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Harming? Please.

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An excerpt from Jeff Chandler’s post WordPress Foundation Harming Rather Than Helping WordCamps:

If the WordPress Foundation is going to tell WordCamp organizers what the limit is on their sponsorship packages and quite possibly make it too low which can make or break an event, WordCamp San Francisco should be held to the same procedures. If WordCamp San Francisco can not put on a successful event because of the regulations of the WordPress Foundation, they should change its name so they can hold an event without anyone telling them what to do.

WordCamp San Francisco is a WordCamp in name, but that’s it. It’s not like other WordCamps. Think of it as WordPress OMGBBQ Yearly Event if that makes it easier.

28 thoughts on “Harming? Please.

  1. The problem still exists: it’s really confusing!

    They should change the name of WCSF or the name “WordCamp” for all the others.

    Get inspired by Open Source/ Linux: make a fork, make a new distribution. Still better than this confusing discussion!

    I am thinking about organizing a local WP event here in Germany sometime in the future. I definitely won’t call it “WordCamp” – there’s already an official WC Germany, but I don’t want any rules on sponsorship and such.

    • I guess I don’t agree that it’s really confusing. There are only two kinds of things: WordCamp San Francisco and then all other WordCamps.

      • Nope.

        Still confusing. Tell anyone of the worldwide community the difference. I didn’t even know until yesterday/today that they wanted WCSF a “special thing”. I always thought there only WordCamps. Now we learn: WordCamp != WordCamp. I saw the live stream last year all three days of WCSF, please tell me from that point of view, where’s the difference? Except for one, I attended all WordCamps Germany to date, so I don’t see that much difference: it’s the yearly event for all.

        • They’ve been referring to WordCamp San Francisco as “the official annual conference for WordPress” since last year, I believe. I called it that in my post about the event last year, after they did (here). Not that what I say would make it any less confusing, but in time I think it will be clearer and less confusing just what role WCSF plays in the community.

          That’s just what I think, though. You’re welcome to stay confused 🙂

      • So let me ask you Ryan, What’s the difference between WP and Wp… 🙂

        Hey its just a character, no?

        A WordCamp is a WordCamp, no one is more special than the next. That’s how governance works, we can’t just make stuff up as we go. Why is it the end all to be all? Because Matt? Because their sponsorships are $30k at the highest level? Because it was the first one?

        If so, that’s fine, then lets stipulate on WordCamp central that WordCamp rules apply to all you other people except this one.

        That’d probably make things easier to understand for everyone.

        • If so, that’s fine, then lets stipulate on WordCamp central that WordCamp rules apply to all you other people except this one.

          Sure, I could get behind that. It should be clearer that WCSF is an anomaly that doesn’t follow the same rules that WordCamps do. It should be made very clear there that WordCamp San Francisco is a situation where the name has been grandfathered in, so to speak, because it has been the name of that event for a long time.

      • All animals are equal.
        But some are more equal than others.

        Either it’s a WordCamp or it’s not.
        Yes it’s reasonably clear to some of us.
        But it’s incredibly confusing to most of us.

  2. I see your point on the sensationalization that comes with the post title, but I disagree Ryan.

    If the foundation is saying, hey, we are here to establish governance around WordCamps are run, and there is so much emphasis on the branding, then they absolutely need to comply with their own rules.

    If they don’t, then why should everyone else? Are you saying they are an exception?

    I mean seriously, for a group of folks that place so much emphasis on the capitalization of a “P” and the elegance of a “W” you have to surely see the importance of retaining what the “WordCamp” brand is about, no?

    • If the foundation is saying, hey, we are here to establish governance around WordCamps are run, and there is so much emphasis on the branding, then they absolutely need to comply with their own rules.

      I’m not arguing that there shouldn’t be any standards that WCSF holds to. Heck, I love transparency and knowing why things happen. I just don’t personally have a problem with WCSF being different than WordCamps.

      If they don’t, then why should everyone else? Are you saying they are an exception?

      An exception in the sense that it’s not really a WordCamp, sure.

