WordCamp San Francisco 2012 Sponsorship Packages – Kettle meet Pot

Ok, this has me a bit perturbed.

Today I get an email about the WCSF 2012 sponsorship packages and low and behold I am shocked, again, at the packages. Last year this happened, and not many folks said anything, this year I’m not sure I can go without saying something.

Having been part of the organizing team for two very successful camps, WordCamp San Diego 2011 and 2012, I can’t help recall long conversations with the WordPress foundation, whom “govern” the WordCamps world-wide, around sponsorship packages. One very specific conversation was around the level of sponsorships and the response I got:

We assume that there are a set number of companies willing to sponsor and want to distribute that money across as many camps as possible whilst not using it all on one camp. – Foundation (not word for word)

Ok, I guess I can get it, don’t have to agree but I get their stance. I will not even get into the discussion around how much a camp should start, I’d like to see what the budget for WCSF is and how that is acceptable compared to events in places like New York, Boston, and San Diego.

My bigger issue is with the “Do as I say, not as I do” mentality. I fail to see how this camp is any different than any other. I have heard the rumors yes, the plan is to change the name and make it the one true WordPress conference. Great, then change the name and differentiate it, don’t hold it under the same name, hold everyone to one standard, and yourself to another.

It is this kind of stuff that builds wedges in the community and gives off that perception of division and fractions. I personally don’t like it one bit.

These are the packages released this morning:

 

The Conclusion

Ok ok ok, I was told that this needed a conclusion, that the experience was like:

climbing up the hill to never reach climax  -anonymous

So let’s see if I can’t do a better job of pulling it all together in two points:

First, this “do as a I say and not as I do” mentality has to change. Its not healthy for the community and its not healthy for the Foundation.

Second, the sponsorship packages proposed for “WordCamp San Francisco” is just ridiculous. It goes contrary to any guidance the foundation has given around budgeting and sponsorships  for WordCamps.

This should not be taken as a personal attack, but rather a professional critique.

  • http://lisasabin-wilson.com Lisa

    Needed to be said.

    Well said, at that :)

  • A Nony Mouse

    I had the same shocking moment when I got the announcement. I have been part of a number of successful planning committees for camps, so it’s a little dismaying to see this happen.

  • http://pippinsplugins.com Pippin

    That is utterly insane. I believe the TOP sponsorship level recommend by Central is $1500. That’s $500 below the smallest one at WCSF. Insane.

    • http://jane.wordpress.com Jane Wells

      That’s not quite the case… WC Central recommends sponsor levels based on the anticipated number of attendees and the projected costs, including venue etc. 200 people in a midwestern city at an affordable venue is pretty different from 1000 people in San Francisco, which has some of the highest event venue costs in the country.

      That said, Central tries pretty hard to work with organizers and ensure they’ll raise the money they need without having to pound the pavement too hard or breaking the bank for sponsors.

      (This does not address the issue of why WCSF levels are so high, just wanted to clear up this aspect.)

      • http://pippinsplugins.com Pippin

        Sure, of course. That’s just what we were told for WordCamp KC. Thanks for the clarification :)

  • Evan Solomon

    Hi Tony, you have many ways to give this feedback privately. Choosing to do it publicly feels more like grandstanding than actually trying to make a point. Calling out other people in the community like this, in public, is just rude, no matter how you feel or who’s right or wrong.

    You have my email address — instead of using it to contact me you just screenshot it and call us hypocrites? I don’t think that’s productive.

    • http://pippinsplugins.com Pippin

      Evan, I think you misunderstand the point of the post. From my eyes, it is not to callout organizers of WCSF but is rather to callout the complete lack of consistency that comes from WC Central when it comes to how much can be raised / asked for with sponsorship levels. As Brad mentioned below, and I mentioned above, the tip TOP limit of what most WordCamps can ask for in sponsorship is 2k, and yes, somehow, WCSF can have 30K?

      While helping to organize WordCamp Kansas City, the top limit we were allowed was $1500.

    • http://perezbox.com perezbox

      Hi Evan

      Thanks for the note.

      My sincerest apologies if this offends, wasn’t my intention. Simply voicing my surprise and dismay. I mean, seriously, was it the impression that no one would take notice at the astronomical difference in sponsorship packages between this camp and others?

      This happened last year, folks mumbled about it and expressed their concern up the flag-pole, I guess thats to you (if you’re standing for the Foundation) and obviously nothing happened. Did it? Maybe I missed it…

      I don’t know who you are referring to when you use the term “us” but if you’re referring to the guidance given to the other camp organizers by the Foundation, then yes, I am saying it is hypocritical. Would you honestly disagree?

      I mean come on, really, would a private email really express to you how folks really feel about this? Did you not think through that when you said, “hey, let’s offer the smallest sponsorship at 2,000″. How many small businesses, which makes up a large portion of the WordPress business ecosystem, did you think would cover that?

      Sorry man, had to be said, and had to be said publicly unfortunately. Nothing personal.

    • http://austinpassy.com The Frosty

      Not much any of us organizers can do. Abide by the “rules” or not run a camp.

    • http://sucuri.net Dre

      Hey Evan, hope you’re well.

      I get your point completely, but this isn’t the first time this has come up, and it has been pointed out privately in the past.

      With that said, look at the feedback from other WordCamp organizers, they all seem to be on the same page here. I believe that it would be a bit naive to think others aren’t feeling the same.

      In the end, most folks won’t talk about it for fear that publicizing anything different than the expected response will bring on the little black ball.

      $.02

    • http://perezbox.com perezbox

      Evan

      I just looked back at the image in my post and I apologize, didn’t even see your email in the post I was so fixed on the prices. I’ve updated the image to exclude it.

      Its important to understand the issue here is not with you or your colleagues as organizers of the event, its more on the guidance that other organizers receive.

      I do apologize if that was lost in the post.

    • http://www.fusionized.com Ryan Duff

      Evan,

      I don’t think it’s a dig at you personally, but more at the overall issue of rules and standards.

