DevPress deal for WordCamps is against WordCamp Central guidelines

100 Comments

Yesterday I posted about DevPress’ offer of free memberships to any WordCamp attendees, provided the WordCamp organizers are legit and contact DevPress about their interest. A number of organizers showed interest in the comments of that post, and WordCamp Philly organizer Doug Stewart announced the deal for attendees on their blog.

Then, last evening, WPCandy was contacted by Andrea Middleton, who took an administration role with WordCamp Central earlier this year. Middleton notified WPCandy that the WordCamp guidelines (specifically the part on fundraising), WordCamp organizers should not allow companies that are not sponsoring their event to do giveaways at a WordCamp.

Middleton went on to explain that non-sponsoring companies shouldn’t use a WordCamp event as a marketing platform, since they’re not contributing to help the event happen. In general, she said, WordCamp Central is trying to move away from the attendees-as-a-marketing-pool paradigm.

When reached for comment, DevPress co-founder Justin Tadlock said:

Jane sent us a message. I’ve asked her if it was strictly forbidden. She hasn’t given us a straight answer to that yet.  The way we’re handling it with WordCamp organizers fits within the guidelines of offering donations.  If not, the “guidelines” need to be written by someone with an English degree.  Even then, they’d still only be guidelines, not rules.

Tadlock when on to say that DevPress doesn’t currently have plans to change their offer:

The basic truth of it is that Jane doesn’t want us to do it. WordCamp organizers love the idea. DevPress will side with the community.  Always.

For Tadlock’s full response, see the link below.

Since WordCamp Philly announced the deal to their attendees, Middleton said they will be allowed to go ahead with the deal. All other organizers, she said, have been contacted and reminded about the WordCamp giveaway policy.

It’s time for the part of our posts where you share your thoughts. Do you WordCamps should be able to take giveaways of this sort for their event attendees? Or do you think it’s an unnecessary marketing technique that should be avoided?

View Justin Tadlock’s full email

On 9/8/2011 12:18 PM, Ryan Imel wrote:

Hi Justin,

So I just heard that the DevPress offer, which we posted about yesterday, technically doesn’t jive with the WordCamp guidelines. Have you guys been contacted about that? Any comment?

Thanks,

Ryan Imel
Editor in Chief, WPCandy.com
@wpcandy

On Sep 9, 2011, at 1:57 PM, Justin Tadlock wrote:

Hey Ryan,

Sorry, if this reads like a rant. I get a bit frustrated when I have to defend trying to do a good thing.

Jane sent us a message. I’ve asked her if it was strictly forbidden. She hasn’t given us a straight answer to that yet. The way we’re handling it with WordCamp organizers fits within the guidelines of offering donations. If not, the “guidelines” need to be written by someone with an English degree. Even then, they’d still only be guidelines, not rules.

I imagine Jane contacted you so that you would get the word out that it “doesn’t jive with the WordCamp guidelines” instead of publicly coming out and saying it herself. I also assume she doesn’t want to tell WordCamp organizers that they can’t run their own WordCamps like they want to. It’s all about saving face beforehand because the community will revolt against mandates for how they do things. It takes the fun out of it for the people who are working hard to put together great WordCamps.

We’re not trying to start a war with Jane, but it’s quickly becoming that, unfortunately. If she’d been willing to sit down and talk a week ago, we wouldn’t be so far into it now. We’re not afraid to ruffle feathers and piss a few people off though. What fun is the WP community without that, right?

The basic truth of it is that Jane doesn’t want us to do it. WordCamp organizers love the idea. DevPress will side with the community. Always.

Justin Tadlock

100 thoughts on “DevPress deal for WordCamps is against WordCamp Central guidelines

  1. I’m glad you’re in the know Ryan! Lucky I didn’t announce that one on our blog for our WordCamp today.

    The guidelines are a tricky one for us organisers seeing we’re trying to give the attendees as much value as we can and the main guideline for us has been making sure the sponsors & speakers meet and exceed the GPL.

    I know that Andrea and Jane are refining the guidelines so they aren’t so tricky in future. We’ve have to regig/rethink some things after feedback…but we’re still going to have an amazing WordCamp for all the attendees! :)

  2. As with most policies, there should be some human consideration and common sense when enforcing these guidelines. Anyone who follows WordPress development knows that the members of the DevPress team are serious contributers, and have proven their value to the community as a whole. I just don’t see DevPress giving away some $5 memberships as an attempt to maximize PR while dodging a sponsorship role.

    • I just don’t see DevPress giving away some $5 memberships as an attempt to maximize PR while dodging a sponsorship role.

      Actually, in a nutshell, that IS what they’re trying to do. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. We offer in-kind sponsorships all the time but typically at the request of the WordCamp organizer, not the other way around.

      • This was made at the request of the WordCamp organizer. While DevPress created their own program to make this option available, ultimately the WordCamp organizer invited DevPress to do this at the event. DevPress wasn’t promoting this to WordCamp Philly attendees without the organizers consent. It’s an option they have made available to WordCamp organizers if they want to take advantage of it.

      • I mean I don’t see their intentions as being any sort of grand scheme; they probably thought it would be fun, and help spread the DevPress name a bit. I’d like to think the guidelines are there to stop WordCamps from being taken advantage of – that doesn’t seem to be their intention, to me.

  3. Can companies be ‘lunch sponsor’, ‘t-shirt sponsor’ or ‘evening social event sponsor’ at WordCamps without also having to commit to giving a lump sum of money? If not why not ‘free devpress membership sponsor’? I can’t see the problem and in my view it should be up to to the individual organisers whether or not this might be of value to their attendees and be able to decide for themselves whether they want to take Justin up on the offer.

    • Exactly!
      Memberships cost USD 5, say 1,000 people join the WordCamp, so that’s then a USD 5,000 sponsorship.

      Why do people have to make this so much more difficult then it really is?

      I’m off now to get myself a membership!

      • Can companies be ‘lunch sponsor’, ‘t-shirt sponsor’ or ‘evening social event sponsor’ at WordCamps without also having to commit to giving a lump sum of money?