      I mean seriously, for a group of folks that place so much emphasis on the capitalization of a “P” and the elegance of a “W” you have to surely see the importance of retaining what the “WordCamp” brand is about, no?

      Yes, I do. And I bet they do too, but I wouldn’t speak for them.

      There are two discussions happening at the same time, it seems. I should have made that clearer in the link when I posted it. One is about WordCamp organizers being limited in what they can raise money for and what they can do. That’s a topic I don’t know a ton about myself, but I’ll definitely be asking questions about it. I’m certainly in favor of WordCamp organizers having a say in the standards that WordCamps follow, because I know many of them, have been to their events, and know they do kick ass work. This is a conversation I’m interested in.

      The second discussion is around the difference between WCSF and every other WordCamp. In that case, I guess I just accept that it’s a WordCamp only in name, and that there’s a certain amount of leeway and trust afforded to leaders of an organization/project like this one. The differences between the two types of event could probably be spelled out more clearly, and like I said I’m always in favor of that sort of transparency, but I think arguing that there shouldn’t be a difference between them because they share a name is silly. One has been granted the official event status, and others haven’t.

      Still, like I told you, I think this would be easier to discuss over Skype or something 🙂

      • Good points, sorry I missed this one yesterday, allow me to engage inline:

        If the foundation is saying, hey, we are here to establish governance around WordCamps are run, and there is so much emphasis on the branding, then they absolutely need to comply with their own rules.

        Here is the thing I’m quickly learning, the Foundation in itself is not in fact the enforcer of the guidelines, that is WordCamp Central. The problem is that it is so difficult to draw the line between where one starts and the other begins, so many of the same players are in each group. There are just so many interrelated components.

        I mean look at the players, Aubrey Capital, Automattic, WordCamp Central, the Foundation. Players in each group involved in so many aspects of the community that you have to stop thinking about the individuals and first figure out what entity they are representing.

        If in fact, WordCamp San Francisco is put on by the Foundation, then they have every right to call and do what they like as the owners of the trademark.

        But, if the event is put on by Automattic, then in essence they are leasing the trademark like the rest and as such comply by the rules. At least I would think. That, or we’re saying that Automattic and other parties are one and in the same.

        I can also understand the point about being different, not arguing that point at all. I can commend Matt for what he is trying to do, at least based on Jane’s post.

        All that being said, I agree. I think I muddied the waters a bit by talking WordCamp San Francisco and the challenges organizers have with WordCamp Central guidelines. Going to see if I can’t separate the two.

        Ooops.. hehe

          • Good catch, obviously a typo, but thanks.

            You get an A+

            FYI, I responded to your post too, feel free to respond there with something more substantial if you like.

            Tony

  3. Problem number 1. It’s called WordCamp San Francisco and anything called WordCamp has a rulebook that they have to follow. It’s not called Annual WordPress Conference and if it were, then everything else becomes a moot point.

    Problem number 2. Those rules, specifically as they relate to caps on sponsorship amounts appear to be much lower for all other WordCamps except for WordCamp San Francisco. There are events such as WordCamp Chicago or WordCamp New York that could easily be as big as WordCamp San Francisco both in attendance and weekend events. But, because of these caps, other events seem likely to never reach the pinnacle of what WCSF has become. There in lies the double standard. The question then becomes, why does WCSF have such high sponsorship rates yet, those rates are not acceptable for any other WordCamp event.

    • +1

      I’ve never organised a WordCamp – why is there a limit on sponsorship in the first place?

    • Problem number 1. It’s called WordCamp San Francisco and anything called WordCamp has a rulebook that they have to follow. It’s not called Annual WordPress Conference and if it were, then everything else becomes a moot point.

      It’s easy to say that it should be named something arbitrary to fix the confusion. But after reading Jane’s description of the discussion around renaming WCSF, I understand their reasoning. Particularly when she said:

      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.

      I can understand wanting to keep the name of an event the same, particularly one that’s been running for so long. And particularly when there aren’t any great options for changing the name (I’ve definitely played the name game with new ideas before, to no avail.). In the end, I don’t think it’s too much for Matt to ask that we just understand WCSF is different, and let the name stay what it has been since the event began. I’m okay with that.