      A few things to consider:

      1. Many of those that have voiced their opinion are big names in the community and are/were WordCamp organizers. I know most of them personally and have heard the same stories. Repeatedly.

      2. From the stories I’ve heard, these issues have tried to be fleshed out privately, to no avail. Again, probably why the issues keeps coming up.

      3. There are more people that haven’t posted here, but I know how they feel on the issue. They agree but are likely just trying to avoid adding their name to the issue. That’s totally their decision.

      At some point whoever is ultimately in charge needs to step back and wonder why things like this are posted online. Obviously there’s some frustration and double standards. I thought this was a community centered around awesome software, but sometimes it appears otherwise. Keep in mind appearances are everything.*

      *This could be why many involved have often tried to keep this private, but that’s just my $0.02

    • http://jane.wordpress.com Jane Wells

      I think it was fine for Tony to blog his thoughts. That why the core team works so hard on WordPress, after all, to make it possible and easy for anyone to publish their voice online.

      That said, I think it’s an apples to oranges comparison (WCSF to local WCs), and the disgruntlement with it is something that crops up every year, so while it may have felt good to vent here, a blog post on a personal blog is probably not the best way to effect change or influence the opinion that gets to make the call on this one (Matt).

      • http://binarym.com/ Matt McInvale

        Jane (or anyone else), can you explain how the 3 WCSFs I’ve attended were so much different from the other 10+ WCs I’ve attended? From my perspective, it’s definitely not apples to oranges. Thanks.

      • http://perezbox.com perezbox

        Hi Jane

        Great points.

        Where would you recommend that these disgruntlement’s be shared? From the sounds of it, there are a number of folks actively engaged in various aspects of the WordPress ecosystem that are willing to provide some feedback on the matter.

        You talk about not using your personal blog to affect change, but is that not what we all do? Is that not the point of our own unique social persona? We use our own mediums to express our own thoughts? What makes this any different than anything else?

        Would love to better understand how the budgeting for a WordCamp is calculated. The way it was explained to me it is encouraged to talk with a venue, preferably a University, and work with them to offer the venue for free. It was explained as such an easy task, and being that San Francisco is the Foundations back-yard, well it should be easy right?

        All that being said, as Matt is the final authority on it, I’d ask him for a better explanation of this specific clause on the WCSF website:

        “A WordCamp is a low-cost or no-cost event, usually held on a weekend where WordPress enthusiasts can get together to meet one another, and learn more about how to get the most out of WordPress. ”

        -source: http://2012.sf.wordcamp.org/2012/04/20/whats-a-wordcamp-you-ask/

        Woah… $30,000 for top sponsorship is not low-cost, unless you’re saying the event is going to be free. Is it? Even at that it’s a stretch. Maybe if it was the only sponsorship.

        I don’t know, maybe it just feels good to vent..

        • http://bluedogwebservices.com/ Aaron D. Campbell

          *I’ve never run a WordCamp* – I think it’s important to point that out. However, I understood the quote as meaning “low-cost or no-cost” *to the attendees* … which is offset by the sponsors. I’m currently at Future Insights Live in Vegas, and the tickets start at something like $900 to attend half the event, which is what I think that statement is trying to avoid.

          • http://perezbox.com perezbox

            Hey Aaron

            Great point, but I think the issue comes in the guidance we receive. By doing some quick math, assuming 1 sponsor at each level, you’re looking at a $64,500 price tag. If you’ve dealt with the Foundation organizing a camp you’d understand that is just an unacceptable budget for a WordCamp. This if ofcourse assuming 1 sponsor at each level, which I highly doubt. I think that is the problem and where the rub is bad. And in regards to the quote, based on the foundation there is nothing “low cost” about a potential $64,500″ price tag, not even including ticket sales which can easily be $12,000 if expecting 600 people at $20 a head which is the Foundation guidance for a 1 day event. See the issue?

          • http://jane.wordpress.com Jane Wells

            That is exactly correct.

    • Evan Solomon

      People seemed to think I was interpreting this post as directed at me personally. I wasn’t. I assumed (and still assume) the post had absolutely nothing to do with me individually.

      • http://perezbox.com perezbox

        That’s great boss, in line with the intent.

    • Carl Hancock

      I fail to see how Tony’s opinions on this matter can be considered rude.

      A community where it’s members cannot express their opinions or publicly criticize policies being implemented if they choose to do so, does not sound like a good community to be part of.

      Some issues can certainly be better handled in private, but I see nothing wrong with the issue being raised in this post.

      The people who are officially connected to the Foundation or WordCamp San Francisco planning need to try and quit viewing opinions that differ their own as some sort of hostile action. These types of discussions are good, not bad.

      The community is bigger than any one group of people and it’s certainly bigger than Matt himself. It’s a community made up of many different communities. If everyone in the community had the exact same opinions it would make for a pretty lame community.

      When people like Tony express their dislike for policies being put in place by the WordPress Foundation that impact WordCamp organizers, or the community as a whole, they shouldn’t be frowned upon. When they are frowned upon or publicly flogged for expressing their opinion, it makes it appear as if the brain trust is saying, “How dare you disagree, just shut up and do as you’re told.”

      What I do know is WordCamps around the cou try and internationally have grown into what they have become in terms of size and scale because of the community. They are what they’ve become because it is the direction that the community has taken them in.

      The community didn’t ask for caps on sponsorship rates. People in the community just care about attending a well organized, fun and informative event. Putting a cap on sponsorship rates puts restraints on what is possible as far as the event planning and speakers go. This will result in events that aren’t as well organized, fun or informative. I don’t see how that is good for the community.

      The notion that the community can be controlled and should fall in line with what it is told to do needs to be thrown out the window.

      To quote a quote I had read in another controversial blog post, anyone who adheres to this way of thinking, “Never listen to the vocal minority, even if they’re right.”, is ignorant and close minded.

      While there are always exceptions, the vocal minority is vocal about certain issues because they are every bit as passionate about WordPress and the community as a whole as the brain trust that runs the Foundation and WordCamp central.

