Speakers-Dinners on WordCamps are exclusive events, which are excluding attendees of a WordCamp to participate. Why are we doing such events like the Speakers-Dinner on a WordCamp?
Honestly, I am very often on WordCamps. At my lamp in the dining room I have a lot of WordCamp Badges, my little trophy collection of my visited WordCamps in the World. Some people maybe think I am crazy, but I think it is a very useful kind for networking and to meet the community.
But because of that I recognize little things, which other are not recognizing who are not so often visiting WordCamps. In this case there is a specific kind of event, which is disturbung me and caused me finally to write this post.
On WordCamps outside of germany WordCamps often have a special event, called Speakers-Dinner. Those Speakers-Dinners are used to give the Speakers, Volunteers and Sponsor a “Thank you”. To give the supporters of a WordCamp a “Thank you” is of cause not the problem. That should be done. But I am disturbed by the fact that it is done on a Event which is closed for other peoples.
The Speakers-Dinner mostly takes place one day before the event. If you think about that the most attendees of a WordCamp are arriving one day before, this has a negative secondary effekt: The Community is splitted. That sounds theoratically, but it has a practical impact. There is no WordPress Community where on the one side are the organizers and on the other side the visitors. The attendees of a WordCamp are friends, they are networked and are participating on it in a different kind of way.
It’s happened to me and others, that attendees at the end of the day hiked alone thru the city or stayed alone in their Hotel, because they couldn’t attent to the event where their friends attending on an event where they don’t have access to. In my opinion this is not in the sense of the community. It’s the opposite: In the “WordCamp Organizer Handbook” we are speaking about “Inclusive and welcoming events” which WordCamps should be. In this case there is a conflict to the own rules of the communty with practical consequences.
One example that the inclusivity is enforced normally, is the “WordCamp in the Green”. We had a location with avery nice atmosphre, because it was a monastery which is renting their rooms to companies, organisations and other people. The area was really nice and had a very own and nive atmosphere. The people who have visited this place have been really excited. But the whole building is shaped by the catholic church. After requesting the WordPress Community Support, we have been told, that the WordCamp could not happen at this place, because we are excluding people who are not catholics. Nevertheless that their has be a room where also mulsims could pray.
So why are we doing exclusive events like the Speakers-Dinner on WordCamps?
Again, I am absolut not against to paying peole attention, who are supporting a WordCamp or giving them a “Thank you”, I even expect that. If it’s about to meet other speakers personally, there are different ways to do that. Of cause it’s a nice experience to participate on a even like this with all the important people of the WordPress community, but it does not fulfill the open and inclusive charrackter of an Open-Source Community.
An alternative would be a Warm-Up evening, which alread has been made on several WordCamps. Our experience shows us, that there are paticipating one third of the WordCamp Attendees. That is, except on the WordCamp EU and WordCamp US, about the amount of people who are attending to a WordCamp, but it is open for all and the core of the community is also present.