      But, because of these caps, other events seem likely to never reach the pinnacle of what WCSF has become.

      Like I said in my response to Tony, I agree that this is something I’d like to learn more about. The reasoning behind restrictions on WordCamp organizers, whatever they might be (and honestly any frustrations camp organizers have) should be handled, I agree with you there. But I think the discussion gets muddied when the rules are compared to the way WCSF, since WCSF is a different event.

      • hey Ryan

        Yeah, I went back and read Jane’s post and it did really seem rational and thoughtful and I commend her for that. I can assure you, its never easy sitting at the top and hearing everyone below complaining about something or providing their feedback on how things should be done. Stressful, annoying and exhausting, but its part of the world we live in and a necessary evil. Of all this something good will come, I am sure of it. If nothing else, perhaps to open clear and honest community across the WordCamp organizers.

        Like I just posted before, sharing the conversation between WordCamp San Francisco and the Foundation has convoluted the entire discussion. In the process we have lost focus on the real challenges and that is putting on super-awesome event for our communities.

        I have learned more in the past few hours that have helped me clearly delineate the difference and plan to share soon. If it helped me, it in essence might help others.

        Tony

  4. Well, until the name is changed from WordCamp San Francisco to something else, it’s a WordCamp like every other in the world to me. Saying it’s a WordCamp and then specifying that it’s much more than a WordCamp seems like too much inside baseball to me. From the outside looking in, a WordCamp is a WordCamp and if it’s not a WordCamp, then it doesn’t use the trademark in the events name.

    I don’t feel so angry or bad about any of this if they would just allow all other WordCamp organizers the leeway to have as much sponsorship cash as they deem necessary to put on a world class event or just change the events name. Either or would solve the problem.

  5. The real issue here isn’t sponsorship or WordCamps, it’s the WordPress Foundation – how it makes decisions, and how it engages & communicates with the wider community.

    Once this storm blows over, another will come along in a few months as a result of the same inadequacies.

    • Gary

      You are right. I think I might have muddied the water by combining both WordCamp San Francisco and the guidelines set forth by the Foundation. The two need to be separated, I plan to more clearly delineate this point in the coming days.

  6. I’m reposting my comment over here at WPCandy, because there’s more discussion happening over here, and my comment directly on the WPTavern post has been in moderation for a bit:
    ——————————————
    I’m not sure why you are blaming the WordPress Foundation for this. What am I missing?

    The foundation has obviously made a set of rules that are meant for the good of everyone in the community. As a teacher, most rules in schools are put in place for that one knuckle-head student that wants to push the limit. I can see a parallel here. Most people have never organized a large event before. I can totally see someone coming home from SF with the best intentions, planning a giant circus of an event, and then totally failing. If that event had sponsors that sunk 20k, 30k, 40k into that event – they’re going to be angry. That would be a huge black-eye to the entire WordPress community. I don’t think society at large understands how the WP community works, and they would be pointing fingers back at the foundation and Automattic. However as the oldest event, and presumably with the most experienced organizers, I think we can trust them to use the money wisely and pull it off in the end. Double standard? Yes. What’s “fair” isn’t always best. When I’m in the classroom and the honor student asks me to use the restroom, but he’s out of passes for the grading period, I’m probably going to let him.

    I also have experience in churches. If the biggest donor in the congregation asks to bend a rule, maybe to hold a private party in a classroom when there’s a rule against it, I’m probably going to let him. In the same way, Matt is a co-founder of the project and his business is a generous benefactor to the project. If he wants to hold a large event, bring in big-name speakers and big-name donors, you should probably shut up and let him. I’d venture to say that many people denouncing Matt’s influence on the SF event also make their living from WordPress in some way. WordPress…That thing that Matt was influential in making what it is? Do any of you develop sites for clients on WordPress for a living? I don’t think “WPTavern” would have a lot to blog about if the WordPress project and subsequent eco-system didn’t exist.