        If they are a sponsor of this kind then they are spending money directly on the event either by providing the money for the organisers to spend or providing the goods for the attendees at the event.

        This is significantly different from providing something which does not pay towards the cost of putting the event on but instead uses the event as a ‘free’ chance to advertise. Normally, sponsors would provide something towards the cost of the event as well as this kind of ‘freebie’ for the attendees.

        • There have been significant variances from that at even the few WordCamps I’ve attended, particularly in the realm of giveaways/raffles. I don’t believe StickerGiant, etc., get “sponsor” credits at many events, for instance, nor Wiley, or APress, etc.

  4. This is one of the reasons we are very reluctant to sponsor any Wordcamp. This is also one of the reasons it is so much fun to get together with other WordPress community members, developers and our customers away from the venue of Wordcamps.

    It is too bad the actions of those in “power” seem to do nothing but distract and hender from the good of the community.

  5. We frequently use Twitter to promote coupon codes to WordCamp attendees for events we aren’t attending or sponsoring. During WordCamp San Francisco I even saw Matt make a comment regarding hashtag spam immediately after I tweeted about a coupon code for Gravity Forms to WordCamp San Francisco attendees.

    The reality is I didn’t think to do this because i’m a marketing whore. Every single time i’ve tweeted a coupon code using a WordCamp hashtag it’s been because attendees at the WordCamp were asking us via Twitter and email if we had a coupon code for that WordCamp. WordCamp San Francisco was no exception. Attendees at the event wanted a coupon code. They asked us if we could provide one. So I did.

    The opinion of the community as a whole and our users needs and questions are my priority. Not WordCamp Central.

  6. I do see valid reasoning behind a policy like this as it keeps the playing ground fair for all companies.

    If it didn’t exist WordCamp organizers could use WordCamps to push their friends products / services or worse companies they may have a direct tie with – while forcing everyone one else to pay for the same exposure.

    I don’t see a problem with any company running their own WordCamp promotions and promoting them on their own. However, if the organizers are publicly promoting these deals it should be in an open fashion that allows any company to get in on the action if they wish – although the quality would be almost guaranteed to suffer at that point.

  7. The reality is that a free license will be seen by most people as a value-add. That’s different from a coupon code in my opinion, which is a sales driver. I personally would love to see a sponsor package for WordCamps where the sponsoring party pays a small amount towards the cost of that WordCamp and on top of that adds a free license to their software for all attendees. That way, multiple companies could do that, the value of a WordCamp ticket would be easily “earned” back and everybody would be happy.

    • The value-add logic was what we were using when we applied for the DevPress offer for our WordCamp. It’s a tough situation because I can see the arguments from both sides. I think it’s great that businesses are offering to give discounts, donate books and giveaway free licences & subscriptions to WordCampers but at the same time I am also aware that the rules are very strict for WordCamp.org as it’s a not for profit.

      We’ll abide by the WordCamp rules seeing that’s what we signed up for and as hurdles/issues like this pop up it’ll help us all to refine the content and regulations on http://plan.wordcamp.org for future WordCamp organisers. It’s still early days for the new WordCamp.org guidelines so as these kinds of things happen it’ll help the WordCamp team work towards having easy to follow guidelines going forward.

      I’m excited about WordCamp Gold Coast either way and I’m sure bumps in the road like these will be smoothed out over time for all the WordCamp organisers around the world! :)

  8. I’m curious.

    How is DevPress giving away free memberships to WordCamp Philly with the approval of the WordCamp Philly organizers any different than Widmer Brothers giving free kegs to the WordCamp Portland event?

    See this tweet from Jane Wells: http://i.imgur.com/dZdIW.png

    • Beer at WordCamp Portland is a three-year-old tradition, so the organizing team sought to provide that experience for attendees again this year. It’s quite true, though, that beer is not a necessity for holding a WordCamp.

      Every WordCamp I know is a fragile network of donated money, space, food, beverage, time, goodwill, and sharpies. The only way a WordCamp is possible is when a sponsor comes to the organizers and says “what do you need?”

      Organizers have to make lots of judgement calls about what in-kind donations are actually value-adds. The criteria most of us use is to decide what items would be missed at the WordCamp. Attendees who are not given free hosting or other – admittedly valuable – free stuff generally don’t notice the lack, because giveaways are not integral to the conference. Attendees who are not given programs or vegan muffins or (in the case of WordCamp Portland) beer generally do notice, and have a less wonderful experience.

      We’re not holding a WordCamp to market to our attendees. We’re holding it to foster WordPress community in Portland. Without the sponsors that gave us cash and in-kind donations of printing and food, there would have been no WordCamp Portland, period. And that’s the important distinction, here, to my mind: who makes the event possible? Sponsors. Shouldn’t they be the ones lifted up by the event?

      • We’re not holding a WordCamp to market to our attendees. We’re holding it to foster WordPress community in Portland.

        And that’s the important distinction, here, to my mind: who makes the event possible? Sponsors. Shouldn’t they be the ones lifted up by the event?

        for the sake of argument, these two concepts are at odds. Either camps are ultimately for attendees, and thus, Sponsors can’t get ROI. …… or… we should hold up sponsors because they make it possible?

        There’s a middle ground, one in which sponsors win and attendees win, and i’d love to expound on that but don’t have the time, but it doesn’t include what DevPress is doing. DevPress could just offer the free accounts in the same vein as Gravity. The Camps themselves shouldn’t promote unless DevPress monetarily sponsors. I just hope that Portland doesn’t lose beer from the menu due to this conversation. For the record, i had found the beer a truly odd approved expense given the new rules. an odd expense I approve of, of course, but odd.

        • RocketGenius has never offered free Gravity Forms licenses, only discounts, which does make this a fundamentally different prospect. DevPress is offering their software and services for free, thus causing zero (ZERO!) further burden on attendees.

          I’d love to know more about your proposed middle ground, though.

          • I simply meant…. Gravity and other companies just tweet about the offer, bypassing the camp. The camp organizers don’t promote them. What goods are offered at what discount are irrelevant to that particular argument.

