#113 – Shawn Hooper on Launching WordCamp Canada (WCEH)

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[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the Jukebox podcast from WP Tavern. My name is Nathan Wrigley.

Jukebox has a podcast which is dedicated to all things WordPress. The people, the events, the plugins, the blocks, the themes, and in this case, the first ever WordCamp Canada.

If you’d like to subscribe to the podcast, you can do that by searching for WP Tavern in your podcast player of choice, or by going to WP tavern.com forward slash feed forward slash podcast. And you can copy that URL in term, most podcast players.

If you have a topic that you’d like us to feature on the podcast, I’m keen to hear from you and hopefully get you, or your idea, featured on the show. Head to WP Tavern.com forward slash contact forward slash jukebox, and use the form there.

So on the podcast today, we have Shawn Hooper. Shawn is a key figure in the Canadian WordPress community. He’s an advocate for national and local gatherings that bring WordPress enthusiasts together.

I have to say a special thanks to Shawn for stepping in at the 11th hour to do this podcast recording with me. He was not the guest originally lined up, and so I’m pleased that he was able to join me to get this important topic some attention.

So later this year, the first ever WordCamp Canada or WCEH, W-C-E-H for short, will be held in Ottawa. The event is deep in the planning stages. The venue is secured, the speakers have been finalized, and it’s now up to the team of volunteers, of which Shawn is one, to make the event a success.

We talk about why the Canadian community felt the need for a national event. It’s not typical to have events based upon a country, although WordCamp US is a notable exception. Shawn explains how, after Covid, the community has not got back to where it was, and how an event like this might act as a catalyst to more participation.

We get into the challenges of creating an event of this scale. From conception until now there’s a lot of moving parts. The venue, food, transport, volunteers, sponsors, speakers. The list could go on. It all needs to be planned, tasks assigned, and executed.

Shawn tells me about the geography of Canada, and how the sheer size of the country makes gathering a challenge.

We also touch upon how, if the event is successful, it’ll move through different locations year by year. The team are hoping that an event such as WCEH will act as an inspiration for other locales to take up the idea of larger events. And I’m sure that many in the community will be paying close attention to how this event is executed.

If attending WordPress events, and volunteering your time, is your thing, this episode is for you. If you’re interested in finding out more, you can find all of the links in the show notes by heading to WP Tavern.com forward slash podcast, where you’ll find all the other episodes as well.

And so without further delay, I bring you Shawn Hooper.

I am joined on the podcast today by Shawn Hooper. Hi there, Shawn.

[00:03:38] Shawn Hooper: Hi Nathan. Nice to be with you.

[00:03:40] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, thank you for joining me today. I was due to do this podcast with somebody else, but that somebody else has pointed me in your direction. We won’t go into the reasons why, but I really do appreciate you coming on at the 11th hour, to talk to me about a subject, because I know it’s fairly time sensitive.

Had the stars aligned, I would’ve had this podcast out weeks and weeks ago. But they didn’t. And so we’re going to talk about the topic at hand, which is very exciting. Something new in the WordPress space. Something called WordCamp Canada. It’s obvious from what I’ve just said, what it is, but I’m just going to throw out that that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. It’ll be all about WordCamp Canada.

Shawn, a little bit about you first, if that’s okay? Can you just tell us who you are, how long you’ve been using WordPress? A short WordPressy bio, if you like.

[00:04:27] Shawn Hooper: Sure. So I am a WordPress developer, I guess is my best description in this space. I’ve spoke at WordCamps in Canada and the US from, starting 2014 until now. Definitely involved in the WordPress community, both as a contributor and a, to the code base, and as a community contributor. And involved in some of our local meetups here as well.

[00:04:49] Nathan Wrigley: Okay. Thank you for that. So a friend of WordPress. I’m guessing, the fact that you’re on the podcast, I’m guessing that you live in Canada. If not, what the heck? Where are you based?

