EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Patricia Brun Torre from WordCamp Genève

Lead organizer of WordCamp Genève 2022, Patricia Brun Torre, introduced us to the program of the event that is going to happen on April 9th and shared with us some amazing facts about the WordPress community in Switzerland. Enjoy!

Introduce us briefly to this year’s WordCamp Genève?

Our WordCamp Genève  – along with WordCamp Athens, which takes place the same weekend – celebrates the much-awaited revival of face-to-face events and the return to normality after two difficult years. I believe only Sevilla organised an in-person WordCamp last December.

We very much missed the talks as well as the opportunity to meet friends and new acquaintances, talk about WordPress or any other web topic and have a drink and a meal together in the evening.

This event is actually the one we originally planned for 2020, but it was then postponed. It follows a series of WordCamps in Switzerland. As you know, tiny Switzerland has 4 official languages, so we always try to have some talks in English besides those in the local language, to suit people from other language backgrounds.

Tell us more about the program, are there any topics that stand out the most?

We have prepared a great programme and have recontacted the 2020 speakers we had to cancel 3 weeks before the event in March 2020, owing to the outset of the pandemic. 15 were happy to reply positively. We also have 3 new guests who will take you through practical workshops. You’ll find the complete programme here and the list of speakers here.

There is content for all kinds of audiences, as a WordCamp must be. We have inspiring topics, such as “I was a shy guy and didn’t speak English, but then I discovered WordCamps!”, more techy ones, such as “Advanced Web Performance Optimisation”, and everything between. However, I cannot mention any that stand out as we are proud to present each of the talks and workshops to you.

As we aren’t holding a separate contributor day this year, we’ve invited JB Audras – a WordPress core committer and top contributor – to present an “Introduction to contribution” session. He will show how any degree of knowledge or level of skills is welcome to participate in this beautiful open-source WordPress project. A contribution area around “The Table” will also be organised. Contributors will be able to join in throughout the day.

Give us more information about the organizing team you are leading. What was the biggest challenge for you this year?

We are actually all from the 2020 event staff; one of our volunteers even became a full-fledged organiser. As a lot of our organisation tasks had already been done for the 2020 event, we could reduce the organising team. We were able to remove from our plate tasks such as finding a venue, a food caterer and the print shops for badges and T-shirts.

We thank all of them for having kept us in their books and simply “copy-paste” what was planned for 2020. The venue, Voisins Co-working, has been wonderful. Our small team is doing an amazing job, and I can’t thank them enough for all the hours given to organising this event.

As you asked about the challenge we face, it was, of course, to compose with COVID. At first, the health restrictions were probably deterring people from registering. Maybe people got used to staying at home as well. We are a small WordCamp with a maximum of 140 attendees; our challenge is to reach that figure. However, we are pretty confident; people around here are known to buy tickets at the last minute. For those who do not wish or can’t come, and for anyone who wants to brush up their French skills :), we will livestream the event.

You are personally very active in the WordPress community, introduce us more to the WP community in Switzerland?

I’m indeed very active in the Swiss community, and I feel it’s fair to give back to WordPress since I use it on my personal site and for my professional needs and soon with Interaction.Site and other projects. I’m not a developer nor a designer, even though my skills are around implementation and maintenance for clients. What I mean is that I cannot contribute to code, so I went for contributing to the community by organising events. I co-organise meetups in Geneva and was part of the teams of almost all WordCamps in Switzerland.

Switzerland is a somewhat strange little country 🙂 with 4 national languages. We first aimed to build a national community. After all, the whole country counts only 8,6 million inhabitants and is 350 km wide. We reached that goal, especially thanks to the team of the two first WordCamps in Zurich in 2014 and 2015. After that, we were not allowed to keep on naming it “Switzerland”, and we had to go by city name, but we are still “Switzerland” at heart, and to some extent, in the audience. The events 2019 in Zurich2018 in Lausanne2017 in Bern2016 in Geneva and 2014/2015 in Zurich were all amazing and unifying.