            I’m in the middle of prep for a large conference next week. I’d love to write a post and promise to do so once this is over, but its too big a topic for a one liner.

      • The people putting in all the elbow grease and organizing the event at WordCamp Philly, the actual organizers of that event, did make that judgement call and they approved it. It was WordCamp “Central” who is trying to put the kibosh on it.

        There is no difference in a company donating free beer to a WordCamp and a company donating free WordPress related products to a WordCamp. I take that back. The difference is one is a WordPress related company (DevPress) and the other is not (the brewery). In which case it makes perfect sense to discriminate against the WordPress company that consists of WordPress developers who regularly give back to the community including contributing to core. Right?

      • If the monetary needs of said Camp are already met – what is wrong with accepting the kind donations of free WordPress related products from a company comprised of established, valued and respected members of the WordPress community? It adds value for the attendees without any requirements or effort. It creates a great environment for sponsors of said Camp, as well, for being associated with, and helping to support, a successful Camp where attendees were treated to amazing benefits just by virtue of their attendee status.

      • This, ladies and gentlemen, is what is known as doubling down on “stupid”.

        Seriously? Beer and vegan muffins represent “value add” for a WordCamp, while a years’ worth of WordPress Themes, Plugins, tutorials, and support doesn’t represent “value add” for a WordCamp? Really?

        Really really?

        This position is utterly asinine.

  9. In all actuality, all this does is push members of the WordPress community to hold meetings and un-conferences outside the boundaries of WordCamps. As Grant said above, it is nice to get together with fellow WordPress community members without worrying about the small-time politics that are involved with running a WordCamp. Granted, I’m new to this community, but I’ve been around the “conference circuit” for quite some time and have never encountered an event with so many hidden “rules and regulations.” If you want to give something away, especially something that is beneficial to the community… Go for it. That’s always been the stance of conference organizers that I’ve been involved with.

    I love the COMMUNITY of WordPress, but honestly it seems like more and more that aspect is being taken away by those who are (seemingly) out of touch with the actual definition of the word. Therefore I, as I’m sure many others will, side with the community and always will.

    • @Justin, the rules and regulations are imposed as a result of WordCamps being not-for-profit. Because the community is in charge, there need to be certain checks and balances in place. WordCamp organizers typically receive a LOT of unwanted solicitation, so this type of thing begins to really encourage spammy behavior from a lot of companies trying to peddle their wares to the WP community. It’s a slippery slope.

      DevPress has every right to solicit the organizers of every single WordCamp but ultimately it’s up to the organizers to determine whether the giveaway is appropriate or not. Each organizing team must vet sponsors. If it is determined that free DevPress memberships for every attendee add value, then it can be considered an in-kind sponsorship of $5 per person.

      • DevPress has every right to solicit the organizers of every single WordCamp but ultimately it’s up to the organizers to determine whether the giveaway is appropriate or not. Each organizing team must vet sponsors.

        Not really the case and here lies the underlying problem with WordCamps and the control being asserted by Jane and others.

        It is not up to the organizers if a giveaway is appropriate or not. It is alos not up to the organizing tema to vet sponsors. This is being micro-managed by Jane and others.

  10. I think that Jane and some others need to stay out of things. I know of at least 2 WordCamps that were doing things Jane didn’t like but were not against any guidelines. They were told to fall in line or they wouldn’t be allowed to us the WordCamp name. I have in fact seen the emails from Jane saying that.

    Unless there is a community outcry let DevPress do what they want with the offer.

    • There have been a couple of clear examples where it’s been Jane/Automattic on one side, and the community on the other on the issue of WordCamps.

      If the community doesn’t want to be micromanaged by a single private company, it should go off and do its own thing.

      • Geraldine, some of them do do their own thing, but they can’t call it WordCamp of course. That said, just because Jane and Andrea are in charge doesn’t mean no one is allowed to disagree and share their thoughts, no? It’s not a personal difference with them, it’s a professional one and I’m seeing a lot of firm but polite feedback here.

        • Where did I say that no one is allowed to disagree or share their thoughts? Nor did I say it was personal – Jane gets the flak because she’s one of the primary public faces. Please try to stay away from straw man arguments.

          • I was reacting to this:

            If the community doesn’t want to be micromanaged by a single private company, it should go off and do its own thing.

            Your wording is little more than a dismissal of the concerns aired here. You can accuse me of erecting straw men, but I’m not the one showing people the door.

  11. My feeling has always been, let the WordCamp organizers put on events for their area that they want to. Let them be creative and add value to the event in unique and individual ways. WordCamp attendees can vet the events for themselves, because attendees have brains.

    In 2007 I attended a high profile event for design for the first time. It is an event that run twice a year in different cities. I went and discovered that I paid several hundred dollars for, what amounted to, an infomercial for a prominent design software company. I will never attend that event again because I don’t want to spend hundreds (plus travel, etc) to get pitched to the entire time. But hundreds of people do go to those events every year who don’t seem to mind. It’s matter of personal preference, and the success or failure of the event will be determined by the ongoing value attached to it by its audience.

    I understand the good intent behind the large list of recommendations (rules?) for WordCamps – though it comes off as some committee of people I do not know attempting to protecting me from the horrors of the world, when I am capable of doing that all by myself.

    I think it’s a brilliant idea. I also love when companies like Gravity Forms, iThemes, etc run WordCamp specials on Twitter – - making attendees of said WordCamp feel like they are getting access to amazing values JUST by virtue of being an attendee.

    Maybe I’ll attend WordCamp Philly JUST to get a free DevPress membership – - and then maybe I’ll turn around and gift my free membership to someone who really wanted to attend Philly, but couldn’t. I’m sure I’ll be violating all sorts of stuff.

  12. When I first heard the DevPress offer I was pretty thrilled. I even prodded the WordCamp Portland team (or at least the people I thought were the team) about it because it’s such a good idea. I’ve also held off on buying my own subscription until I can see where the chips fall with regards to the giveaway.