[00:05:00] Shawn Hooper: I am in Canada’s Capital. I’m in Ottawa, which happens to also be the first host city of WordCamp Canada.

[00:05:06] Nathan Wrigley: Okay. There we go. So we’ve got all the credentials that we need. So we are going to talk about WordCamp Canada, and the fact that it’s going to be starting this year. So it’s the inaugural event. But first of all, I just want to address the state of WordPress events, and the community in Canada.

I know that over the last few years, especially post Covid, the WordPress community has taken a bit of a hit. But, do you just want to paint a picture of where we were in 2023, with the WordPress community in Canada? Were events still going on in person? Was there dwindling levels of contribution, and turning out to events? Had it all gone online? Those kind of things.

[00:05:43] Shawn Hooper: In 2023, we still saw a mix of hybrid and in-person meetups. And in terms of the WordCamps themselves, Vancouver had an in-person camp in the fall. I think it was in September last year. And Montreal had a virtual camp. But apart from those two cities, the in-person events have not come back near to the state that they were before the pandemic.

[00:06:08] Nathan Wrigley: So prior to the pandemic, things were a little bit more engaged. There were just more events, more contribution, more volunteering, all of that kind of thing. And its sort of tailed off a little bit.

[00:06:17] Shawn Hooper: Absolutely. I think before the pandemic, there was probably just under a dozen cities that had WordCamps across the country. Mostly in the central region of the country, but also some in the west and east coast as well. And as I said, Vancouver and Montreal are the only two so far to have had events, and Montreal’s was virtual.

[00:06:37] Nathan Wrigley: Okay. So, do you know why? I mean, I don’t know if you were on the initial set of discussions that brought this event to life. But, can you just give us an inkling as to why Canada as a whole decided? Well, not every Canadian I would imagine, but, you know, the WordPress community in Canada, as a whole decided to go for a country based event.

Because traditionally, as you’ve said, these kind of events are locked down to cities. We have a notable exception in WordCamp US, but just about everywhere else, even the bigger ones, is a European endeavor. So WordCamp Europe and Asia, and so on and so forth. And everything else is either in the meet up category, in which case it’s very localised, or it’s based upon a city. So something like, oh I don’t know, WordCamp London, or something along those lines. How was it decided that you wanted to just do this one big event, to cover the whole of Canada?

[00:07:28] Shawn Hooper: I think there’s multiple aspects to that. One, I mean, we’ve talked about reigniting the communities that have dwindled since the pandemic. Canada is a very large country. And so to get everybody into one city, and have a big event, seemed like a fantastic way, for even Canadians to get to know each other in the WordPress space, who might have been disconnected in these various communities around the country.

Also having a Canadian event, seemed like a great opportunity to showcase that we had a community here. Because so much of the attention does go to WordCamp US, which is immediately to our south. They’re our next door neighbor. And that’s an event that many of us have felt, really should have always been WordCamp Americas. Rather than WordCamp US.

We have WordCamp Asia, or WordCamp Europe, which are really multi-country events. And then you had WordCamp US as this flagship, and we wanted the opportunity to show that, you know, right up above them is Canada with this thriving community as well.

[00:08:30] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I guess the intention really isn’t to cause some kind of rivalry. But if WordCamp US is going to continue to be called that, as opposed to, as you said, WordCamp North America, or something like that, then why not have your own event and bind all the Canadian WordPresses together.

You talked about the size of the country, and I’ve been lucky enough to travel across parts of Canada. I think it’s easy to really misunderstand how big Canada is, if you haven’t been, but it is prodigiously large. I don’t know what the scale is, in terms of numbers to the US, but it’s obviously as wide, if not wider, because it extends out to the east a little bit more.

How easy for Canadians, in particular, is it going to be to get around? Do you have a really comprehensive network of flights? Realistically, if you’re on the wrong side, in air quotes, of Canada to the event, then getting there by car is really, completely out the question. Because it’s going to be a week in the car, just trying to get there, as opposed to hopefully a few, few hours the air, right.