      Listen and actually consider opinions express by the “vocal minority” and you might just learn something or find a better way of doing whatever it is being discussed. Immediately pushing back, discounting their opinions outright or treating it as some sort of attack, which frequently happens, is not how these situations should be handled.

  • http://webdevstudios.com Brad Williams

    Couldn’t agree more. I remember being told by the WP Foundation that the highest level sponsorship package for WordCamp Philly was too high. The price was $2,500, so we were forced to bring it down to $2,000. So our HIGHEST level was identical to their LOWEST level.

    I know San Francisco is an expensive town, but Philly isn’t cheap either! As a co-organizer of two very successful WordCamps in Philly, this type of stuff is extremely frustrating.

    • http://perezbox.com perezbox

      Same page Brad. If we’re going to call them both WordCamps then they should both fall under the same rules in all regards, including budgeting and sponsorships. That’s my only point.

    • http://lisasabin-wilson.com Lisa

      I organized Chicago in ’09 and ’10. The 2010 camp hosted 580 attendees and in Chicago, that is no small task. Each city has its own things to deal with … in Chicago its unions. 2010 cost us roughly $42,000.00 (and, in my opinion, it was a bare bones camp) – - and we raised that much through sponsorships, so we broke even. That was a couple of months before the Foundation took over. I was told that $30K for a local WordCamp was a ridiculous amount and way too much for a local camp…which is why the Foundation would be taking over to help local camps deal with these financial issues.

      In 2011, the Foundation did just that – - and applies their rules to all but SF. It sends mixed messages and frustrates organizers, across the board. I’ve heard it from all of them – but few are willing to say so for fear of being ostracized from the very community they adore. So, they stay quiet and grumble amongst themselves…but grumble they do.

      Kudos, Tony, for saying what so many have been thinking, saying and grumbling about for almost 2 years…if it only accomplishes a bit of venting and the letting of hot air – so be it. If it affects change somewhere up the flagpole, even better.

  • http://shaynesanderson.com Shayne

    Completely agree. Good for you Tony for saying it publicly.

    It’s ridiculous how people have lost their backbone and won’t stand up for what’s right.

    Good for you for standing up and saying something.

    • http://jane.wordpress.com Jane Wells

      Who are you accusing of losing a backbone, exactly?

      • http://Page.ly Strebel

        I assume Shayne was referring to other organizers that do not have the testicular fortitude of Tony to speak their mind so freely.

        • http://www.fusionized.com Ryan Duff

          I was going to say that, but your words– they’re so elegant.

      • http://Shaynesanderson.com Shayne

        Yes, what Josh said….about – you know, the testes.

        • http://lisasabin-wilson.com Lisa

          Stop being so sexists…the lot of you! :p

  • http://binarym.com/ Matt McInvale

    Thanks Tony. Very well written. It would be great to get an official response from the WC higher ups. Double standards suck.

  • http://fauxzen.com Shelby DeNike

    First off I wish there was a “like” button for all of the comments posted so far as I agree. As last years organizer of WordCamp Las Vegas I can totally understand and feel the frustration with the sponsorship package limits being set in place by the foundation, especially once you see that the price points for WCSF are so far above and beyond what is allowed. Overall I think the limits that are put in place for all of us common folk to follow is pretty low and should be revisited as the cost of WordCamp’s can vary on geographical location.

  • http://kraft.im Brandon Kraft

    I understand there is a difference with WCSF and, as was suggested, perhaps it should be broken out to not be a “WordCamp”. PBS show notwithstanding, WordWorld would be great.

    I wonder if there is a demand for a normal-sized WCSF separate from the mothership. As a small WP business, I can still advertise at WC-Austin. If I was in SF, I couldn’t dream of dropping those amounts (nor would I truly want the global visibility that WCSF enjoys).

  • http://jane.wordpress.com Jane Wells

    This is one of those things where Matt and I utterly disagree, no matter how many times we debate it. I have felt for several years that WCSF has morphed into “The WordPress Conference,” and that it should be named accordingly (especially once WC guidelines came into play). I’ve said it in public, I’ve posted about it, and I’ve explained my point of view to those organizers or community members who’ve asked my opinion. Matt has not felt the need to change the name to differentiate, in part because most of the community already knows it’s different and in part because as the founder of WordCamp, with an event in SF, he’s attached to it. OF note: the very first WCSF was not strictly a local event — it featured serious project contributors from all over, and in spirit was possibly closer to WCSF (especially Saturday of last year) than the local WCs (which are kind of like TEDx in some ways).

    As things stand right now, the Foundation owns the WordCamp trademark, and Matt is the Director of the Foundation. He puts a lot of effort into having an annual event in SF that people can attend from around the world to be inspired. Driving 5 miles to a WC is a lot different than flying halfway around the world, and expectations are different. It’s fine to have dissenting opinions about all these things, but at the same time it would be worth remembering that just because you don’t agree with someone doesn’t mean their heart is in the wrong place or that they aren’t working hard. Assuming good intentions instead of bad goes a long way toward keeping a respectful tone in our community.

    When things just aren’t how you think they should be, the options are: 1) Get involved in an official capacity, earn cred, and make a difference from the inside; 2) Do nothing but keep complaining that nothing work the way you think it should; or 3) Accept that we don’t always get our way in life (lord knows I hated the Twenty Eleven theme!) and move on to things that matter more. Everyone has to make that choice at some point or another.

    • Carl Hancock

      There are people who DO fly around the country and beyond (not drive) and attend numerous non-San Francisco WordCamps every year because they love doing so. I know because I see these people at every WordCamp I go to.

      I’m not sure why there is a desire to apply rules to WordCamps which are obviously designed to suppress their size and magnitude. Limiting sponsorship rates helps constrain the size of the event by limiting what the organizers can pull off from an event planning standpoint.

      The community loves these events which is why they had become what they had turned into. They wouldn’t have gotten so big if it wasn’t for the fact that so many people attended.