    Seeing all of this “it doesn’t fit within the guidelines” crap – and yes, I consider it crap – does more to hurt the community, the events, and the people involved than it does help them. The fundraising guidelines are there to protect WordCamps from overmarketing. It’s also worded more towards raffles that reward only a few individuals rather than everyone in attendance.

    I’ve given to see an all-inclusive membership giveaway as a massive gift-in-kind to WordCamps in general. That it comes from a group as involved with the community as DevPress is an added bonus.

    Personally, I’d rather have a free DevPress membership than a free pint of beer at WordCamp Portland. I hope those “in the know” will recognize that.

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  14. I’m just enjoying the drama.
    I don’t really care about the outcome.
    But it’s amusing to watch.
    In my opinion, I’d like to see some goodies like memberships, coupon codes, t-shirts, whatever, for wordcamp attendees. It happens at conferences all the time.
    I really don’t see the harm.
    I dont think any camp organizer will include any offer that doesn’t seem reasonable anyway.
    Let the organizers decide, they’re doing all the work.

  15. I don’t think this is a big deal at all. Companies give away free stuff at conventions, that’s sort of how it works.

    But these types of community spats always get annoying fast. Everybody races to be seen as the good guy and winds up looking petty instead.

  16. I don’t see what the big deal is. If it helps, DevPress doesn’t need promotion at the actual WordCamps. We simply want to give away free memberships to a bunch of WordPress users. We don’t need to be featured with our logo all over the event or even on the organizing site. It’s not a beauty pageant. Our logo is uglier than other logos anyway; I’m sure.

  17. I get the spirit of the “recommendation”, esp considering the non-profit status, but this is absurd. Even on the WordCamp Central site it states:

    Sponsorships are donations, given to support the cause.

    What DevPress is attempting to do sounds right in line with that, as it’s something of monetary value (thus being donated) that is supporting the cause (WP users).

    Later on in that same page it does make note about giveaways, but on the August 30th cache’d version of the page it only mentions raffles. Now it says “giveaways to all attendees”. Interesting how that was just added.

    • The whole thing sounds to me a bit as: “Oh, that was not our idea [the DevPress idea], so it’s not allowed. If it were our idea we could have it promoted a bit…”

      That’s kindergarten politics by Automattic.

      And, their site speaks of “A Note on…” – that doesn’t sound like a hard-coded rule/”law” at first sight but it seems so in reality.

      I guess the community can also go with another name if necessary, the Automattic WordCamp stamp is not the only name for such events, right? What about this one:
      WP Enthusiasts Camp
      Community. Liberty. Giveaways.

      ;-)

      • I agree this Wordcamp event discussion over sponsorship is very much about, “Our way or the highway”.

        Let’s look at Wordcamp San Francisco 2011 where two of the major sponsors were hosting company and a good number of the speakers were Automattic employees. Of 52 speakers at that event, nearly a third work for Automattic. If sponsorships pay for travel, doesn’t that mean Automattic benefited twice by flying in their own employees with sponsor money?

        I’ve seen sponsors and event organizers use attendees at Wordcamps as lead gen hawking their products, that’s not new. What is surprising that Justin Tadlock is being questioned.

        Fact: Justin Tadlock has been contributing to the WordPress community for years.

        Background: I joined Justin’s site, Themehybrid back in 2008. He was one of the first sites to discuss, explain and share child themes. Then custom post types. And much more.

        Opinion: He’s not only pioneered theme development styles and the WordPress core but his site led the way in offering affordable access to relevant and cutting edge WordPress information. Why in the world would he change that now?

        @norcross, nice on checking the Google cache.

        @david decker, I agree with you too

        @carl hancock, glad to hear that even though you’re a platnium sponsor at the same event, you don’t feel you are receiving any less value by Devpress sponsoring product.

        And yes, I’ve sponsored a Wordcamp before. I donated $250 to Wordcamp NYC 2009 to support the cause and vision of the WordPress community.

        This discussion confirms the erosion, power struggles and angst in the WP community over the last two years.

    • Those pages absolutely need to have change auditing.

      Obviously, they are being changed capriciously – and arbitrary changes made at the whim of arbitrary people* are a detriment to WordCamps, community members who volunteer to organize WordCamps, and community members who attend WordCamps.

      * Yes, Jane and Andrea constitute arbitrary people here. The people that really matter here are the local WordCamp organizers and attendees. Jane and Andrea should be doing nothing more than facilitating, ensuring that the WordPress/WordCamp trademarks aren’t abused, and ensuring that the WPF’s 501(c)3 status is maintained.

      • So where do you draw the line? Who is held accountable when the organizer of a WordCamp decides to push his/her products at the attendees? This is not a DevPress* thing. The WordPress Foundation has to put these rules in place to prevent abuse of the WordCamp trademark and the WordPress community. If every sponsor decides to offer their products for free without a monetary contribution, then there wouldn’t be a WordCamp. You can’t let the organizer arbitrary chose who gets to hawk their products for free and who has to pay a premium for it.

        * I love the DevPress guys and what they do but this issue is bigger than DevPress. Please don’t make this into a DevPress vs Jane thing.

        • I would draw the line essentially here: abuse of WPF trademarks, and risk to 501(c)3 status. That’s it.

          Anything beyond that is and should be entirely within the purvey of the local communities organizing and attending the WordCamps. Note: that line means that WordCamps should be free to fail if they are not well-organized. I would much rather see local organizers putting on events that they believe are in the best interests of their local communities, even at the risk of failure, than seeing local organizers pushed away because they are stifled by exertion of excessive, centralized control.

          My concern here is that the current efforts are being seen as an attempt to make every WordCamp a “cookie-cutter” event, micro-managed by WordCamp Central. That perception is – right now, today – pushing away local organizers from being involved. I personally know of at least three such organizers, of WordCamps in at least three different cities, who hold this exact perception.

          If that perception becomes wide-spread enough, then the entire WordCamp movement itself will be stifled.