[00:09:27] Shawn Hooper: Exactly. I mean, as I was saying to you before we started the recording, if I got my car, and I’m in Ottawa, in central Canada. If I wanted to get to the next provincial border, to the west, I would be driving another 22 hours from where I am, just to get to the next provincial border. Yeah, it’s a huge country. And so to get here for the camp, if you live in Central Canada, you could drive, you can take the train. But anywhere outside of that, yeah, you’re definitely relying on air travel.

[00:09:56] Nathan Wrigley: In terms of the people who’ve organised the event, I guess one of the things that you don’t wish to do, is to ostracize the people who’ve been carrying out these city events, although they may have dwindled in number. You know, you mentioned that there’s a few that are going on.

I guess the intention with creating WordCamp Canada, is not to create a sense of tension with those events. And maybe there are some of the same people organising those, as others. But were those conversations that you had? So you mentioned Vancouver, I think it was Vancouver that you mentioned.

Having a conversation with them saying, we’re going to do this event, the intention really isn’t to eat your lunch, or anything like that. I just wondered if any of that had happened, so that you weren’t annoying parts of the community that have been involved, and revitalising it in their own area post covid anyway.

[00:10:42] Shawn Hooper: Absolutely. We reached out to a lot of the organisers that we knew from other cities, from their meetup groups, and tried to get their organisers involved in WordCamp Canada as well. Vancouver in particular, their lead organiser, at least in the early days of planning WordCamp Canada, was on our organising team. He had to step back for other reasons, but we do have that participation there.

And I think where we sit now, in 2024, with the local camps not having really come back online yet, is this was a great time to do the Canadian camp, without stepping on the toes of the local camps, because they’re not there yet. So doing it now is great timing.

[00:11:18] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, it’s a bit of nice serendipity that. Maybe WordCamp Canada had been mooted by the community, and just never happened, because there were lots of events already. And now that there’s a paucity of events, sort of deficit, if you like, yeah, this does seem like a really good time.

So I guess we should talk about the event in particular. So this is WordCamp Canada 2024. Just tell us where it is, and what the dates are, and so on? Just so that we can get an idea of putting it in our calendars, and thinking about where we’ve got to fly to and from, and all of that.

[00:11:51] Shawn Hooper: So, yeah, it is the inaugural WordCamp Canada, happening here in Ottawa, at the Infinity Convention Center, from July 11th to the 13th. The 11th is a contributor day, and the 12th and 13th are the main camp.

[00:12:07] Nathan Wrigley: Do you have any intuition as to what the capacity is? In other words, how many attendee tickets have you got available? I’m guessing that they’re still to go on sale, or if they’re on sale, they probably haven’t run out yet. So, what’s the attendance count?

[00:12:21] Shawn Hooper: The capacity of the building is a thousand people. And so I think we’re hoping for the attendee count to be 800 or so plus volunteers and organisers, and everyone else. And yeah, which would be much larger than any of our local city camps had ever been. And so that capacity allows us to really shine on the national level, rather than look like another local camp.

[00:12:46] Nathan Wrigley: I know that in North America, there is this sort of comedic rivalry between Canada and the US, and it’s a bit of fun in most cases, I imagine. Let’s imagine the same thing is here. I’m presuming that you’re also hoping, because of the proximity, it’s very likely that if you live in the United States, you are going to be closer to Ottawa, than certain parts of Canada.

So I’m guessing that this is, I’m imagining it’s really being pitched at the international community. But I’m imagining also that you’re hoping that a fair bunch of citizens of the US are going to show up as well, right?

[00:13:22] Shawn Hooper: There’s definitely been interest from Americans in attending this event. And, I mean, we have a very good relationship with a lot of our American WordPress counterparts. I know, for example, the community in Rochester has a very strong relationship with a few of the camps in central Canada, because we’re in driving distance still. We volunteered each other’s events, and attend each other’s events. There is definitely that American interest.

