WordCamp US 2020 Online has been officially cancelled. In addition to this announcement, the lead trio of WCUS organizers — Angela Jin, Kim Lipari, and Kathy Drewien — answered some of the questions many people will have about their decision.
The WCUS team took questions from WP Tavern and Post Status. The below Q&A is what they sent us directly. Sarah Gooding at WP Tavern did an article based on the responses that we were both sent. Be sure to check it out.
Could you tell me what finally put the team over the edge to decide on cancelling instead of going virtual?
The WordCamp US team had decided to move to an online event in April. However, in recent weeks, the team has spent a lot of time discussing the goals of WordCamp US, and whether we can achieve them in the way we want to, through an online format. The goals of WordCamp are to help people learn to use and contribute to WordPress by connecting WordPress enthusiasts to each other, inspiring people to do more with WordPress, and encouraging people to contribute back to the project.
We’ve been following the latest posts on the Make Community blog, and we see that online WordCamps, as they currently are, are struggling to meet these goals. In addition, there’s a lot of online conference fatigue out there! The Lead Organizers also took into consideration how many volunteers we have on this team, and how much time we were asking them to invest in an event that didn’t seem to be able to offer the same level of joy or satisfaction that an in-person WordCamp would.
As you might imagine, this was a very upsetting realization, but the whole team spent time discussing together, and we believe that we made the right decision. This organizing team is made up of experienced and dedicated volunteers, who see that the online events are shifting to better suit what the community is looking for. Some organizers will be shifting their focus to hosting a 24 hour contributor day and producing some of the workshop and youth programming content — which is really exciting to see.
Will the State of the Word be held virtually?
Discussions about the State of the Word are still active; our understanding is that it will still happen, but possibly not in association with any other event.
How much money was budgeted for the production company? Can you link me to that public budget? Is that money refundable with this event being cancelled?
Cancellation costs are still being finalized. When the last round of discussions with vendors is complete, the team will publish a full accounting of expenses on the Community Team blog or the event site.
Will the location change for next year, assuming it will be held as an in-person event?
Decisions about WordCamp US 2021 are paused for now, due to the pandemic.
What does this mean for WordCamps not currently on the calendar?
I’m sure all WordCamps on the calendar are struggling with the same questions that the WCUS 2020 team had, about how to focus their energy in the ways that would make the most impact for our community. Many people are excited about exploring the potential that comes with a combination of asynchronous workshops + live discussions groups, and other online formats that could help welcome more people into the WordPress community in new ways. WordPress community organizers are very adaptable, and we look forward to working with some of them on the projects we’re exploring, or seeing what different things they try.
Can you confirm that the original budget for the event, prior to planning on going virtual, was more than one million dollars?
Yes, the original budget was very close to $1 million, the biggest costs being venue and catering, along with other customary expenses for conferences of the size of WCUS.
How do you feel now that it is cancelled after investing all this time and energy into the event?
Personally, I believe it to be the right decision for all the reasons I shared earlier. The WCUS team did invest a lot of time and energy into this event, but in a year when it is incredibly hard to plan anything, we did the best we could and adapted quickly. And we needed to — to be able to reach this decision. I’m sad, of course, as I miss seeing everyone at WordCamps, but even if it was time and energy invested in something that didn’t happen, I spent time doing it with brilliant people who care just as much about WordPress as I do. It’s been an immensely challenging year, and I’m humbled to have been a part of this team, which has consistently supported each other and grown together in the face of adversity.