  18. Bottom line: camps cost MONEY. where is the cost? to purchase things like venue, food, insurance, badges, signage, t shirts… there are hard costs. That’s what we call them: hard costs. We call them hard costs rather than soft costs because they have an actual monetary obligation assigned to them.
    The ONLY instance in which in kind sponsorships should be allowed and as far as I’m aware, the only instance where they are, is when they remove a hard cost from a camp. For instance: lunch. T shirts. Afterparty might be reasonable… and I agree….. its not in vegan muffins or beer. There’s a line, but its fuzzy.
    So the idea that any company giving free accounts away, or even discounted accounts away equates to a lunch sponsor or equivalent money is ridiculous. Even in major events, in kind sponsorships are valued at 50% cash at best. Because its NOT cash. Free accounts removes no hard costs. Cause at the end of the day, you can’t pay for t shirts with DevPress accounts.

    But above that…. so… a company, DevPress or other, decides to give away free accounts. Great. If they’re getting the same exposure and benefits as a sponsor… WHY SHOULD A COMPANY SPONSOR?

    Look- Jane and I disagree on sponsorship and camp stuff on an almost daily basis… loudly and without any resolve. But this is not an area where she’s wrong, in my opinion. She could explain the reasoning better because no one really has. But as someone who’s raised more sponsorship money than a lot of other camps, who other camps come to for advice on HOW to raise money…. I’m telling you, this is how to LOSE sponsors, not how to gain them. Has nothing to do with Automattic or Foundation or camps or the motivations of DevPress… its just bad event management. Sponsorship is like anything else you assign value to- when you start giving it away, the value depreciates, and its less desirable.

    • The ONLY instance in which in kind sponsorships should be allowed and as far as I’m aware, the only instance where they are, is when they remove a hard cost from a camp.

      Here’s the problem: this statement is fantastic as a recommendation to WordCamp organizers, along with caveats regarding everything you said; however, at the end of the day, the decision to accept such sponsorships should be up to the local organizers and local communities, and them only. This matter is not, and should not, be the concern of WordCamp Central.

      • Do you not understand that camps are seen as one singular organism to sponsors? And vendors? I had sponsors who had a smashing time at WC Boston. But when I contacted them 6 months later about WC Phoenix, I was told time and again that they’d been SO successful at Boston they’d immediately sponsored other camps, had a completely different experience and would never sponsor another camp again. It became so I heard myself telling sponsors, “but this is one of MY camps. its different”.

        It shouldn’t be different.

        There’s also a legal liability involved now, because the foundation stands behind the camps and being a 501c3 involves a lot of rules about how things are promoted.

        • Do you not understand that camps are seen as one singular organism to sponsors? And vendors?

          First: WordCamps are not “one singular organism”. They’re not, and they’re not espoused to be. If WordCamp Central wants them to be, then WordCamp Central should take direct control over every local event, and skip local organizers altogether.

          Second: since WordCamp events are intended to be local events, with local organizers, local speakers, and local attendees, then perhaps the majority of the sponsors should be local as well.

          Third: the 501(c)3 argument largely became specious the moment that beer became more important than direct-WordPress-related goods and services as a sponsor-provided commodity. Actually: even that is irrelevant*. WordCamp gift-in-kind sponsorships have almost NO risk of jeopardizing WPF’s 501(c)3 status in any way whatsoever. The main risk to 501(c)3 status results from actual monetary donations, and what is done with the net proceeds of those monetary donations.

          * And yes: I’ve managed a 501(c)3 organization, and dealt with ensuring that the status was maintained.

          • If that were to happen, WordCamps would never happen, because no one would pay for them. The camps largely exist due to the generosity of WP related companies. Which makes complete sense.

            Looks… when you have as specific an idea about how camps should run (and I mean.. have you run a camp? not sure…) just do your own event. Foundation wants other events in the mix. Better for everyone.

            I don’t disagree w some of your points, but it doesn’t change this SINGULAR issue, which has nothing to do with wordcamps in general, but sponsorships, period. anyways, have a good weekend, folks!

          • If that were to happen, WordCamps would never happen, because no one would pay for them.

            I beg to differ: both WordCamp Kansas City and WordCamp St. Louis were supported entirely (or, at least, almost entirely) by local/regional sponsors.

            The camps largely exist due to the generosity of WP related companies. Which makes complete sense.

            I agree; however, your assumption is faulty: that support doesn’t have to come from national WP-related companies, nor do WP-related companies have to provide support nationally. Local and regional WP-related companies are thriving, and have a vested interest in sponsorship/presence at local/regional WordCamps.

            At a minimum, sponsorship does not have to be national. One might even argue that trying to force requirements on local WordCamp organizers solely to ensure national-level sponsorship is detrimental to local WordCamps, and provides less real benefit to the local attendees of those WordCamps, if for no other reason than having an emphasis on local sponsors facilitates vital networking opportunities between those local companies and the local attendees who are most likely to enter into mutually beneficial relationships with those companies.

            But in the end: if you truly believe that WordCamps absolutely cannot exist without these “national” sponsors, then I challenge you to think outside the box a little bit more.

    • I think your doomsday premonition regarding WordCamps and sponsors is not true and this is coming from the perspective of done who regularly sponsors various events, including WordCamps.

      We are a Platinum sponsor of WordCamp Philly. Do we have a problem with DevPress getting free exposure by giving away free memberships to attendees? Absolutely not. Do we feel this dilutes or sponsorship or the exposure we will receive? Absolutely not.

      If the local WordCamp organizers are able to add more value for attendees via the donation of free WordPress products from non-sponsoring sources this is a WIN for the attendees which ultimately is a win for the event itself.

      The truth of the matter is we don’t sponsor WordCamp’s because we think it’s going to boost our sales. Frankly we sell more in an average weekday than what any large WordCamp sponsorship has delivered. We sponsor WordCamp’s to help fund them. We sponsor WordCamp’s so that we can do our part to help them take place. We sponsor WordCamp’s to give back to the community via an event that directly impacts local users.

      If we sponsored WordCamp’s because it was a good marketing move and we’d see a big boost in sales… then we probably wouldn’t be where we are as a company because there are more effective ways to spend our dollars if a boost in sales is what we were expecting in return.