And the other thing that we are hearing too, is people from the international community, looking at WordCamp Canada as an alternative to attending WordCamp US. In that, in terms of maybe it’s easier for them to get into Canada, than it is to get into the US. In terms of getting a visa, or other travel restrictions, that Canada looks like an appealing alternative to attend an event in North America.

[00:14:08] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, interesting. Well, we’ll have to see, I guess, how ticket sales and what have you go. We’ll get all into that a little bit later. But I notice it’s in the month of July. You’re in the Northern Hemisphere, so July is slap bang in the middle of the warm part of the year. And I know this is really nothing to do with WordPress itself, but I am curious as to whether, literally it’s a question about weather, but that one had an h in it. Whether or not, you are going to in the future, move that around a little bit.

Because there is something highly engaging about going somewhere where there’s snow, if you are from a part of the world where there is no snow. But I’m guessing the first one, you’ve done it right in the middle of summer, because that’s the easiest time to get around, and it’s basically not freezing cold like Canada would be in different months.

So really a question, do you intend in the future to always hold it in the summer, or would you flip it around to benefit from the cold weather that you get? Which probably doesn’t sound like a benefit.

[00:15:02] Shawn Hooper: And it’s funny, I haven’t thought of winter as being a benefit to hosting an event like this. The Canadian WordCamps historically have been, I’d say between May and October maybe. And that’s where you get the nicer weather. The snow is not on the ground. And if you want to include any tourism aspect to going to a WordCamp, if you like to explore whatever city a camp is in, it’s much nicer to be a pedestrian, walk around Ottawa when it’s nicer out in the summer, and there’s more tourist things to do, and the city’s more alive than it might be in winter. So I think really, it would depend on who the next host city is, and whether there’s a big attraction to having something going on there in the winter.

[00:15:44] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I think, again, most people who are listening to this, who are not Canadians, maybe if you’re living in the northern part of the United States or something like that, or Sweden or somewhere. It’s difficult to describe just how cold Canada can get at various points of the year, but there’s always skiing.

[00:16:01] Shawn Hooper: There is. I think even in planning a winter event, there’s considerations of, for the community that’s traveling internationally is, do they have appropriate clothing for the winter? You know, something as simple as that, that you have to consider.

[00:16:13] Nathan Wrigley: So, how easy was it to pitch the idea to WordCamp Central? So, if you’re listening to this, the whole WordCamp process is governed, and maintained, and administered by WordCamp Central. And because country events are not at all common, I wondered how straightforward it was to describe to them the vision of a Canadian event, and for them to accept that. So yeah, just talk us through that process, how easy it was, how difficult it was.

[00:16:42] Shawn Hooper: So we have been quietly pitching this idea for several years now, talking to friends around the community. And this year at WordCamp US, Shanta Nathwani, who is on our organising committee, and myself approached Kevin Cristiano from Central, and had a chat about this idea. And Kevin has been a wonderful supporter of this idea. And so he was crucial in getting this idea moved forward through Central.

But this time around, I think given the timing, and trying to get WordCamps back and running in the country, it actually came together quite easily, in terms of getting the approval for the idea and concept.

The hardest part of organising this, I think to date, was finding an appropriate venue for a national sized camp, without being a flagship WordCamp. There are only three flagships, that’s US, EU and Asia. So in terms of Central’s terminology, we are a regional camp. And so we don’t have, the budget of a flagship. And so it was finding a venue that fit into that kind of category.

[00:17:53] Nathan Wrigley: Oh, I see. So the flagship events that you described, Asia, US, and EU, there’s different financial constraints about what they can do. So they have a bigger pot to pull from. They obviously, the expectation is they have a bigger audience as well.

