WordPress is restarting its in-person WordCamp program after more than six weeks of discussion on a proposal for how the WordPress community can return to hosting events. Applications are now open for in-person WordCamps, provided they meet the Community Team’s updated guidelines for organizing WordCamps during the pandemic.
Local communities that have hosted meetups prior to the pandemic are eligible to apply to host a WordCamp if public health authorities permit in-person gatherings in their region and the area passes the in-person safety checklist. If the checklist requirements cannot be met, organizers may still host a WordCamp, provided that vaccines or COVID tests are readily available in the community. In the event the location doesn’t pass the in-person checklist and also has limited access to vaccines and testing, organizers would need to opt for an online WordCamp.
The new guidelines have been simplified into a flowchart:
The Community Team expects that attendees will be fully vaccinated, recently tested negative, or recovered from COVID within the last three months. Attendance will be based on the honor system, as organizers will not be asking for proof as a condition of participation.
WordCamps are sorely missed by WordPress enthusiasts and professionals, and many are eager to return. This restart of the WordCamp program will need to attract more than just attendees – WordCamp organizers will need to get on board to be the first to test the waters.
Yep, the camps are where the community spirit is both sparked and inspired, and often times repaired. We need in real life Wordcamps— Paul Lacey (@wp_paullacey) September 13, 2021
The fact that vaccinated individuals can still transmit the virus throws a wrench into things in areas where vaccine hesitancy runs high, making the entire population more susceptible to breakthrough infections. This combined with the prevalence of the more highly contagious Delta variant makes for a scenario where attendees at approved in-person WordCamps could unwittingly participate in spreading the virus to others.
When asked about requiring masks or other precautions, Community Team representative Angela Jin said organizers have a better opportunity to require more precautions beyond local guidelines if they work with a venue that has its own requirements.
“The Community team is asking organizers and attendees to follow local guidelines,” Jin said. “If organizers would like to have more precautions, the deputies would advocate for booking at a venue that takes those precautions, for example, a venue that requires masks while indoors. In this way, the ask of ensuring additional safety measures is not just on organizers (event organizers already have enough to keep an eye on!), but on venue staff as well.”
“I’ve been asked if I think there will be an in-person WordCamp Miami in 2022 once it’s allowed,” longtime WordCamp organizer David Bisset said. “No idea. But I doubt I’ll be involved unless the state of Florida changes dramatically. Plus, other reasons. As of now I’m not planning on attending any in-person WCs for quite some time. I have a ‘wait and see’ attitude.’”
One important consideration is that the Global Sponsorship Program does not currently include funding for WordCamps, so organizers will need to raise 100% of the expenses for their events. A group of Community Team deputies are working on a proposal for the 2022 Global Sponsorship Program, aiming to finalize it by the end of October. In the meantime, organizers will need to find a way to foot the bill.
As scientists consider the increasingly more likely possibility that SARS-CoV-2 becomes an endemic virus, WordCamps and other gatherings will need to find the right combination of precautions that will enable them to continue in this new era. The Community team has become skilled at hosting virtual events, but 18 months into this pandemic it is clear that the connections fostered at WordCamps are irreplaceable.
“The deputies and I know that many places around the world are not in a position to organize in-person WordCamps at this time,” Jin said. “The team will continue to support online events, and do not expect organizers to host in-person events if they are not ready to.”