Over the past few weeks I’ve been exceptionally lucky to have attended two of the most unique WordPress events of this year: the WordPress Community Summit and Pressnomics. I’ve already attended four WordCamps (!!!) in Utrecht, Edinburgh, New York, and Lisbon, each of which had its own character and cultural flavour. I tend to go to WordCamps with a few things in mind – hang out with my WordPress friends, meet current clients, pick up new clients, share knowledge, get do a bit of partying. I’m usually successful at all of these things.
WordCamps are usually focused on doing things with WordPress, whether that’s as a user or as a developer. However, in Georgia and Arizona over the past few weeks, I’ve been involved in two quite different faces of WordPress: Community and Commercialisation.
Community Summit: Building the WordPress Community
The WordPress Community Summit was an invite-only event held in the wedding chapel on Tybee Island, on 29th October 2012. Five of us from WP Realm there – myself, Andrea, Christine, Remkus, and Zé. While specific issues were addressed, there were some general over-arching questions:
- How can we make WordPress better?
- What are the challenges WordPress faces?
- How do we get more people to contribute to WordPress?
- How do we strengthen the community?
The topics spanned from issues such as how we can increase international participation to how we can move towards WordPress auto-updates. We looked at high-level organisational items such as the transparency of the foundation and the implementation of the GPL, and the creation of new tools like a multi-lingual plugin.
While controversy was expected, it never occurred. Instead there was a group of about 130 people who were focused on making WordPress better. I understand that there were people who were put-out that it was an invite-only event but I think that this was part of the event’s strength. Everyone there spoke up and got involved, no one was just along for the ride. It was the mix of people there that made the event so successful, and I think this could have been lost of the event was a free-for-all. What will come of the summit, I hope, are improvements to WordPress that will benefit all of us.
For my own part, I’ll be spending the foreseeable future focusing my WordPress contribution efforts on the Handbooks. A lot of discussion at the summit was around making it easier for people to contribute to WordPress. It is not always 100% clear how people can get involved. I hope that by putting attention on this we can make it easier for people to do so. If you’d like to get involved with the handbooks you can check out this post.
That was my own experience of the summit, and it was very much informed by the issues that I came with. I wanted to talk about handbooks and documentation and that’s what I did. People who came with different issues had different outcomes, but I’ve no doubt that each individual experience will strengthen WordPress as a whole.
Tony Perez commented on the “kumbaya” feeling that came out of the summit, and I hope that this lasts and that we make progress on our action points, otherwise it was just a fun opportunity for us to hang out. I left the summit with that kumbaya feeling myself, and flew from Savannah to Arizona for a very different type of event.
Pressnomics: Commercialising WordPress
Pressnomics was focused on the WordPress economy. Again, people flew in from all over the world, this time to learn and share ideas about running WordPress businesses. A number of the attendees had been at the summit on the previous week, so it also provided us with another opportunity to catch up and discuss some actions from the summit (which I did with some other handbook people, over tacos).
While the summit was centered around building a better WordPress, Pressnomics was about building better WordPress businesses. However, the presentations were less about how to make money, and more about how to better collaborate, to improve our businesses, and create a better experience for customers and users. For me, there were a few stand-out presentations; Cory Miller talked about the fear of regret as as a driving force, something that really chimes with me. He also talked about building a team and focusing on himself rather than on his competitors. Another great presentation was from Mark Jaquith who asked us to all “Make Sweet WordPress to Each Other”.
But for me, Pressnomics was less about the presentations and more about the opportunity to meet people I’ve been working with. Over the past year I’ve worked with about half the attendees and it was fun to actually meet them in person. This meant less time watching presentations and more time hanging out, talking to clients about past work, and discussing future opportunities. And I wasn’t the only one. I spied plenty of hands shaken over tables, plenty of businesses disappearing for lunch or dinner together. This was a great thing to see. There was less of a sense of trying to out-do each other and more of a sense of looking for ways that we can get better together.
Community or Commercial?
Two events: two different WordPresses. Community or Commercial? The big idea that I took away is that these things are not mutually exclusive. We can work towards making WordPress better, while still building our own businesses. We can work collaboratively to improve WordPress, to improve the experience for WordPress users, while still being competitive.
What is yet to be seen, is whether the attendees of these two events will go home and take action on the things they have learned. A lot of the promises were made, and it’s possible that with the realities of life and work, some of them will fall by the wayside. But if only half of the possibilities come to fruition it’ll be a better WordPress, and a better WordPress economy, because of it.