    • We’re not asking to be in the same light as hard-cost sponsors. There’s no need for a DevPress logo at the events. Our promo code doesn’t need to be in writing. You can give it away or mention us before or after the event or during lunch, which would not eat into the actual event time. If it takes more than 10 seconds to give away our free promo code to attendees, I would agree it takes away from hard-cost sponsors.

  19. Like most of the drama that has arisen lately in the WP scene, the reactions have far exceeded the issue. Amanda makes good points (and knowing what she’s done to plan camps, I respect her point of view). But it’s always the cover up, isn’t it? Instead of the foundation coming out, in the open, and saying “hey, we didn’t think about [insert issue here] because it never came up before. So going forward, we have to handle it this way, and here is why”, they attempt to influence back channels and conveniently change policy without mention. If a rule needs to be changed / enacted, so be it. But doing so without transparency and open lines of communication will only cause more problems.

    • (thx, N. appreciated)

      I completely agree- I think a major issue (though lord knows there’d always continue to be issues, just not these issues) is that the foundation/camp thing needs to work more like core does. Transparency, meritocracy, traceable explanation of the WHY. Frankly, the why is often so fucking simple that if explained succinctly there’d be far less of THIS going on. Its not present because of a conspiracy, its not present because of a lack of manpower and hours in the day. That’ll be remedied in the near future from what I understand.

      That said… if I was Jane I’d backchannel too because you folks are ROUGH. Its like grabbing the cocktail off your waitress’s tray and then slapping the shit out of her without a “thank you” for bringing you your damned alcohol.

  20. Transparency, meritocracy, traceable explanation of the WHY. Frankly, the why is often so fucking simple that if explained succinctly there’d be far less of THIS going on.

    +1000

    Although I don’t think the reasoning is sound for this particular issue, the vast majority of things I find myself speaking out about are a direct result of a lack of transparency, meritocracy, and/or traceable explanations of why.

    • yes. its clear you find yourself speaking out:)

      you know, i just think your opinion would be different if you actually organized a camp. cause…. i’m pretty decent at it and some of your statements show lack of understanding of how it all happens. but if you feel this strongly about it… throw an event the way you think it should be done. throw an awesome wordpress related event.

      • Making this issue about me is a non sequitur. Again: I personally know of at least 3 local organizers, who are attempting, or have attempted, to organize their own, local WordCamp, in a manner that they believe to be appropriate for their local community, who have been extremely frustrated by micro-management from WordCamp Central. I don’t need to organize my own event in order to know that problems exist, and that the current situation is untenable.

        I’m not discounting your experience or disagreeing with you in principle with respect to sponsorship caveats. What I am disagreeing with is the assertion that the ultimate decisions should be made or controlled by WordCamp Central. If local organizers make mistakes, or run into problems by failing to take your advice, there’s nothing wrong with letting them learn from those mistakes.

    • And it’s pretty much because of this that stuff like this happens on a routine basis. In the past four years, this sort of thing happens at least a couple times a year.

      Something Happens
      People only get one or few sides of the story as to who, why, what, when, where
      The other party involved says nothing or it’s in the back channel
      Most of the crap that happens on twitter, in a forum post, or within the comment section of a site could have been concentrated (probably not avoided) on the site responsible for said change which would of course, feature a succinct explanation as to the why of such a thing happening.

      People want more detail as to why this is such a bad thing, a detailed explanation that goes beyond the “Because it violates so and so”. That response should be placed on the WordCamp Central blog and dare I say, comments enabled with mild moderation applied.

      At least if we had that, we could base our opinions and suggestions on that rather than a few sentences.

  21. Having organised various events for 12 months per year from 2000 until 2007, I know what I would do if I’d ever organise a WordPress related event. I’d not call it WordCamp and make shitloads of money of it!

  22. I’ve never paid for a theme or plugin before, but I just sent $5 to DevPress for a yearly membership. Can’t beat that. I’m already using their archives plugin instead of the slow-loading, javascript-heavy plugin I had been using.

  23. There’s definitely a move to holding WordPress related events outside of the WordCamp initiative. WordUp’s have happened in the UK, for example.

    The WordPress Foundation, and its ways are both good and bad for the WP community. Until it gets a little more democratic, however, they’re going to continue rubbing everyone up like this. A real shame.

  24. Pingback: Vegan Muffin Outrage and the State of WordCamps

  25. Pingback: All We Want To Know Is Why?

  26. Ok, here’s my point of view. I do not own a DevPress membership, I have never even come in direct contact with the developers and nor do I run a website which sells things (and nor have been a sponsor of a WC). I am speaking my point of view, that is of a WordPress user and contributor. You might agree or disagree, and I’d love to know why.

    Why would attendees accept this offer? They’re getting free things.
    Why would organizers take this offer? They’re getting to give free things to the attendees and they would become happy as their attendees would become happy. Well, at least in the beginning (read more).
    Why would DevPress promote this offer? At the end of the day, they’re getting more subscribers. It’s no doubt that they would get famous and get more popularity because of this. The more a company is talked about, the more famous they get, the more purchases they have and I should tell you, 5$ is a very temping offer. I myself got tempted to take that 5$ offer a while back but didn’t because I wasn’t actually going to use the products, at least for the time being. It would be interesting to know the spark in the number of registrations they’ve had over this saga (even thought that is unrelated) and would have after WC Philly. Also, digital good don’t cost anything in reality (except if you would argue, the time the developer had put in and the support for that product, but still not the costs involved in like publishing a book). Plus, as I’ve heard, the products they sell are useful and impressive, so the people would recommend them to others. Plus plus, the fees is recurring – even though it is 5$ per year, that doesn’t defy the point that it is recurring and the user would get tempted to pay that after seeing the good products and support.