There are 11 meetup groups in Switzerland, 5 in the French-speaking part, 5 in the German-speaking part, and 1 in the Italian-speaking part of the country. Zurich also hosted a do_action event in 2018, and some groups also sometimes participated in the yearly Global Translation Days. We also sometimes have cross-border attendees at meetups from nearby France, Italy and Germany.

WordPress is undergoing major changes… What are your ways to keep up with all the things and innovations in WordPress?

Are you talking about the block editor and Full Site Editing? In my personal opinion, it’s even going too slow. Matt Mullenweg announced during the State of the Word 2018 that the 4th phase of the editor would be the introduction of multilingual capabilities. I can’t wait for that to be in the core, even though we can already achieve that with plugins such as the great and free Multisite Language Switcher.

Full Site Editing, released with WordPress 5.9 in January 2022, offers incredible possibilities, and I’m very excited about what’s coming next.Fun fact, from 2005 to 2012, I worked with another CMS because in 2005, I audited a few systems and rejected WordPress as it had no multilingual offer built-in 🙂 Of course, after a few years, I realised that it had everything else, so I switched to WordPress but had to have additional multilingual plugins.

Are there any media outlets, blogs, podcasts… you are regularly following?

Beside yours? 😉 As a member of WPMUDev, I follow their blog; I also like the very rich Kinsta blog. In addition, I enjoy watching Youtube channels such as WPCrafterMak, or, more recently, Jamie Marsland, who focuses on the block editor and full site editing.

I stay informed, as this is part of my job to monitor WordPress news. So WPTavern and security news, such as Sucuri blog and Wordfence blog, are also on my list. I usually land on a site by chance when searching for a specific topic. I’m not a fan of podcasts as I’m a visual learner, and I do not commute (train/car) as I have been working from home since 2006. I know podcast fans are avid listeners of some WordPress podcasts, but I can’t just name one, apart from a friend’s one, wp2.ch in French.

Genève, what kind of city is it today … How would you describe it, what the visitors can expect?

Geneva (Genève in French) is a small city of around 500’000 inhabitants (area Canton of Geneva). People from elsewhere are always surprised as it’s an international city and imagine it would be a big megapolis with several millions of inhabitants. We are actually famous because the second headquarters of the UNO and UNICEF (after New York) are here, as well as the headquarters of the WHO, UNHCR, WTO, GAVI, CERN and numerous other international and big non-governmental organisations. This makes Geneva very multinational, with all the countries having representations to the international organisations.

People sometimes stay for 2-3 years only and do not even learn the local language, which is French. (maybe now you get why I emphasised the multilingual possibilities in WordPress 🙂 even though I think most of the world needs that).

For people visiting us for the WordCamp, take a day to see the “Place des Nations” in front of the UNO. Its famous Broken Chair (with a missing leg) symbolises opposition to land mines and cluster bombs. You can also visit the Vieille Ville (old town). Geneva already existed before the Roman empire, but the oldest houses in the old town are about 700 years old. What about a stroll near the lake where you can see our landmark, the Jet d’Eau

Lastly, your message to #WPDEVMAG readers, WordPress fans, and the WordPress community?

We realise the whole world is watching Athens and Genève, at least the WordPress world 🙂 as we are the first WordCamps (beside Sevilla) to be held in person for 2 years. We are happy that the pandemic couldn’t break the strength of the worldwide WordPress community, and we understand the video fatigue.We know that the pandemic has not ended and are willing to provide a safe environment for all attendees. Hand sanitiser will be available, and all staff members and speakers (and most of the attendees) are vaccinated.

At the beginning of the organisation, this was a requirement before Swiss health officials lifted restrictions (masks and vaccines) in February.We hope that many places in the world can follow our steps and start to organise in-person events again. Meeting the community is always so inspiring. I’m very fond of the code of conduct of WordCamps and its values of inclusion. These are the reasons why I will be a volunteer at WordCamp Europe in Porto next June, and I hope to meet you all there. It would be great to be able to report here after the event!