      For what it’s worth the WordCon related domain names have since come into my possession and I actually contacted Matt and offered to give them to the Foundation. He never replied.

      • http://www.fusionized.com Ryan Duff

        FWIW, I always thought the split never should have been between WCSF and “other” WordCamps, but rather between meetups and WordCamps.

        Let the meetup be your “local” group, and let the WordCamp be your one time a year to bring in big names and outsiders to draw more interest and bring outside ideas. That’s what sparks innovation. Speaking from experience, I’m always inspired after every WordCamp I attend.

        Not really sure where this idea WordCamps must be local except for SF which should be extravagant because people from across the globe fly in came from, but it seems like a far fetched excuse.

        Is there a tip box to send suggestions to because I got a ton of them. Do I bribe Matt with BBQ? What’s the preferred approach?

    • Grant Landram

      All great points, however I don’t think the issue is that WCSF sponsorships are higher (I think we all can agree it’s a world class event), it’s that they’re SOOOO much higher. If the argument is that WCSF needs these high limits, let’s increase Non-SF sponsorship limits to something that also let’s us put on a high quality event.

      • http://www.fusionized.com Ryan Duff

        THIS.

        What does an organizer at Central know about costs of putting on events in hundreds of cities around the globe? Like Lisa spelled out, their idea of costs in Chicago were way off the mark from reality. What’s sad is that happens in a lot of cities and they end up putting on sub-par, bare bones conferences as a result of the hoops they’re required to jump through.

        I have no issues with the foundation trying to keep things semi in-check, but the observed micro managing needs to end as to not stifle the community.

        The organizers know the area and they’re the feet on the ground as far as getting venues, sponsorships, etc. If anyone would know what costs are relevant to their area, it’s them.

        • http://robertdall.com Robert Dall

          Ryan I really agree with your point on whole geography issue leading to different costs. When I was involved with a different organization (no connection to web design) their conference costs tried to remain the same even though the cost of putting on the conference varied by thousands of dollars depending on the city.

          For example the cost of two day convention in Vancouver, Canada varied wildly to the cost of a two day convention in Winnipeg, Canada.

          Anyways those are my 0.02 cents on the issue… Regardless of whether it USA, Canada or wherever. Location is going to impact on cost associated to putting on the event.

    • http://perezbox.com perezbox

      Hi Jane

      I think you make a number of good points in this post.

      That being said, I think that if the Foundation is going to establish rules that other camps have to follow, then in essence, WCSF is no different. Regardless of whether it is the first or last event, and whether the co-founders name is attached to it. WordCamp is much bigger than that and if there is a specific brand, then it applies to all. There in lies the problem.

      Also, many WordCamps these days are bringing international attendees. I can’t speak for all, but I can for WordCamp San Diego. We had folks come in from places as far away as Australia and guys watching in Sri Lanka commenting on the instant value they received from the event. The point of geographic reach is no longer a valid one in my humble opinion.

      I do agree with you 100%, no one is saying that hearts are in the wrong place. But like in anything else, there has to be checks and balances. Matt has often talked to the purpose of these events and the platform and how integral the community is. I would imagine you could almost classify this as part of the checks and balances and the community pulling out the “penalty flag”.

      Also very good points on better contributing, its fairly straightforward to contribute technically, but how do people contribute organizationally to things like the Foundation?

      And trust you me, I’m married, I never get what I want..:)

    • Chistina Warren

      I think the TEDx comparison is particularly apt, and if I could offer some unsolicited advice, it would be to make that sort of distinction more clear through the WordCamp Central page. Just as TED Long Beach is the flagship event and TEDx is organized by local groups
      in affiliated with TED (but follow foundation guidelines for content, upload requirements, branding usage, etc.), WordCamp SF is the flagship event and every other local WordCamp is “licensed” to third-parities.

      This doesn’t solve the issue of sponsorship, which I still think is screwed up. Guidelines are great, but let’s get real, holding a WordCamp that isn’t on the scale of SF but is in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or other large cities that will likely have a BIG attendee list is going to be expensive.

      I get not wanting WordCamp Des Moines to take in $50,000 in sponsorships but you couldn’t get a free venue in NYC to accommodate the number of people who would attend and even with a discount, 92Y or Columbia or NYU (because GA and NWC would be way too small) at a discounted rate would cost mega. That’s one reason (purely guessing) we didn’t have a WordCamp NYC last year. It’s too hard to do on a contained budget (and competition for other non-profit tech events is super high. Not SF high but high)

      • http://perezbox.com perezbox

        Christina

        Great points, thanks for sharing, its great hearing from so many other organizers sharing similar thoughts and concerns.

        Thanks

  • Pingback: WordCamp San Francisco sponsor prices cause a stir | WPCandy

  • http://ben.lobaugh.net Ben Lobaugh

    I am one of the organizers of the Seattle WordCamp. We have almost 900 people in our local Meetup community and I know we easily could have packed in a 600 person crowd between us and the rest of the community with no problem, and we wanted to! We ran into a brick wall with the Foundation limitations that wound up restricting us to a 300 person venue due to lack of flexibility primarily in sponsorship abilities. With several big name companies on our doorstep, as well as a thriving local WordPress business community we could have put on a 600 person event, but those venues are expensive. It would be great if the Foundation would sit down with us community leaders who are out here on the front lines to talk about what works in reality. I would be there in a heartbeat!

    • http://perezbox.com perezbox

      +10 Ben, great rational points.

  • http://zippykid.com/ Vid Luther

    As a sponsor of other WordCamps, I’d like to add my $0.02. I think the organizers of WordCamps are understandably upset, if they’ve been told to keep sponsorship levels low, based based on opinions of whether a camp will be able to attract enough of a crowd. It’s a chicken and egg thing, how do you attract people with low budget? How do you justify a higher sponsorship price, if you can’t show enough attendees for a sponsor to want to do it.

    I also agree with Jane, the facts of what’s happened don’t indicate any malice, maybe they just don’t know about the international reach of camps like San Diego, Chicago, NY, and Philly. What’s happened here is that it’s given an illusion of double standards.