    I can empathize with the camp organizers that are frustrated with the apparent double standard. Maybe the WordPress foundation isn’t really happy about this. Have they made an official statement? If I were to organize a WordCamp in my city and the foundation told me to change something, I could choose to tell them “no” and do whatever I want. We’re all grown-ups with free will. Maybe behind the scenes the foundation asked WCSF to change some things and they politely declined.

    Sure, call it a different name to eliminate confusion. Jane put up a brass-tacks honest explanation of why they didn’t this year. Jane’s posts come across snarky or sardonic to some people. To me she sounds like someone with a full plate, frustrated with people who sit back and complain while she and others on her team are actually doing someting. Please read: http://central.wordcamp.org/news/2011/01/24/wordcampsf-not-wordcon/

    My advice? Shut your collective mouth. Don’t piss down the well you’re drinking out of.

    • Hi Justin

      You know, you were making some good points until you got here:

      “In the same way, Matt is a co-founder of the project and his business is a generous benefactor to the project. If he wants to hold a large event, bring in big-name speakers and big-name donors, you should probably shut up and let him. I’d venture to say that many people denouncing Matt’s influence on the SF event also make their living from WordPress in some way. WordPress…That thing that Matt was influential in making what it is? Do any of you develop sites for clients on WordPress for a living? I don’t think “WPTavern” would have a lot to blog about if the WordPress project and subsequent eco-system didn’t exist.”

      and

      “My advice? Shut your collective mouth. Don’t piss down the well you’re drinking out of.”

      Unfortunately, in almost all things, especially non-profits there are checks and balances and we live in a society in which people will speak up.

      Its why the education system has rules that are defined by a board and why us, as paying tax payers, have the option to approach the board and question actions and rules. Is it not?

      I won’t even get into religion.

      So question, is that what you teach your students? If you feel that something might not be right its best just to “shut up” he knows best. Imagine if that was the teaching everywhere.

      I’m not a teacher, but I can tell you that its not what I teach my kids at home. We live in a society where you should not just “shut up” and take it, but instead, ask questions. Try to understand, engage, offer insight, come to your own conclusions. I’d also prefer that be what my teachers are passing on to my kids, rather than, “the boss is always right”.

      I’m a boss, and I can assure you I am not always right.

      I’m an organizer and I can talk to some of the inadequacies.

      But, all that said, a number of folks have brought about good points and looking at Ryan’s, I agree. If perhaps there were better communication on WordCamp San Francisco and how it is different from traditional WordCamps many would likely, when thinking rationally, say, umm, that kinda makes sense. Reading Jane’s post definitely gives me a different perspective on things.

      But hey, thanks for not shutting up and sharing your thoughts..:)

      • By saying that people whining and crying “unfair” on an internet forum is “checks and balances” in the WordPress Foundation you are implying that you have some right to have your voice heard. The reality is that, yes, Matt probably does control the foundation. It was his trademark to begin with. I’d venture to say the foundation is was set up as a non-profit solely for the tax breaks. There’s no reason WordCamp Central couldn’t have been part of Automattic to begin with. Having the 501(c)3 status sure helps business to donate and receive the tax breaks, but WordCamps would probably still happen if they were an arm or Automattic or Audrey. In fact, the WordPress Foundation wasn’t chartered until 12/17/2009 and there were definitely WordCamps happening prior to late 2009.

        http://rct.doj.ca.gov/MyLicenseVerification/Details.aspx?agency_id=1&license_id=1165987&

        So, prior to Dec 2009, who was managing the WordCamp trademark? I don’t know for sure, but I assume it was the trademark owner. By transferring the trademark to the foundation, nothing really changed except for the tax breaks. Don’t like it? Write your congressman. They’re utilizing the tools provided under the law.

        We’re all at recess playing in Matt’s sandbox. If you think he’s acting like a bully, you have the choice to walk away. If we all keep complaining, there’s nothing stopping him from forking from the project like he did the first time. He could pull his team off of open source development and focus on the .com commercial products. There’s nothing stopping him from pulling guys like Otto and Nacin off the project, then where would we be?

