discussions last April with Matt and various community members who attended WordCamp SF about how WordCamp SF was unlike any other WordCamp. Since San Francisco was the first WordCamp, and was still organized by Matt, it had more of a tendency toward big-name speakers who weren’t necessarily talking about WordPress topics. Some people (like me) jokingly referred to it as “MattCamp” because the content was so different from other WordCamps. It seemed almost kind of lame that San Francisco didn’t have a regular locally-focused WordCamp with all WordPress topics. Also, people who came to WordCamp SF went home thinking they should be trying to put on an event of that scale in their hometown, rather than a more traditional WordCamp with community speakers, etc. I thought WordCamp SF should be organized by the local meetup group, and a separate official conference should be organized by Matt/the core team that could be bigger or more aspirational.
I asked Matt why he chose the speakers he did (specifically the big names not talking about WordPress), and he told me that he tried to bring in people who’d inspired him in the past year, so that he could share that inspiration with the community. These were speakers that normally only appeared at large, expensive conferences, so using his connections to bring them to WordCamp SF was another way for Matt to give something to the community. Put this way, it sounded awesome, not lame. I still thought it should be something other than WordCamp, though. In the hallways at WordCamp SF last year (which was on May 1, 2010), I began talking to other WordCamp organizers and community members about putting together a WordCon event. Everyone was excited by the prospect, and I received many offers of help should we decide to proceed with it.
Next I had to convince Matt that it would be a good idea. I pointed to the DrupalCamp/DrupalCon differentiation as an example. WordCamp SF was his baby, and suggesting that someone else take it over while he shifted his attention to different event wasn’t his favorite idea, but he said if I felt that strongly about it, we could give it a try. WordCon was on! But first we had to get WordPress 3.0 launched. You remember the 3.0 launch in June, right? Core team working around the clock, everyone wondering how the merge would affect their sites, core team working around the clock… Planning a conference a year away didn’t take priority for a couple of months.
Once WordPress 3.0 was launched, I shifted attention back to the idea, and went to register wordcon.com (which I had not done on May 1 after the initial talks because GoDaddy timed out on me and I was impatient), only to find that someone else had registered it on May 18, a couple of weeks after the discussions had begun at WordCamp SF. I knew the person who’d registered the domain — a former WordCamp organizer — and contacted him. He said that he had not heard any of the discussions about us doing an official WordCon, and that he had independently arrived at the idea. He said he and his partner were planning to do a for-profit WordPress conference under that name. We talked more, and I pointed out that the “Con” label in our slice of the world generally meant the big official annual thing, referencing DrupalCon/DrupalCamp as an example. He said he would think about it, and if they decided not to do it, we could buy the domain from him.
What’s in a Name?
We started looking at alternate names, in case the community member decided not to sell us the domain. Yes, we could have just announced we were doing it and used a URL like wordpress.org/wordcon or something, but that felt weird. WordPress Summit? Someone was using that as part of a business name. WordFest? A long-standing literary festival in Portland. State of the Word? “That’s a speech, not a conference.” You name it (heh) and we probably thought of it, looked around, and found some conflict. 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.
WordCamp SF: The Once and Future King
This year will be the fifth anniversary of the very first WordCamp, which was held in San Francisco at the Swedish American Halland brought together the early developers and users of the then-upstart blogging platform known as WordPress. This year we’ll be returning to the Mission Bay Conference Center, where we’ve been the past few years; venue contract is signed, the deposit’s been paid, and we’re getting started on planning the schedule. This year we will have three distinct days of programming: one for large-scale/professional publishers, one for bloggers, and one for developers. We will have more business-friendly activities. We will train core contributors. We will have summit meetings for working groups in the open source project. This will be our WordCon, but with the name that has always meant “annual WordPress conference” to the community. Though part of me still wishes we were doing WordCon (former English majors like me just really get hung up on labels sometimes), most of me is getting very excited about what we can do at WordCamp SF this year to celebrate and continue to build our community. As plans for WCSF 2011 get firmed up, we’ll post about them here.
I hope you’ll plan to attend if you’re able! You can also keep up by following @WordCampSF on Twitter.