WordCamp London 2020 Organizing Team Eyes September Dates Due to Brexit Uncertainty

WordCamp London 2020 Organizing Team Eyes September Dates Due to Brexit Uncertainty

photo credit: Benjamin Davies

The Joomla World Conference in London, planned for November 2019, has been cancelled. Joomla’s Board of Directors announced the cancellation at the end of July, citing the updated October 31, 2019, Brexit deadline as the primary reason:

Last week the new UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has been elected with a mandate to ensure Brexit happens on 31st October, even if that means without any form of deal with the EU.

Sadly, for an international conference planned for the weeks after Brexit, there is considerable doubt and uncertainty around travel requirements to the UK and what (if any) visas may be required. This coupled with the huge workload already on the limited resources of the community with Joomla 4 at an advanced development stage, the Board has very reluctantly taken the decision to postpone JWC2019 to some date yet to be announced.

The directors did not want to risk international attendees purchasing travel not being able to attend. They are issuing refunds for tickets already purchased.

WordCamp London, which has traditionally been held in early April or late March, is also not exempt from Brexit-related planning challenges. The lingering uncertainty bleeds into other aspects of planning, such as recruiting sponsors and speakers.

“The uncertainty that Brexit brings when trying to organize an international conference adds huge pressures to the organizing team, creates many additional logistical problems for sponsors, and creates uncertainty for volunteers and attendees,” WordCamp London organizer Dan Maby said. He and co-lead Barbara Saul are currently in the early stages of planning the 2020 event. They faced similar issues this year with the original Brexit date set for March 29, 2019.

“The WordCamp was planned just one week after this date,” Maby said. “As an organizing team we faced unanswerable questions from the outset. We planned to develop a dedicated team within the organizers to support questions, but we soon realized this wasn’t possible because even at governmental level the answers to questions we had were not answered.”

Since WordCamps are designed to be focused on the local communities where they are produced, Maby and his team adopted a mindset that they would send a message by keeping the 2019 camp running as planned: “Let’s do our small part in demonstrating that the UK is open for international business.” The event ended up selling out of both tickets and sponsor packages. Although WordCamp London historically attracts an international audience, the marketing team for the 2019 event focused heavily on the local community.

Maby said it saddened him to read that Joomla World Conference 2019 has been postponed due to Brexit and that he empathizes with their team.

“We’re in early discussions regarding WordCamp London 2020 and considering delivering the event later in the year,” he said. “Part of the reason is to allow the unknown of Brexit to start to settle.”

With a lack of definitive information about who will need visas and how Brexit will affect international travelers, Maybe said his team is still mostly in dark. The biggest complication is not knowing if sponsors or attendees will be able to legally enter the country. This makes planning a budget and selling sponsorship packages and tickets more tricky. WordCamp London co-leads have yet to put the application in but are eying September 2020 for the next event.

“We are investigating September as a potential alternative,” Maby said. “We’ll be 11 months post-Brexit (if it happens in October) so we will hopefully have a better idea of what to communicate to attendees, volunteers, and sponsors traveling into the UK. It also sits well between the European and US regional WordCamps.”

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Want to See a More Diverse WordPress Contributor Community? So Do We.

Want to See a More Diverse WordPress Contributor Community? So Do We.

Want to See a More Diverse WordPress Contributor Community? So Do We.

More diverse speakers at WordCamps means a more diverse community contributing to WordPress — and that results in better software for everyone.

The mission of WordPress is to democratize publishing: to make it possible for anyone — no matter their background, location, or identity — to bring their ideas to life on the internet. This mission inspires thousands of volunteers all over the world to contribute to the WordPress open source project, building and supporting the software that makes this possible.

But as in most technology organizations, the people who work on WordPress aren’t always representative of all the people who use WordPress. The majority of WordPress core developers, conference speakers, and other volunteers are young men. That’s where the WordPress Diverse Speaker Training Working Group comes in.

Breaking Down Barriers

A group of WordPress community organizers and volunteers, led by freelance developer Jill Binder, is working to change this. They’ve developed a workshop that trains women and other people from traditionally underrepresented groups in technology who’d like to present at conferences and WordCamps. These training events are organized by local WordPress meetup groups, and are always completely free of charge.

Small groups of women sitting in circles, talking and holding paper
WordPress Vancouver Speaker Training Workshop, 2015

The workshops help attendees address some of the common barriers and fears underrepresented people have around public speaking: “I don’t know what I could speak about.” “I’m not an expert.” “I don’t know how to write a proposal.” “I don’t know how to create a presentation.” “I don’t have any experience speaking in front of groups.”

In 2018, the group supported and advised 55 WordPress communities in 26 different countries. New speakers were trained in 12 different WordPress meetup groups in the US, Canada, Brazil, South Africa, and Venezuela.  

All of the communities that held this workshop experienced a real change in the speaker roster for their annual conferences; many of their WordCamps went from having 10% women speakers to having 50% or more women speakers in less than a year. In 2017, Seattle had 60% women speakers and in 2018, Vancouver had 63%.

Why WordCamps?

A woman holding a microphone, in front of a lot of people with raised hands.
Jill Binder, speaking at a WordCamp

Speaking at WordCamps is a consistent path to leadership in the WordPress community, so having more diverse speakers directly supports the goal of more diverse leadership in the WordPress open source project. WordCamps are where many WordPress enthusiasts choose to become professionals. When more people see speakers like them on stage and feel welcome in the community, a more diverse group of people participate in the WordPress project.

When WordPress events are more diverse, the WordPress project gets more diverse — which makes WordPress better for more people.

Help Us Grow This Work

Jill kicked off the Diverse Speaker Training Working Group at the beginning of 2018, and dedicated a year to it training facilitators and supporting organizers as an unpaid volunteer.

This year, Automattic has signed on as a 50% sponsor of Jill Binder’s diverse speaker outreach and training work. Her work is already making a noticeable impact on the WordPress project, and we want to make this training as accessible as possible to WordCamps globally. Like anything worth doing, this is a marathon and not a sprint — it’ll take time to see a more diverse contributor pool — but we’re dedicated to making sure this necessary groundwork happens.

Would you like to help foster diversity across the WordPress project? Automattic invites interested partners to pick up the other 50% of this project’s costs. Get in touch with Jill today!