        I’m not a teacher, but I can tell you that its not what I teach my kids at home. We live in a society where you should not just “shut up” and take it, but instead, ask questions. Try to understand, engage, offer insight, come to your own conclusions. I’d also prefer that be what my teachers are passing on to my kids, rather than, “the boss is always right”.

        I teach my students to pick their battles. The world runs on the ol’ boys’ club. You don’t have to like it, and are free to call it out, but it doesn’t really change anything. If they announced WordPress 3.4 ran on teenage sex slaves or aborted fetuses, then that would be something worth fighting for. Whining that Matt gets spend a lot of his money and throw a kick-ass event we’re all invited to? Not so much.

        • I guess I would caution, no one is directly pointing out Matt on any matter. That being said, I can definitely see the indirect correlation as he is, from what I now know, the lead organizer for WCSF, director of the Foundation and so many other things. To be clear, this isn’t directed at any one individual, its more intended to have good discussion as a group of communities that leverage the platform and help bring understanding to a lot of the ambiguity.

          That being said, thanks for the response, here are my thoughts:

          By saying that people whining and crying “unfair” on an internet forum is “checks and balances” in the WordPress Foundation you are implying that you have some right to have your voice heard.

          I think everyone has a right to be heard yes, its the foundation in which this platform was built on. Even the Foundation talks to the democratization of the platform:

          The WordPress Foundation is a charitable organization founded by Matt Mullenweg to further the mission of the WordPress open source project: to democratize publishing through Open Source, GPL software.

          – Taken off the Foundation homepage.

          The conversation has nothing to do with what Matt can and cannot do with his money or anything else pertaining to Matt specifically. I can definitely see how its difficult to break the correlation, but its a necessity.

          I think you’re focusing on all the wrong things, and on things that have no bearing – tax breaks, congress man, use of a foundation for a business.. its all moot really.

          There are also certain comments in your post that really do more harm than good because its just not a reality:

          We’re all at recess playing in Matt’s sandbox.

          Really? Is that your opinion or Matt’s? I’d say that is probably yours and not his. I would personally be shocked if it was his. I’m in the WordPress sandbox, not any one individual. And in this sandbox we have a number of groups, all aimed to do the same awesome stuff, contributing the ways we know best.

          If we all keep complaining, there’s nothing stopping him from forking from the project like he did the first time. He could pull his team off of open source development and focus on the .com commercial products. There’s nothing stopping him from pulling guys like Otto and Nacin off the project, then where would we be?

          Seriously? These comments do nothing but add to emotional hysteria and why folks often don’t bring up subjects. It’s just pure nonsense and not really worth mentioning or responding to.

          If as a WordPress ecosystem we can’t come together and have open dialog’s via the great publishing platform that has been made available to us, then what’s the point really.

          I teach my students to pick their battles.

          Very good lesson.

          The world runs on the ol’ boys’ club. You don’t have to like it, and are free to call it out, but it doesn’t really change anything.

          If this was a good lesson to teach people like Mark would not have gotten to where he is. People like Matt would not have become as influential as they have. Probably not the best lesson to teach.

          and finally….

          Whining that Matt gets spend a lot of his money and throw a kick-ass event we’re all invited to? Not so much.

          Again, has nothing to do with Matt. I spend my money buying motorcycles, guns and taking my kids to the movie. I could care less what Matt does with his, although I like some of his watches.

          • Seriously? These comments do nothing but add to emotional hysteria and why folks often don’t bring up subjects. It’s just pure nonsense and not really worth mentioning or responding to.

            What produced hysteria was is the senational title of the original post over at WPTavern. Keep in mind that WPTavern posts appear in the WordPress Planet RSS feed that appears on the dashboard of every .org install by default. Jeff’s editorial was probably seen by millions of people, most of whom probably know very little about WordPress being open source, the foundation, the community, etc… I don’t appreciate the fact that this dirty laundry was aired very publicly to millions of people. I would encourage Jeff to create a separate category/tag feed to more finely control what gets kicked out to the planet in the future.

            @Tony you are correct in saying that nobody other than me specifically referenced Matt as an individual. However, one cannot discuss Automattic (the company Matt started), the WordPress Foundation (the foundation Matt founded/directs), WCSF (the first camp he started), WordCamp Central (with day-to-day operations run by an Automattic employee) without reading between the lines.

