Now that COVID-19 vaccinations are becoming more widespread, many hope that in-person WordCamps can once again be a reality. There is no official path forward just yet, and decisions will likely be locally based in the coming months. Angela Jin, a community organizer for Automattic, announced an open discussion around the topic.
Currently, all WordCamps are online-only events. There is no official decision on when in-person events will begin anew.
This is a follow-up to an earlier discussion that began in December 2020. It served as an initial opinion-gathering mission. For communities that have more effectively contained the COVID-19 spread, the Community Team posted guidelines and a checklist for local Meetups in February.
Most of the ideas from the December 2020 dialogue are at the forefront of the current open discussion. Mandatory masks, restricting the length of events, limiting attendance, and capping attendance according to the venue’s capacity top the list.
One of the tougher-to-achieve goals might be setting up safety guidelines around food or drink, which are often steeped in the local culture. It will also be a primary safety concern.
Mandatory registration is on the table. This would allow organizers to contact attendees in case of exposure.
Other suggestions center on maintaining local events, which is what WordCamp is all about. While some of the conferences are held in major cities and draw international crowds and speakers, this could be an opportunity to make sure that events focus directly on their communities. It would also be necessary for containing any spread of the virus or variants to outside populations.
There is one suggestion to recommend that only vaccinated conference-goers attend. This would likely fall under an honor system. Making this mandatory could create potential hurdles based on local jurisdictions. For example, there is a House Bill in Alabama, my home state, that would not allow entertainment events to “discriminate” based on vaccination status if passed. I have yet to verify if WordCamps fall under the definition of “entertainment events” like a concert or sports match.
There are still many unknowns at this point, and every potential in-person WordCamp would have to follow local laws. However, we are nearing a time where such events may once again be a reality.
“I’m going to get a little more personal here: returning to in-person WordCamps is going to be an emotional experience that is going to affect everyone differently,” Jin said in a final note, sharing thoughts that echo throughout the WordPress ecosystem.
“The WordPress community has a big range of introverts to extroverts, and we’ve gone through major changes to how we interact with each other. For all that I want to hug everyone, it also is strange and a bit frightening to think about all that human contact after a year-and-then-some of this pandemic. Supporting organizers in bringing back WordCamps in a way that acknowledges and accommodates all our excitement and fears, as well as our love of WordPress, is a worthy goal.”