But that’s interesting. Okay. So despite the fact that it’s got the same kind of name as WordCamp US, WordCamp Canada is going to have different constraints on what you can do. So you had to find, cut your cloth, if you like, to find a location, which would accommodate the budget that you’ve been given. That’s interesting,

[00:18:21] Shawn Hooper: The budget that we’re given, and also the, what we hope we’re going to attract in terms of an audience. We looked at, you know, your typical WordCamps are held in university or college campuses. And looking around, you know, there was nothing that fit the attendance that we wanted in the venues that were available.

And so you had to start looking at conference centers, hotels, venues like that, which are just inherently more expensive to host an event in. And so that was more the challenge, was finding something that fit there. The idea of having national camp, and trying this out for the first time, central was absolutely behind from the beginning.

[00:18:56] Nathan Wrigley: So the Infinity Convention Center in Ottawa, I’m guessing that came in on budget. You’ve got a thousand people maximum, as opposed to several thousand for the other flagship events.

One thing that we haven’t mentioned so far, and you’ll have to explain this. WordCamp Asia is abbreviated to WCAsia. WordCamp Europe is abbreviated to WCEU, where EU maps directly to European Union. WordCamp US is WCUS, it all makes sense so far, following a very logical pattern. Except, wait for it, WordCamp Canada, which I was expecting to be WCCA, or something like that, is WCEH. And I was, in a puzzled way, looking at this thinking, I literally can’t work this out. And I’m sure that if you’re not Canadian, or at least don’t know any Canadians, this won’t make sense either. But you are going to have to explain.

[00:19:52] Shawn Hooper: Canadians have a stereotyped habit of ending a lot of our sentences with eh, which is spelled EH. Nice day out, eh? That kind of use. And so, following one of the Southern camps, I think it’s.

[00:20:11] Nathan Wrigley: Oh, WordCamp Y’all, is it?

[00:20:13] Shawn Hooper: Yeah it’s, WordCamp Y’all is where we got the idea. I can’t remember which camp uses that.

[00:20:18] Nathan Wrigley: Birmingham.

[00:20:19] Shawn Hooper: Yeah, it’s Birmingham. Thank you. We thought that was brilliant, and so we took that, and used our own kind of expression in our acronym as well. So WCEH became a thing. I think WCCA would’ve been an alternative, but that also causes a bit of confusion when you’re in North America, around California, which uses CA as their state acronym.

[00:20:41] Nathan Wrigley: I think that’s brilliant. I love a bit of humor, and I thought that was really good. It certainly had me puzzled for a while, because I was just assuming it was a two letter acronym for something. I assumed it was the location of the city or something like that.

Is this going to be a peripatetic event? Is it going to remain in Ottowa for good? You know, each year, 2025, 2026, or what have you. Or, is the intention to move it around to the different locations over the years?

[00:21:05] Shawn Hooper: We definitely want it to move around the country. Canada is so different from coast to coast, that I think there’s an excellent opportunity with this event, to showcase Canada. And to keep it in one city all the time, would really just not achieve that goal. And I think there’s great opportunities for other cities, across the country, to showcase their cities, while hosting the WordPress community.

[00:21:27] Nathan Wrigley: One of the fun things about attending some of the flagship events, is that right at the very end, they have this, it’s almost like that Steve Jobs moment, when he always used to say at Apple events, oh, and there’s one more thing. Right at the end, they always tell you where the next event is going to be.

I just wondered if you’ve already, now don’t obviously reveal anything. If you know something, certainly don’t reveal it. But, is that something that you have to be mindful of? Have you already started the process of 2025? Or, given the nature of the first time that you’re running this, is this more a case of, look, let’s just get this one in the bag, and then we can work it out from there?

Because often, you’ve got to secure the venue, and all of those kind of things, like a whole 12 months plus out, just because they disappear, don’t they? These are popular events, and so on.

