Shortcomings of the 2013 Winnipeg WordCamp

The 2013 Winnipeg WordCamp was a great success ( 1, 2, 3 ). We can all, with good reason, be proud of the show we put on, and grateful to the local people who spent their time working on making it the great experience that it was ( 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 – sorry if I missed you! ).

You can even see the WordCamp Winnipeg presentations for yourself. An outsider/visitor ( read: ~ 85% of people who attended ) could only conclude that it would be hard to find ways to make it better. But since I like hard challenges…

I would like to tell you about the things I found, as an insider, to be possible to improve.

Sponsor Promotion

The sponsor information should have gone up on the site sooner, and in combination with a basically non-existent marketing strategy, the sponsors got pretty much no electronic coverage before the event. In print and online, the sponsor logos were not sized as promised. There was minimal attention given to most sponsors at the event, and basically we did not deliver on most of the promises we made to our sponsors.

The offer for sponsors, at the level I got my company to sponsor was:

  • Medium logo and link on the WordCamp Winnipeg website
    • OK, there’s a logo. Is it medium? Anyway, for good effort, see my company’s sponsor page, vs. a sponsor page I did not put love into. Note that “100 percent hosting company” paid for a small logo on website, and their logo is bigger than ours on the site. It also seems that it would have been better to have the sponsor logos on every page, like it is for Code Poet – see sidebar.
  • Medium logo on all printed material
    • Here’s the printed material I have a photo of. Not so different than most others who paid for a smaller size. If you have a pic of other printed material, please let me know whether logo sizes are different there.
  • Text link on all email communication sent to attendees prior to the event
    • “All” ended up meaning “none”. Did I forget about any communication here?
  • Blog post on the event blog written by the YWG WC Team
    • Is this it? Or this, perhaps? Or the individual pages? Again, contrast the thing we basically did for everyone except for FBC with what we did for FBC, and you will see the opportunity for more.
  • Acknowledged three times throughout the event
    • Although this promise was fulfilled, we probably could have done more. For example, the Winnipeg Agile user group does: When they mention sponsors at each presentation, they ask whether there are any people in the audience who are employees of the sponsor company, and offer them to come up to the stand and tell the attendees about the company. With the amount of experience with what other WordCamps do in the organizer group, I bet we can come up with other “best practices”.
  • Placement of 1 item on swag table (self serve)
    • Didn’t see any of this for any sponsors. I guess perhaps the sponsors themselves botched this one? In hindsight, perhaps even a business card, or a small brochure about the company and an HR contact point would likely have been useful to my company to promote them further.
  • Four tickets to WordCamp
    • This was also met in my case.

Marketing Strategy

There were 10-ish “bloggers” on our organizer team, and the WordCamp Winnipeg website only put out 5 blog posts. We could capitalize on this opportunity next year.

It seems that we could provide more opportunities, to attendees and potential attendees, to get excited about the WordCamp in the months leading up to the event. We could pop up in people’s inboxes several times leading up to the event, excitedly telling them about some aspect of the event we just arranged. Other people who have experience with arranging a successful communication and marketing campaign for an event could be asked to provide us with an outline.

Even I would have wanted to receive updates, via email, when a new blog post is posted on the website, but that feature just was not available, though it is a WP plugin I always use for my sites, provided by .com, inside JetPack.

Engaging the Community

Not sure this one deserves to live outside of marketing, but I guess it does. Basically, you engage people by letting them have their say. You enable them to put their signature and be a part of the WordCamp. “You made this possible” is empty words when you did not do anything other than let them pay $20, which was a negligible amount compared to total funds raised. What would I have done differently?

  • Publicize decisions being made and options considered, and ask for feedback
  • Every Winnipeg WordPress user is offered 5 minutes to introduce themselves, and briefly say what makes them tick, with relation to WordPress. Not enough time? Then offer the option only to those who have attended at least one/two/three monthly meetups.

IMHO unnecessary spending on VIP after-parties and pre-parties, etc.

Would you rather send money to the WordPress foundation, or give it to me to stuff my face with food at an expensive restaurant, and to get drunk on all kinds-a fancy liquor at the after-after-party?
Get money from your title

What do you think? Any good points? Have anything to add?

wcwpg-nametag

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Please RSVP for Upcoming Talks

I will be speaking at the upcoming PHP and WordPress user group meetups.

I will be talking about BDD, TDD and my process of developing software on Jan 29 at the PHP meetup.

For the WP meetup, I plan on giving an introduction on several topics, based on what the audience would like to hear. This event is on Feb 6.

For the PHP meetup, I might still have to make arrangements for a larger venue – there’s usually only about 10 of us, and we meet in a cozy room. If you could, please let me know if you’re planning on coming.

Update: David Engel, the man organizing the Winnipeg PHP group opened a meetup account for the group. You can become a member of the group for free here.

Got a question? Check out the FAQs below, or submit a comment.

