I’ve been using WordPress for so long. I love that WordPress stands for democratizing publishing, which encourages everyone to share their thoughts and creative expression. There are a lot of people in the community that have dedicated their time to teaching people how to use and embrace whatever they want to do using WordPress.
One of the best ideas to gather WordPressers together, other than local meetups, is WordCamp (for new to WordCamp term, it’s a locally run WordPress conference.) There’s just a lot to learn for users, designers, developers, and everyone in between… whatever they call themselves.
However, there IS a glaring problem – lack of workshops for beginners. There are but a few WordCamps that do this. WordCamp Miami, sometimes WordCamp St. Louis, and a few others, have run beginner workshops. However, this is NOT enough.
Why aren’t Beginner Workshops run alongside WordCamps, including WordCamp US? We could be attracting more people, who are honestly looking to learn the basics, and find the normal talks to be over their head. Sure, at 32% market share, in the end of 2018, WordPress is definitely popular and growing, but we could be doing better.
I run and co-run communities with beginner and intermediate users that have jumped ship to Wix or SquareSpace, or have at one point expressed a huge concern about learning WordPress. Sure, I’d send them to places like WPBeginner or WP101, and to WordPress.tv, however, we could do better. Most of these people are asking for hands on help. Even in my local St. Louis WordPress community, as a co-lead I get emails or private messages from people asking about a beginners workshop.
It’s tough to get people to want to volunteer, and often costs to put together a venue, even if we do have sponsors to pay for it. However, WordCamps are a perfect way to attract beginners and get the problem solved. WordCamps are a safe and inclusive environment already, so it’s not like other workshops (offline and online) that are marketing other products.
Teaching WordPress is super easy, and there’s even a guide in the Make WordPress Training Handbook. You don’t even have to use the handbook, but it’s there for help.
While I don’t want to say we forgot about our new or fairly new WordPress users, we kind of have, especially when it comes to WordCamps. I attend quite a few WordCamps and have seen a lot of talks. Some of the beginner talks are not totally beginner level. And some conferences lean more designer and developer, rather than content creator-based.
This is a HUGE problem! I’ve been on the organization team for almost a dozen WordCamps, and spoke and volunteers at several dozen. We need to keep all of our users in mind when selecting talks and events. Some people think panels are a pain, but if you have a great moderator and selection of panelists, then it becomes an asset. Also, hand-in-hand with panels, if you you have a great beginner workshop, you end up covering all of the bases in being as inclusive as possible, while making sure your beginners walk away feeling like they can use WordPress better.
Being inclusive is not just a gender or race or age thing to consider, but in any technology, it is also about the user level.
When I attended WordCamp Miami, in 2016, I was also a speaker. I volunteered to help during the WordPress Beginner workshop. Syed Balkhi and Ptah Dunbar had a packed room – 99% of the seats were filled. There must have been maybe more than 300 people there. Syed and Ptah took them from getting a domain and hosting, installing WordPress, and even using WordPress. People were really happy and engaged in the workshop. When the workshop was done, I saw so many happy people who said that they were excited to start their blog or business because Syed and Ptah did such a fantastic job of teaching them the basics.
At WordCamp Dayton 2017, I got to run a 101 WordPress workshop. While it was nothing like a workshop in Miami, and we didn’t go through the domain, hosting, and installing WordPress information, it was 7 hours of all the other things like content creating, recommend plugins to get started, social media, a little on security, a little on optimization, and more. The people were engaged and enthusiastic about learning to sit through 7 hours of me talking about the basics.
In the past, at WordCamp St. Louis, we’ve run a beginner workshop and contributor day alongside each other. It was successful. People had a choice, and we were able to include our beginner users in the community.
Why can’t these workshops be done at ALL of the WordCamps, all over the world, from small ones to the big ones, including WordCamp US and WordCamp Europe, especially more so the last two mentioned?
Contributor Day and Workshop???
WordCamp US and WordCamp Europe have enough space during Contributor day to run workshops alongside it. There’s still enough people around on Contributor day to host and volunteer the workshops. Both of those conferences… let’s not hold back… WordCamp US and WordCamp Europe don’t cater to the beginner user.
If you think it is, you’ve got your rose colored glasses on. Look at past talks, especially at WordCamp US in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. There really aren’t many presentations for beginners at WordCamp US and WordCamp Europe. Most of these showcase talent from the WordPress and tech community, that bring intermediate and advanced concept, theories, and basically things that seem like it’s for the elite. It’s not inclusive. That’s why there are so many people in the hallway tracks.
Sure, the advanced topics are super awesome, but for having such a huge conference, we can offer better. While here is a huge Happiness Bar available for people to get support, and I’m happy to say that people do use it, as I’ve observed at WordCamp US, the past few years, but it’s not a workshop that can target more people all at once.
And then there was Gutenberg
We’ve got Gutenberg, the new content editor for WordPress, being released, and guess what people… even with the tutorials out there, it’s not as user-friendly as people think it is. It is a big change for some, and for newbies, there’s not really a lot of online tutorials available, unless you pay. However, that’s not enough. We should be having a workshop on this at WordCamp US for 2018 too, but there are no workshops… just talks, and Contributor day.
So, WordCamp Organizers, near, far, big city, little city, WordCamp US, WordCamp Europe, let’s be more inclusive and implement a workshop. If you’re going to talk about being inclusive and wanting to encourage newbies to embrace WordPress and democratizing publishing, we gotta walk the walk too.
What do you think?