[00:22:13] Shawn Hooper: They are, and so we have not selected a city for the next camp yet. I think the real test is, let’s see how this one goes first, because it is the first one. We believe it’s going to be a very successful event. There’s a lot of positive reactions we’ve had, to announcing this event. But we definitely need to make sure this one happens, and happens well first, before we can announce the second one.

[00:22:33] Nathan Wrigley: I think that’s very sensible. It would be apropos to just get this one under the belt, and make sure it’s a complete success. Let’s talk about its success. Let’s talk about the bits and pieces that are going to make up the event.

There’s all sorts of talk at the moment about, we haven’t really settled on a particular term, but next gen events is the phrase which I kept hearing. The idea being, in order to try to get the community to come back, post pandemic, let’s just change things a little bit. Not wholesale, dropping everything that everybody loved, but let’s introduce some new things. So that might he, oh I don’t know, inviting people from outside of the WordPress community to come. Having a particular focus at that event could be, for example SEO, or AI, or something like that, just as examples. Any number of things.

And I did wonder if you were going to run a traditional event. You mentioned a contributor day and then, you know, the speaker day with the tracks, and all that. I just wondered if there was anything different, unique, that you’ve been planning.

[00:23:28] Shawn Hooper: So we definitely have a bit of a community focus on this event. We do want to highlight a few things, such as working with underrepresented communities. We are looking in Canada, indigenous stories are very important. So we’re looking to have something included about the indigenous perspective in Canada, at this event.

As well as, in terms of trying something new, we’re also attaching onto the camp, the opportunity for companies to host their own meetups before or after the camp. And help facilitate, essentially team get togethers around the camp as well. With the thinking being that, with travel in Canada, again, it’s a large country, travel is expensive. If everyone’s going to be in town anyway for a camp, companies might as well have their team get togethers while they’re here.

[00:24:19] Nathan Wrigley: That is interesting. I’ve definitely not heard that before. Okay, so there’s some new focus, especially the ones that piqued my interest there were the corporate meetups, as you’ve just described. But also the potential indigenous focus, that’s going to be really interesting.

[00:24:32] Shawn Hooper: And the other focus I should mention as well, is on multilingual topics. We are a country with two official languages, and making websites in English and French is just something we do here. And it’s often a topic that is missed in a lot of the WordCamps in the US. And so we kind of want to highlight that at ours as well.

[00:24:49] Nathan Wrigley: Are you going to be transcribing the bits and pieces? And if you are, what I mean by that is, let’s say there’s a video screen and it’s showing everything that’s happening, and maybe broadcasting out live, maybe not, I’m not sure if you’re going to be doing that. But do you have a legal requirement to offer the transcription service, in both of the official languages English and French?

Because my understanding is, in more or less every aspect of public life, if you publish something in English, like I guess a road sign or something like that, you also have to include the equivalent in French. So yeah, that was a curious question about transcription, and obviously the marketing of it, and the media that you’re putting out, and blog posts and all of that.

[00:25:26] Shawn Hooper: So we’re not legally required to. We’re not a government entity that’s putting on this event. However, we will be publishing, our website is currently being translated. So the website will be available in both languages. We are accepting talks in both languages. We’re making sure that some of our volunteers can speak both languages.

So that generally, we are offering support for both official languages. And we’ll see how that balance works out when we start looking at the speaker’s submissions. But we definitely want to include French Canadians in this event. You know, and talking about the many different communities in Canada, that’s an extremely important one.

[00:26:01] Nathan Wrigley: We’re recording this in the middle of March 2024, and in the conversation that we had prior to pressing the record button, it sounds like when this podcast is published, at the very earliest, the speaker process will have closed. So that, at least, we hope is all tied up.

But you are, as is probably the case for most WordPress events, you’ve got a couple of other areas where people can be engaged, and that would be sponsorship, and obviously volunteers.

I don’t know if there are some terminal dates on when those things close, but are you in the market for sponsorship, or have you tied all those slots up? And again, just volunteers helping out at the event, organising the event, showing up and being present at the event. Just tell us a little bit about that.