Where are the presentations?
The PHP one is at the Tipping Canoe office, 62 Albert Street, and the WP one is at the Princess street Red River College campus.
Do I have to be a member of any secret society to attend?
No, but you can identify as a PHP user in Winnipeg if you are one 🙂 The Winnipeg PHP community has a website, a LinkedIn group, and a meetup.com account. Did I miss anything?

#NMMunveil Commentary

Today, New Media Manitoba [NMM] publicized the three goals that they intend to meet to support the new media industry in Manitoba at a press conference nicknamed #NMMunveil.

Background Information About how the NMM Got Here

The 3 Strategies

As I said, Kevin Hnatiuk presented 3 goals NMM will work on over the next while to help the New Media Industry:

  • Government Funded Workplace mentorship programs.
  • A “sales portal” to enable making matches between workers and people needing workers.
  • A co-working space that will offer resources to freelancers and companies which they do not have in their ( home ) office

Read the online press release about the 3 NMM goals.

Commentary: Mentorship

I wonder whether this strategy will help any freelancer. It might be a strategy aimed solely at helping businesses. Is it? I am happy to hear the word mentorship mentioned because I strongly believe that is central to a career – both being a mentor and a mentee.

What effect is this intended to have?

  • Increase skill levels of the professionals? This is a highly likely outcome. Mentoring is already worth stimulating for this reason alone.
  • Increase in number of people companies are hiring through reducing their cost? Are there many unemployed graduates? I understand that there is more job openings at least in IT/IS than there are people to fill them. Wonder whether that is actually true.
  • Increase pay rates for entry-level people? I guess that might encourage more people to enter the industry. Probably not exactly everyone can learn to code for a living – even out of those who, encouraged by salary levels in industry, try to. I believe UofM professors talk about a 50% drop-off rate in their programming 101 course. More entrants would likely mean more successes though.
  • Reduce cost for the companies? Also quite likely to happen, unless companies overall hire more people.

Commentary: Sales Portal

I strongly believe that NMM should contract this to be built as an open source project on GitHub. Some of the factors surrounding the projects that I think are relevant in coming to this conclusion are:

  • Public and community funding ( which is what I understand this will be funded by )
  • No real local competition
  • High likelihood of large amounts of functionality delivered for free by unpaid contributors

Releasing the code as Free Software and using the Open Source [OS] asset management strategy would likely have the following positive results:

  • Reduced cost of the development
  • Streamlined delivery timeline
  • Higher quality of the code produced
  • Perception of goodwill, bold leadership, and maturity in understanding how the world of software development works

You could initially be afraid that the business viability of the project would be endangered by making it possible for others to provide same service without having to build software. First of all: Is this really a business venture?

If you inform yourself about the implications of the free software license you choose and fair about the terms on which you provide the service on top of the software platform, there is simply no reason someone else would be able to take over as the leader on the platform. If you are not fair on the other hand, then you do deserve to lose the leadership, so building in the possibility up-front is a good way to keep oneself honest. If someone earns a bit of cash using the platform in return to receiving the OS asset management strategy benefits, while retaining leadership status as service provider on the platform, then that is a great economic externality you just caused. That’s how it is in my thought neighborhood.

I think that the velocity with which the NMM website has evolved so far is enough to convince anyone to try something different. And that is not in any way a stab at anyone, just my retrospect on how I see it. I know I will be very excited to contribute to the code base if it ends up being developed publicly, and conversely quite disappointed if this opportunity is not seized.

Commentary: Co-working Space

It seems that SkullSpace has lost their space at an interesting time – the same time NMM is talking about creating a space. I would really like to see the two groups coming together and forming a strong relationship and intertwining themselves significantly for at least a period of time. If the paths split eventually, that’s fine. Here are some places I see a match:

  • SkullSpace needs a space – NMM will have a space
  • NMM wants to talk about supporting the Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniaks of Manitoba? ( They did in today’s presentation. ) Well, it happens that they’re likely SkullSpace members.
  • I believe that NMM needs more funding/spending transparency ( or maybe this info is already available? ) and a more democratic decision-making process. This is exactly what SkullSpace is about.
  • I think SkullSpace needs more marketing, business, government liaison, and leadership muscle – NMM has a wealth of that.

There is likely a plethora of other reasons why this would be a good match. Even as a mentorship arrangement, NMM could take on SkullSpace. You learn from the young talent as much as you teach them. Or maybe a little less, but you get my point 🙂

Let’s try some really novel and bold ideas. Here’s to success of these initiatives beyond our wildest dreams.

Portfolior

Portfolior, eh!?

Portfolior is the WordPress theme created for the presentation I am giving/gave at the Winnipeg Code Camp 2010.

The word “portfolior” is a system-ization of the word portfolio. Another system-ization example would be “reporty”.

The term system-ization represents efforts of (non)creative programmers to come up with a good system name, so to keep the meaning of what the system does, they choose the most appropriate word, and then try to make it sound like a machine that would do the task the system does.

What a rant!