    As a sponsor, it’s hard for me to understand why a premium sponsorship costs $2500 in Boston, yet $30,000 in San Francisco. I’m sure SF is more expensive than Boston, but not by that much. The number of attendees is also about the same. I’m willing to bet Philly, Chicago, NY, and Miami draw similar crowds.

    At the same time, as a sponsor, I also know I can vote with my checkbook. If I think the prices are too expensive, I don’t have to play.

    As a sponsor, I don’t understand the frustration some of the organizers have, probably because I don’t understand the rules. If you can get speakers, and attendees in a building, why is the name “WordCamp” so important? Why not call it something else, and make sponsors pay more?

    If you look at the total number of attendees at WordCamps around the world, and the total # of WordPress users, businesses like ours would not be thriving if the only source of advertising was via WordCamps.

    I think conversations like these are good, it’s a sign of a healthy, growing community, that’s growing past it’s grassroots base.

    ZippyKid will be one of the sponsors of WCSF, we’re just figuring out which level, but we’re also sponsoring other events, that have asked for higher fees than WordCamps.. and I hope other businesses do as well.

    • http://perezbox.com perezbox

      Hey Vid

      I think you make a lot of great points and its one of the reasons you see things like Pressnomics: http://pressnomics.com/

      Didn’t understand it at first, but after some thought came to this conclusion: http://perezbox.com/2012/05/the-concept-of-a-pressnomics-conference/

      In any event, I also agree with you wholeheartedly that we need to be able to talk about these things openly, without the fear of the hammer – which unfortunately some reference above.

      The one thing I disagree with you on is this:

      “If you look at the total number of attendees at WordCamps around the world, and the total # of WordPress users, businesses like ours would not be thriving if the only source of advertising was via WordCamps.”

      Most of the folks you see responding here don’t advertise on the WordCamp pages, they donate to the event in the hopes that it enriches the community. The logo on the page is but a by-product of the donation. The real return is watching the local communities blossom.

      Its why so many travel to so many events each year, talking, volunteering, giving back. Its this essence that has set apart this “community” from the Joomla’s and the Drupal’s. It’s why so many have built business around the platform…:) In my experience, the return on investment is marginal at these events when looking strictly at the finances..:0)

      • Vid Luther

        I agree that sponshorship is about community, not just ROI, but as a for profit business, if the ROI was negligible, we wouldn’t do it… And we wouldn’t sponsor wordcamps in cities we don’t live in.

        We want the community to blossom, so we can cultivate more customers :)

        I also agree whole heartedly with Carl’s comments, I don’t understand why you’re being admonished for speaking your mind. You can discuss in public and private…

        As for pressnomicx, I’m really excited about it. Josh has promised me an invitation so I’ll definitely be attending, and hopefully sponsoring.

        Ps: these discussions remind me of the first Linux world expo in NYC… All good signs

      • Carl Hancock

        You hit the nail on the head with your comment regarding people not sponsoring WordCamp events for exposure or expectations that it will have good ROI.

        We have never sponsored a WordCamp event because we thought it would be a good way to market our product and boost our sales. It won’t. We’ve never seen a noticeable spike in our sales before, during or after a WordCamp we have sponsored. The fact is as far as ROI goes its not a good way to spend your marketing dollars.

        BUT that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it anyway. You should simply to support the event and as a way to give back and help provide these great events to the community. It’s precisely why we sponsor events like this. It’s not about getting, it’s about giving.

        • http://perezbox.com perezbox

          Yup yup.. +10

        • http://michaelbastos.com Michael Bastos

          I agree with Carl and Vid in saying that ROI shouldn’t really play that big of a role in why someone sponsors WordCamps though I can understand a business that is WordPress centric seeing it as a great way to reach out to potential customers. My company doesn’t even sell any WordPress related products but we use the tool in so many different ways and for so many different projects that personally I feel the need to sponsor the event every year if for anything just as a way to give back. We do the same for other Open Source Projects like Ubuntu and such but WordPress has one of those special type of communities that is rare to see anywhere else.

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  • http://headwaythemes.com Grant Griffiths

    Don’t you just love capitalism…

    The entire problem is the fact “Local Wordcamps” are being told how to do things by what appears to be an out of touch dictatorship.

    Why not stay out of the “Local Wordcamps” business and let them run them as they see fit.

    But, why should we be surprised about any of this when you see other practices of Automattic and how they handle things. While they once again dictate to what are suppose to be independent business on how they operate, they do those exact things they forbid others from doing.

    WordPress and WC Central are an open community only if you follow along like good little children.

    Perhaps it is time more and more local groups bypass the WordPress Foundation requirements and hold an independent event. After all, what benefit is there to having WordPress involved in the camps other then telling everyone how things need to be done. Oh wait, they do provide the Lanyards, but then want them back.

    • http://www.fusionized.com Ryan Duff

      Grant,

      Agree, but here’s the problem. Branding. The WordCamp brand is powerful which is why I think most organizers put up with the hurdles instead of doing their own thing.

      Developers and community members know what the events are about, but the users don’t. They often times think that these events are put on by Automattic instead of local organizers and volunteers. To remove that WordCamp brand would lead to confusion amongst the core attendees of a WordCamp.

      The whole thing reminds me of the case studies in Biz management degrees where the boss always thought his decisions were better than the consensus of all those that worked for him. In most cases the business ended up failing.

      • http://perezbox.com perezbox

        Ryan, +10

        You’re absolutely right in terms of the, “my perspective is clearer than yours.” There is a reason that autocratic mind-sets are being forced to change. What perhaps is most amusing of it though is that its contrary to the principles around an open source effort.

        That being said, I very much know how it is to hear everyone talk about great ideas and how easy something is to implement, and in reality how hard it is without knowing all the intricate details. Things are never as easy as they appear and I have to give credit where credit is due, think the Foundation is making a good effort, but approach is probably not the best. I would wager that if the same approach around building awesome software was taken with WordCamps and the foundation the response would be very different.