            I also do not intend to say that we cannot as a community discuss such matters. I do intend to say that an organization or one man can only take so much crap from people. I wouldn’t be able to fill Matt’s shoes because when things like this came up, I’d just tell everyone to go screw themselves, I’ll do what I want. I don’t think Matt or any of the organizations he’s associated with should be feared like a deity, but I think he’s more than earned our respect and trust, and deserves better than this.

            It’s my understanding that WCSF isn’t organized by the foundation, but it is recognized as the “official annual WordPress conference.” To me that implies that the foundation trusts the organizers more than any other organizers. I would think there is some kind of contract or agreement with each WordCamp organizer(s) before the foundation agrees to allow use of the trademark, either written or implied. There’s nothing stopping the foundation from altering the agreement for each new camp. That is their right and responsibility to protect the trademark. I don’t see how that is “unfair” at all. If the foundation trusts the WCSF organizers more than others, especially given their proven track record, why shouldn’t they be afforded more freedom?

            In an earlier comment I spoke in support of sponsorship limits because of potential problems and failure of the camp. Below is an excerpt from a comment from the original post over at WPTavern (good discussion over there too, go check it out!) (Original Comment):

            DD
            May 5, 2012 at 3:14 AM

            My company sponsored the WordCamps in Beijing and Shanghai a few years ago. We gave both cash and in-kind support, and the organizers gave us **nothing** in what they promised to us in relation to media exposure and gratis tickets for my staff. It was a clusterf$#@.

            Because of that, I pulled any future support of WordCamps. They were great events for attendees, but unprofessional and too novice for me to support anymore as a company. It was a very bad experience (Mullenweg attended, though, which was nice) for our company and staff.

            Therefore, I think MORE oversight form the WordPress Foundation would be very good. Too many novices with great heart but perhaps little professional experience running these things makes companies like mine hesitant to get involved. It also leaves a bad taste in my mouth for supporting any other WP-endorsed activities.

            This is my point exactly. I can honestly see this happening to me! I’d love to be part of a WordCamp organization team for my city. BUT if someone gave me $15k and I then felt the need to make a giant event, it could spiral out of control quickly. However 100 people in a couple of the local university lecture halls, I could probably help pull off. Can any of the more experienced organizers speak to this, if WordCamp Central has been more accommodating to larger camps or camps that have already happened a few times?

            Let’s not forget that WordCamp Central is run by a real person. Andrea works for Automattic, and according to the About page is responsible for “open source community organizing high-jinks.” With over 207 WordCamps to date, she can and should make rules and policies that make her job a little easier. If she has to spend her time putting out fires and dealing with PR nightmares, she can’t spend time on making camps better and more successful.

            If you do not want to follow the rules, you don’t have to either. Some are claiming that WCSF should change their name to something else. There’s nothing stopping you from doing the same thing. Go ahead and start a WordPress related conference that doesn’t use any of the trademarks. A general web-focused conference in my town would succeed whether or not the WordCamp trademark was used. PressNomics did it and I believe they were in contact with the foundation who acknowledged it was happening and didn’t speak against it.

            I see our base difference in opinion is that you believe that the WordPress Foundation and WordCamp Central should apply the same rules to everyone. I do not.

  7. I attend and speak at a lot of these WordCamps. Perhaps SF needed to be WordPressCon? *shrugs*

    I am not sure but truthfully, it should be equal across the board. Events are often the same, the difference is the number of attendees and how big the organizers want to make it. I’ve gone to WordCamp Chicago 3 times and spoke at 2 of them, and they were pretty big. Chicago is not cheap to hold a conference or Camp of any kind and their unions are notoriously fickle. Sponsors are necessary and if a company wants to shell out the money, that is their choice. Why are there limits?

    I mean hey… I thought that perhaps eventually with the WordPress Foundation, they might use the extra money maybe one day to provide scholarships… which is a worthy cause on top of what the conference itself already provides. And above all, it is a donation too….. tax write off.

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