    Why wouldn’t the WordCamp central people or other sponsors agree with this (or might not)? Because it’s just not fair, whatever argument you’d put. They [the sponsors] would argue that they could have got the same publicity without paying those ‘hard costs’. Even if they get publicity for 5 to 10 seconds, they’d be ‘kay. Then we’d have a bunch of companies waiting for their free license coupon codes to be announced during pre-event, lunch and post-event sessions, “And here we have X company offering a free coupon, just for you attendees! It goes ABC. Repeat ABC. They have premium themes, plugins, support and what not!” multiplied by 10 + “Enjoy your lunch!”. After some days we would realize that there is no organization willing to sponsor! Then the organizers would cut the sponsorship prices, add the benefits they would get or would just simply decline the free offers from the companies.

    It is that one company which would start this, and others would join saying that the X company was allowed to do so. Then why not us? Just because we don’t have reputed WordPress developers in our team? Just because we don’t contribute to the WordPress project directly? Just because we have a bit higher prices? Just because it would start taking up more time? Just because we have prettier logos that won’t get faded away? Why not 10 seconds more for us, if 10 seconds were given to that company?

    In my humble opinion, you should stop doing this yourself because eventually the organizers might not be able to organize a WordCamp they’d have liked to, because they didn’t have the enough number of sponsors, like they used to. Who would be at blame then? The X-type organizations or WordCamp Central people who didn’t enforce the guidelines at the correct time? This is what it could eventually turn into and the WordCamp Central people see this big picture and take up responsibility, which, IMHO, you should too.

      • My point certainly doesn’t apply to the good-will sponsors of WordCamp. But some would still have this though in their minds before pressing the “Become a Sponsor” button.

        • Gautam:
          So under your scenario, bigger contributors see DevPress’ sponsorship of the event and say to themselves “Why bother giving money? Why don’t we give in-kind contributions as well?” Is that what you’re worried about?

          Let me break this down for you just a bit: our first day venue is provided gratis by Temple. In fact, the WordCamp guidelines explicitly recommend looking for free venues, as this can be the single largest cost. If we were to have to actually rent a space, I doubt we could afford it.

          If we were to only get the venue sponsor, we could still make it work. T-shirts might be out, as might a few other niceties, but we could still have the event.

          What’s causing friction here, I think, is a conflict of visions between WordCamp Central and the various WC’s themselves. There’s a sense in the organizing community that at least some of the Central rules are capricious and/or sufficiently vague as to make conforming to them frustrating, while I think Central does want to protect both the WordCamp brand/identity and the Foundation’s non-profit status.

        • Additionally, let’s take Gravity Forms or Copyblogger/Studiopress as examples. Say they decided to sponsor us at the platinum level — $2,000 seems to be the going rate for most WordCamps out there. Now, say they took a look at an in-kind sponsorship of their respective products (retailing at $39 and $59 for Gravity Forms and Genesis, respectively). We’re projecting 300 attendees/speakers/volunteers combined, so if they decided to give in-kind contributions, that’s $11,700 for GF and $17,700 for Genesis. Take a traditional discount for in-kind contributions of 50% face value, and even then you’re looking at $5,850 and $8,550. How many companies do you know of that are willing to take that sort of a hit to sponsor an event, let alone do an in-kind contribution that will, for the space of a year, incur additional support burdens, complaints, etc. from customers who are essentially non-paying?

          It doesn’t make financial sense. And we’re not even going to go into the companies that don’t sell WordPress code/services but that have sponsored events — Microsoft, Comcast, Dreamhost, etc. What exactly would they have to give in-kind?

          I guess what I’m saying is that this proposition is a great chance for companies like DevPress, but it also carries a great deal of risk. What if they get flooded with griefers who demand more productivity out of their free accounts? What if their servers can’t handle the extra traffic? This is ultimately their cost-benefit analysis to run, but these sorts of sponsorship opportunities could help smaller companies who don’t have an events/sponsorship budget a toe in the door and a chance to compete with the WordPress community juggernauts.

          (As always, the above analyses is my own $.02.)

          • (Additionally, those are the basic subscription levels for GF and Genesis. The numbers explode to $59,700/$89,985 if you use the top-line/premium pricing packages.)

          • Doug: You’re looking at it wrong. Offering a discounted subscription rate like that is a win-win for any company, not a financial hit, and not a real risk.

            Lets say I’m company Foo. I make FooThemes. (joke! really!). I decide to offer all people that go to some Camp a 50% discount on my themes. My themes normally cost $50. So I’ll sell them for $25 to these 1000 attendees.

            Your logic says that I’m potentially out $25,000. However, this assumption is predicated on two basic errors in assumptions:
            1. Every attendee will take advantage of this offer, and
            2. Every attendee would have bought the full price had I not made the offer.

            Both of these are flawed. The truth is that I’m making money with this offer no matter what I do. For every person that takes advantage of the offer, I make $25. That’s $25 that I would not have made otherwise because the person probably never would have heard of my FooThemes had I not made the offer. The fact that they used the offer itself proves that they heard about it at the Camp event.

            In other words, you’re saying I’ve lost $25 even though my bank account has $25 more in it than it had before. This makes no sense.

            Offering discounts, or even free items, isn’t a cost to me and my Foo business. It’s a loss-leader marketing strategy. I may lose money on the initial sale (hardly likely, considering that I’m selling a series of 1′s and 0′s over the intertoobz here), but I make more money in the long run by doing so. And I get to limit the loss by only marketing to the people most likely to take advantage of it (enthusiasts buy lots of stuff), thus maximizing my revenue stream.

            So no, I gotta agree with the central here on this one. Offering your product to campers isn’t a contribution to the camp itself. Not really. It’s just marketing disguised as a contribution.

          • Otto:
            I disagree. I’m well aware of what a loss-leader is. However, DevPress’ offer is inherently different because they’re giving the subscriptions away in their entirety. They’re NOT making any money off it and are incurring a not-insignificant potential support burden on those free users.

            My basic point was this: if you’re looking for marketing, you’re far better off simply paying for a WordCamp sponsorship package than you are in going the DevPress give-away route, if only from a fiscal standpoint.

          • Also, you seem to have misunderstood my point: In the scenarios I outlined, RocketGenius/CopyBlogger are not offering discounts, but full give-aways. They’re not recouping 50% of their costs. Perhaps I misstated myself there — I was talking about what in-kind contributions are considered under tax law. The figure I’ve always heard is 50% face value, hence a $39 GravityForms give-away becomes $19.50 for Mr. Tax Man’s purposes.