        Thanks for the thoughts.

    • http://perezbox.com perezbox

      Hey Grant

      Not too sure about a dictatorship, although I can see the opinion. I do think though that if the foundation is going to mandate, then perhaps it needs a community based panel that can help educate on what is needed on the ground. There is a reason why the traditional thought-process around leadership and management is no longer the autocratic approach you see in the military and in what I call “traditional” business and is being forced to evolve.

      I also don’t see much of an issue with some level of governance, but the rules have to be fair and all, regardless of name or history, need to abide by them. If not, then it really doesn’t make much sense and these discussions will go nowhere.

      I can’t talk to Automatic and their practices, but it does appear to be the case for the foundation. Having only been in this community for a year and a half or so, I can’t help but be discouraged when all I hear is this:

      “WordPress and WC Central are an open community only if you follow along like good little children.”

      This should not be the perception, but it is, and it really doesn’t appear to be a perception if everyone is saying it. At some point you have to sit back and realize, wow, its a reality.

      Thanks for your thoughts.

  • http://pixopoint.com/ Ryan Hellyer

    I find it sad to see so many problems in a community I love. These issues have been argued endlessly behind closed doors for a while now and from what I can tell nothing is going to change any time soon. It’s nice to see someone bringing out in the public though so those out of the loop can hear about what is going on behind the scenes.

    I think life would become a lot easier if WordCamp organisers could bandy together and all choose to run WordUp conferences instead. That way they could avoid the bureaucratic issues associated with following the party line.

    • http://perezbox.com perezbox

      Hi Ryan

      Here is the think about leadership, “you have to learn to listen.” If in fact these things have been going on for long periods of time behind closed doors, then its truly sad that change does not happen. What is done for the WordPress communities is much bigger than any one individual or group of people and folks cannot loose that perspective.

      • http://pixopoint.com/ Ryan Hellyer

        I don’t disagree. I just think think that attempting to change the status quo is likely to fail. The easiest solution to my mind is simply to use a different brand.

        I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d personally be just as likely to attend a generic WordPress conference as I would an official “WordCamp”.

  • Alan Moore

    Carl Hancock said it right here:
    “I’m not sure why there is a desire to apply rules to WordCamps which are obviously designed to suppress their size and magnitude. Limiting sponsorship rates helps constrain the size of the event by limiting what the organizers can pull off from an event planning standpoint.”

    It’s all about control. Limit all these local WC to small events, and “the big one” stands to cash in big time. Glad to see someone call it for what it is.

  • http://ma.tt/ Matt

    Just caught up with this thread and the threads elsewhere — I wasn’t aware we were putting hard caps on WordCamp sponsorships or artificially limiting the size of camps due to sponsorships. (Thanks to Jase for emailing this over.) I’m going to review this guideline with the folks who actually deal with it every day and see what the philosophy and purpose was behind why it exists, and perhaps there’s a way to have the same outcome while remaining flexible for different camps and localities who may have different needs.

    The guidelines are on a WP-powered pages, not stone tablets, so they’re meant to evolve. :)

    • http://linkedin.com/in/luminopolis Jase Wilson

      Much obliged Matt. Hope all is well your way and thanks for looking into this. PS come to WCKC June 1 we have some bbq lined up!

    • http://perezbox.com perezbox

      Hi Matt

      Thanks much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and thanks for taking a minute to look it over, I can assure you that it is much appreciated. I also don’t think it was ever done will ill-intention, more something that probably just evolved as things got bigger.

      I personally apologize for all the other noise that might come from it, most of it really doesn’t hold much bearing on the matter and is far from the purpose of the post. I think all we want, camp organizers, is the ability to offer nothing but awesomeness to our local communities and continue to grow as a group of like-minded individuals. I personally understand and respect the need for governance around the use of the trademark and want to be sure that its clear that is not the point of any of this.

      Lastly, the point is not and never has been to attack you, or any of the Automatticians and / or volunteers that are working hard to keep this platform operational. Its simply looking at the bigger picture, how do we democratize the platform and the community that keep it going.

      Tony

    • http://jane.wordpress.com Jane Wells

      There is no limiting of size due to sponsorships. Sometimes there are reasons to recommend doing a 300 person event instead of shooting for a 700 person event, but it has never been related to sponsorships. It usually has more to do with having a first-time organizer, not many people on the organizing team, or other similar factors. In any case, it would be a recommendation, not a an actual limit. If someone was clearly unqualified to run an event of that size (which has happened a couple of times) the suggestion would be to collaborate with co-organizers with more experience, beef up the meetup group first, etc.

      Similarly, recommendations on sponsorships levels are based on the budget that the organizer draws up for event expenses and usually translate to a $x/attendee. We used to see a lot of WCs setting unecessarily high levels without putting together an actual budget, so the goal is to only raise as much as the event needs with a little bit of buffer.

      • http://perezbox.com perezbox

        Hi Jane

        Thanks for stopping in again.

        You bring up some very good points that some of us, I know I am one, probably didn’t think about. Those WordCamps that weren’t successful, the ones whom were shut down because of suspicious activity – whether it be an attempt to inappropriately allocate funds, use it for personal use, or lack of experience around event planning. It is no easy task putting one of these things on and the bigger and more expensive it gets the more of a challenge it becomes.

        Here is a perfect example of what I’d think we all can agree is not what we ever want to see:

        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.

        This also talks to the perception issues our friends down under brought up.

        I am a firm believer that WordCamp Central’s intentions are good, but I think their biggest weakness is a lack of communication around thought processes and decisions. I am convinced that rational and intelligent people, when presented with sound rationale, whether they agree or not, can begin to better understand and more importantly accept guidance. It will also talk to ways that we can help be part of the solution versus simply identifying the perceived problems.

        There is never a discussion that can be had with those that are irrational and emotional.

    • http://pixopoint.com/ Ryan Hellyer

      I’m a little surprised to hear you were unaware of this Matt. I’ve heard people complaining about this for a while now, but I guess it didn’t occur to anyone to take it to the top.

