The campiness of WordCamps

Natalie MacLees has been involved with the Southern California WordPress community for a long time, and in a new post, she notes that she believes some of the “camp” feel of WordCamps has been lost.

It quite obviously costs a lot more than $40/person to put on a conference, and you might assume that it’s the sponsors who pick up the rest of the tab. And you’re partly right. WordCamps absolutely wouldn’t happen without the support of the sponsors who foot the bill for everything from the venue to the catering to the after party.

But there’s also a big chunk of the cost being paid by another group that WordCamps couldn’t happen without – the organizers and the speakers.

I don’t know that we often think about it this way, but organizers and speakers pay out of their own pockets to support WordCamps. Organizers donate huge chunks of time and talent to pulling off a WordCamp, and that time and talent comes at a cost, especially for those who work for themselves or aren’t otherwise reimbursed by an employer for their efforts.

She makes a lot of great points, especially in regards to the challenge that organizing a big WordCamp has on organizers. The (while be it temporary) cost burden on organizers paying for stuff and awaiting reimbursement can put a real strain on life, and right around crunch time.

The WordCamp organization does a great job, but there are challenges that you just can’t avoid with big events, and part of Natalie’s point (I think) is that she’d like folks to realize just what kind of value they get from these conferences — where in most industries they’d cost 5-20x as much — and also for us all to think about what kind of changes could occur to bring costs and organizing efforts down some.

Some of the pressures are self-imposed by organizers wanting to put on a spectacular show — as Natalee and commenter Konstantin Obenland point out. One proposed option is just to chill out a little. I’d also suggest that maybe the organization could setup a system where trusted organizers could track time and be paid for that time, to help offset the burden. I’m sure at least some money could be found in budgets if such a move would help improve camps.

For organizers, volunteers, or frequent attendees, Natalee’s post is a worthwhile one to read.

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