            Inelegantly worded on my part — I was talking net fiscal impact on the company and wasn’t meaning “customers get to buy the product at a 50% discount”. My apologies for any confusion.

  27. I don’t see any problem with companies donating freebies to attendees of any particular conference assuming of course that the freebies have some sort of related value that attendees will appreciate.

    I think what’s lacking at WP central is a more rounded business experience. First of all, you can’t claim to be concerned about everyone’s benefit if you don’t accept their input. Secondly, when you help lead a community you better get public opinion and weigh it heavily.

    Obviously that isn’t happening as best as it could.

    Funny thing about power: It corrupts. So it takes a certain mindset to not fall into that.

  28. We sponsored WordCamp San Francisco earlier this year. I feel it was a huge waste of our WordCamp sponsorship fund, because sponsors received very little recognition. Granted, we ONLY spent $5,000 to sponsor this event, but I expected so much more. The guy who spent $2,500 got a booth out in the lobby with handouts and a banner, while people who spent $10,000+ were allowed to do handouts and got a mention in the blog and a shout out at WordCamp, but even that was not very much. I may have missed it, but I don’t recall hearing any of the sponsors being recognized before, during, or after the event. If you are going to spend that much money to sponsor an event, you should get way more recognition.

    I wish we would have saved that money and donated to some of the smaller WordCamps that actually needed it. I guess you live and learn.

    • @seth thanks for sharing your sponsorship experience. Was event espresso also an in-kind sponsor for the registrations? I also live in San Francisco and for the last 3 years I believe, Eventbrite has been a product sponsor of TechCrunch Disrupt where the tickets are $3,000 each. For them, it’s been an amazing way to get exposure since as companies register for the conference, they’ve gone through the event registration process.

      • When EB sponsors an event, they don’t charge event fees. So they are removing a removing a hard cost and a need at the same time, not merely doing an inkind service. I don’t believe that would be in violation of policies. Its like donating both cash and an essential service.

        That said, that’d likely not be a possibility as there’s not need to use EB- all camps are on wordpress.org now and utilize the WP ticketing module, built by WP people….

  29. I wouldn’t downplay the fact that you only spent $5,000. As far as WordCamp’s go, that is a significant price to pay for a sponsorship. We have never spent that much on a WordCamp sponsorship. Our Platinum sponsorship for WordCamp Philly was $2,000.

    What I found ironic about the WordCamp San Francisco event is they were charging sponsorship rates at such a high level that it placed them out of reach of most WordPress businesses, which I believe was their intention. $5,000 was the cheapest and their levels went all the way up to $40,000.

    If any other WordCamp organizer attempted to charge those kind of rates for sponsorships i’m sure WordCamp Central would not approve it.

    Wouldn’t it have been more community friendly to charge lower rates but allow more sponsors so that more business that build WordPress plugins and themes could benefit from the exposure and give back to the community by supporting the event?

    As I mentioned before, we don’t typically sponsor WordCamp’s because we think it’s going to result in a great ROI. We typically sponsor to give back to the community and help support the events. But at the rates WordCamp San Francisco was charging, if we had sponsored the event I would damn sure expect more exposure and recognition than it appears you received.

    • I have to disagree with you here, because I don’t think WordCamp’s should be seen as a marketing tool by WP related businesses. If you’re seeing WC as a way to promote yourself or your business, then I think you are seeing-it-wrong™.

      In other words, there’s a difference of vision here, I think. You’re thinking that “business that build WordPress plugins and themes” are giving back to the community by doing so. Many other people don’t see it that way. Giving = *giving*.

      But then WordCamp’s cost money, and for that reason, they have sponsors. In exchange for paying for the costs of event, they get to do marketing in some form. So, the fewer sponsors for a WordCamp, the better, really. Think about it, if only one company was the sponsor then they’d get all the marketing. If a dozen were, then they would only get 1/12th of the marketing. See the problem? The best number of sponsors for an event is really *as few as possible* from both perspectives. As long as the event gets paid for, of course.

      So yeah, setting the bar high probably was the point. I guess. I have no information here, but it was a bloody expensive event to hold, after all.

      The problem I think that exists with DevPress’s offer is that they’re not shouldering any of the costs associated with the event. Now, props to them for free stuff and that’s great, and I’m not questioning their sincerity. But without providing anything for the event itself, why should they get any of the marketing from it? Remember, the point is to have as few sponsors as possible. We want WordCamp’s to be about the users learning things, meeting others, building relationships, and fostering communities, not about selling these people tickets for the privilege of getting a bunch of advertising thrown at them.

      Frankly, I think that any company whose logo is displayed anywhere at a WordCamp should have contributed money (or goods like t-shirts or lunch or something) to it in some fashion. That’s the price paid for marketing. Offering a free entry into your community or whatever isn’t providing something to the event, it’s just providing marketing without any other contributions.

      Note: All of the above is my own opinion, nobody else’s. Please take it as such.

      • Hi Otto. That makes sense. Although, we’re not asking for promotion; we’re not asking for our logo to be at WC. Logos are available on DevPress.com for whoever wants to promote us. We don’t require it.

  30. Transparency, meritocracy, traceable explanation of the WHY. Frankly, the why is often so fucking simple that if explained succinctly there’d be far less of THIS going on.

    Amanda had already revealed the true reason behind all of this, so there is no need to spin it otherwise. It’s now the matter of ‘would u care to fix it- or – not.’

  31. I just organized WordCamp Jerusalem, and someone asked if they could give away a coupon for their service to the participants. I decided not to allow it, since they would essentially be getting the benefits of a sponsor, without contributing towards the conference’s costs like the other sponsors.
    So I personally can see why WordCamp Central has a problem with this type of sponsorship. But to make it a rule? I think that’s taking it a bit far, since this issue is not inherently right or wrong, good or bad. It should be a recommendation, and each organizer should decide for themselves.

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