    • http://michaelbastos.com Michael Bastos

      I think all of these discussions would be settled if as Tony mentioned, you made what WCSF the standard for all WordCamps to follow by. Obviously it’s been running for the longest time now but if the concerns are mostly that unexperienced organizers are going to mess up and plan an event too large for them to manage then maybe the limits set should be based on the number of times or years the certain WordCamp has been done for that particular city as well as the experience of the Organizers themselves in running other WordCamps. Ideally if you’re hosting your first WordCamp then you should try for no more than 200 people, second WordCamp no more than 300, 3rd time no more than 400 etc, after the 4th or 5th WordCamp then now you have well experienced organizers and local companies backing the whole thing, tell them that as long as they don’t go over the suggested WordCamp San Francisco Sponsors pricing etc then they can throw as big of an event as necessary for their city. I’m headed to WordCamp New York next month all the way from San Diego and from what I’ve been told it’s suppose to be a massive event that I think should be allowed to draw in large enough sponsorship’s considering the scope and size of the city itself. Make WCSF the standard for all others not only to follow but also look up to with only a limit for WordCamps maybe less than 3 years old and all of this talk of the Foundation being somehow hypocritical goes away. Explain when limits are necessary (in the case of new events) and open the doors freely to everyone else who has been doing this for a while to have free rain up to WordCamp SF size or status and these conferences and events will not only benefit the Foundation greatly but will also bring in new opportunities to the platform never imagined before… I know WCSD for example could easily reach 600 attendees if not more given the chance considering the amount of people asking about tickets for themselves and or their coworkers after they had been sold out but I understand the event is only 2 years old and I also wouldn’t want Dre or Tony to have a heart attack lol.

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  • http://2012.sydney.wordcamp.org Dee Teal

    I’ve been walking through the very issues of sponsorship and ticket prices with WC Central just this week in the course of organising WordCamp Sydney (July 21-22). It’s been a challenging business and not one I envy them having to deal with; and to their credit Andrea has handled my Australian ‘no bullsh*t’ approach with very good grace. However…

    We’ve still had to reduce both our ticket prices, and our sponsorship prices to stay close enough to the guidelines to satisfy WCC (with a helping hand from Jetpack sponsoring an ‘early bird’ price to make it even possible).

    I understand the rationale, and I understand the grievance about this double standard, but the issue I see broader, in that it is, in my view, a mistake to assume that one standard can be applied in a blanket fashion to all WordCamps, in all cities, in all the world. No two cities are the same. No two countries are the same.

    While we ‘down under’ don’t have Lisa’s challenges of organising a WordCamp around unions, we do live in a city that is the world’s’ 14th most expensive city to live in*. Putting on a conference, getting a reasonably priced venue to take an audience of a reasonable size is no mean feat… it took us 4 months to finally secure the venue and with no small amount of negotiation.

    The cost of living in Sydney is between 25-30% more expensive than in San Francisco** so the comparative numbers between sponsorship packages for our event and WCSF are laughable… regardless of whether or not WCSF is the ‘global’ WordCamp or not.

    Our other struggle, and I don’t know if this is a uniquely Australian or New Zealand issue, is the perception here that an event that’s so cheap is one that lacks quality, and by extension, value.

    Our population is small by comparision with the size of our continent, and while WordPress is gaining traction in even the corporate environment, we can’t get the corporates to take us seriously, to send people to WordCamp, because we’re so cheap… the same challenge applies to getting sponsorship… if there isn’t a perceived value in the event, if the people there are the kind of people who’ll only pay $50 for that event, then those offering sponsorship don’t see what sort of value they’ll gain for offering sponsorship… so we’re stuck in a bit of a viscious circle… we want to put on a quality event in a small market and we want to increase the size of the market but we’re hampered by the quality we can deliver given the amount of cash we’re allowed to generate for it…

    So, yes, the questions about the limits being placed on organisers are valid, if the limits are actually reducing the quality of events then I think they need to be looked at again; and around that I find Matt’s comment about stone tablets really encouraging. The thing is, we’re all on the same page, we all want awesome WordCamps, we all want to show off WordPress for the great thing it is, and to build this great community further. Yes, I think guidelines are necessary to preserve the opensource integrity of these events and of the software… but let’s work towards doing that in a way that’s also culturally sensitive.

    *http://www.mercer.com/press-releases/1311145
    **http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_cities.jsp?country1=Australia&city1=Sydney&country2=United+States&city2=San+Francisco%2C+CA

    • http://perezbox.com perezbox

      Hi Dee

      Thanks for taking a minute to join the conversation, we have been getting an overwhelming response from organizers everywhere and it is great to see. We all seem to be united in very similar challenges and frustrations and when you see this commonality across a large geographic divides it sends a resounding message that something is off.

      I am also glad you brought up Andrea, I would add Ze to the mix as well as I have worked with them both, and its important that folks understand that they are great and are doing their jobs. Passing the guidance and enforcing the rules as they should be.

      You do bring up an interesting perspective on perception and what larger companies might be willing to or not willing to do based on the size and perceived maturity of the event. The good news is, as you can see above, Matt appears to be as surprised by the guidance as most of us were and is willing to look into it further. That’s a first step in the right direction I think.

      Thanks for taking a minute to share your thoughts.

  • http://mcgarity.me Matthew McGarity

    Nothing stops you from putting on a WordPress-centric event and calling it something besides WordCamp — WordUp, WordCon, OpenCamp, whatever your flavor. If you’re an experienced organizer, you may be able to determine when it benefits you to stage an official WordCamp or strike out on your own & develop a comparable/superior event without the overhead of WC Central rules.

    • http://perezbox.com perezbox

      These comments always make me laugh because you really can’t discuss it.

      That being said, the idea isn’t to fragment the WordCamp organizer community, but to strengthen and improve. The ones that benefit are all the end-users that have come to recognize and appreciated these events.

  • http://www.designisphilosophy.com mor10

    Looking at this debate and others it seems to me the crux of the problem with the current WordCamp rules and regulations is that ‘WordCamp’ as defined by the WordCamp Foundation does not necessarily describe the events WordCamp organizers around the world want to host. At least not in big cities.

    ‘WordCamp’ as described by the WordCamp Foundation is in all but name a large meetup. But in cities like Vancouver where we already have a large and thriving meetup the community wants something bigger and more up-scale in a WordCamp. In short, they want a WordPress conference. And herein lies the problem: One-size-fits-all rarely fits, and it especially does not fit when applied to different communities in different cities, countries and even continents. While meetup-style WordCamps may work well in some communities, other communities expect and are willing to pay for much more. What the WordCamp Foundation rules (probably inadvertently) are doing right now is forcing the larger communities to scale down their events through ticket price restrictions, sponsorship restrictions and in some cases attendee restrictions rather than let them do what they want. That is counterproductive both for community building and for the WordPress and WordCamp brands.

    This debate brings up many important questions, most of which center around a few key issues: What is ‘WordCamp’ and what should it be? Should the role of the WordCamp Foundation be to mandate rules upon independent organizers or should it fully take over organization of WordCamps? Should there even be independently organized WordCamps? Should we introduce a new and different type of WordPress event in addition to WordCamp (‘WordCon’ or something of that nature)? And finally, if other non-WordCamp branded events start popping up, what restrictions (if any) can and should the WordCamp Foundation, the WordPress Foundation and Automattic put on WordPress-related events not hosted under the “WordCamp” banner?

    What is needed is an open debate about the future of WordCamp and WordPress-related events. By including the community, and in particular the organizers of WordCamps and other WordPress events worldwide, in the shaping of the rules for WordCamp, the WordCamp Foundation, and other related topics, I think a lot of the issues can be weeded out and the frustration felt in the community will abate.

    The bottom line is we all want the same thing: To host events that build and educate the WordPress community. To get there we need an open dialogue and collaboration about how that is going to happen. In the spirit of WordPress itself – an open source application built by the community for the community – I propose to the WordCamp Foundation to open a dialogue with the organizers of WordCamps all over the world with the goal of reformatting the rules, regulations and scope of the WordCamp Foundation and WordCamps themselves to fit what the community is asking for.

    • http://perezbox.com perezbox

      Very good points all around. Thanks for taking the time to share.

      Frankly, I hadn’t given much thought to the definition of a WordCamp or the possible differentiation between small and large community needs when it comes to a WordCamp. That being said, it might be a valid point.

      I have personally talked to a few folks about the perceived impacts of these rules and I think the intentions are good, but perhaps need some more attention. As I have stated before, its about communication. We have to understand that while one city might want to put on this huge event, it in turn is using the Foundation’s trademark and how do we help manage that risk. There have been a number of events shut-down for some level of corruption, and that’s what I think most of us don’t discuss. For those of us that have been successful, its easy to say, I need more, but for those that had their hand slapped from stealing from the cookie jar it’s probably not so much. This but one example that makes me sit back and think to myself, “dang, how do you address that?” Like you said, no one-size-fits all is going to work, and its inevitable, someone is not going to be happy about some things. Nature of the beast.

      I do think though that your point about having open dialog between organizers, from around the world that have put on successful events and influenced positive change in their respective communities, and the Foundation is needed. Whether in some virtual setting where we can all share thoughts, whether its establishing a panel to assist the Foundation or whether its setting aside time at WCSF to discuss in more detail.

      It will be a shame if we allow this to simmer, only to resurface in a year. If it happens, then we have not done our part for this community.

      • http://www.designisphilosophy.com mor10

        We are on the same track here. From what I have picked up around the web and in conversations with various people, the reasoning behind the new rules had a lot to do with dishonest organizers and having more consistency across events. The dishonesty factor is a real problem and it is not restricted to WordCamp. There are many ways of dealing with it, some more effective than others. The commonality is that all of them require some form of micromanagement of finances. This in itself is not problematic if systems are put in place for handling of budgeting and financing, but it becomes tricky when we’re talking events in multiple different countries etc. It also becomes problematic when assumptions are made without all the info. If for example an event chose to charge double what was normal, the assumption would be this was done to make a profit while in reality it might be because venues in the city are prohibitively expensive. Such assumptions quickly sour the relationship between organizers and the central committee.

        If I understand it correctly there is also one other reason for restricting sponsorships and ticket prices: For the WordCamp Foundation to retain its not-for-profit status it can’t earn too much money. And since every WordCamp around the world is now considered to be run by the Foundation, all money raised by these WordCamps would have to go into the budget. This is … sub optimal and onerous on the larger WordCamps because it is an artificial restraint that wouldn’t be there had it not been for the Foundation itself. Tricky stuff.

        I’m curious how other events like TEDx handle these issues. From the TEDx website I see they have the following sponsorship restrictions:

        For events with less than 100 attendees, max cash sponsorship is $10,000.
        For events with more than 100 attendees, max cash sponsorship is $20,000.

        It is not clear but I am assuming ticket prices come in addition. Local TEDx events here in Vancouver have run anywhere from $50 to $80 per attendee. As far as I’m concerned TEDx is a valid comparison for the type of WordCamp people in this city want.

        It’s a tricky topic and I don’t see any immediate cure-alls for this, but the debate needs to move forward for anything to happen. My fear is that if the status quo prevails organizers will move away from the WordCamp brand in favor of something less regulated and potentially far more money grabbing than what we have now. That would be disastrous for everyone.

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  • http://perezbox.com perezbox

    In case you are following this but not WordPress.org you might have missed Jane’s post today: Calling All Contributors: Community Summit 2012: http://wordpress.org/news/2012/05/calling-all-contributors-community-summit-2012/

    I summarize it and give my thoughts here: http://perezbox.com/2012/05/kudos-to-wordpress-org-community-summit-2012/

    I think this is a phenomenal idea and if you haven’t seen it I encourage you to read and engage.

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