[00:26:47] Shawn Hooper: So yeah, our call for sponsors, and our call for volunteers will still be open. And I think they will remain open, probably until the event, if people want to offer their support in either of those ways, we’re not going to say no. And we do need sponsorship. As I said, this is not a cheap event to put on. It’s a larger event than a city based camp might be, in terms of venue costs and food, and all of that.

Definitely still looking for sponsors. And of course, you can’t have an event like this without volunteers. And for three days, including the contributor day, there’s a lot of different volunteer positions available. I’m hoping to see a lot of Canadians come out and offer to help volunteer at this event. And so yeah, both of those are open. The calls are on our website at canada.wordcamp.org, and you can sign up on there.

[00:27:33] Nathan Wrigley: I will put a link in the show notes to the various different pages, for signing up to be a volunteer, or signing up to be a sponsor. As I said, the speaker section is all but tied up as we’re speaking, but by the date this could be published, at it’s earliest opportunity, that moment will have passed.

I should say that Matt Graham and I had organised to have this podcast. We alluded to that at the beginning, and the intention was very much to enable more speakers to apply. But sadly, the way that the universe aligned, that didn’t happen. But we are where we are. So speakers is done, but volunteers and sponsors are still very much welcome.

Can you tell us a little bit about the nature of how many speakers you’re going to have? Is it spread across a number of tracks, or is it all focused on one track? Do you have workshops? And I know that you haven’t finalised it, but do you have any intuitions as to how that might look?

[00:28:22] Shawn Hooper: Yeah, we’re still a couple days away from the closing of the speaker submissions, at the time we’re recording this. And I know we have had a couple of workshop submissions come in. We’ll have to look at those and see whether that’s something that we want to accept. It’s definitely something we’re interested in.

Workshops can be quite interesting, and if we do those, they would likely be the same day as the contributor day. And then, it is a multi-track event. So there will be two tracks running, the entire time, for the two days of the camp. And then the contributor day on the Thursday. Of course, a chance to give back to the WordPress project. And I know one of our focuses for that, we want to focus on contributing back to the Polyglots team, on adding more language support in WordPress.

There’s very good support there for Canadian French right now, but we would love to see some of the indigenous languages added to WordPress. And if we could start that process at contributor day, that would be, I would call that a win.

[00:29:21] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, nice. I don’t know if you’ll know the answer to this, but it suddenly occurred to me that, in order to get into the US, for different events in the past, there’s been real challenges for people from a variety of different parts of the world, gaining admission to the country. So there’s this whole complicated visa process, and there were various people who talked about this at WordCamp Asia.

And I don’t know if you know anything about that. You know, how difficult is it to get to Canada? Let’s say there’s somebody listening to this, and they’re in a country where they know that the US has been difficult in the past, and they would love to bring their team to Canada to support this event. Do you know anything about that? Because, certainly, I know that WordCamp US, and WordCamp Asia, and Europe I would imagine, they do offer a little bit of support with that. I don’t quite know what form that takes, but I’ll just throw that out there. You may not have an answer.

[00:30:10] Shawn Hooper: In terms of how hard it’s going to be. This is our first event, I think that’s still a bit of a question. But we are seeing a lot of interest in this event from South Asia, from Africa. We’ve had a lot of outreach from outside of the Americas, from people interested in attending this event.

And with ticket sales now online, they did go on sale this week, if someone is attending, we’ll offer them a visa letter to say that they’re attending this event and, you know, they can start the process of applying with the Canadian government. And I imagine we’ll hear, shortly thereafter, how easy they’re finding this process. Whether they’re being allowed into the country or not.

[00:30:46] Nathan Wrigley: I think the visa letter was the process that I was talking about. I think that was the level of support that I was imagining had happened.

[00:30:53] Shawn Hooper: So we’ll be doing the same thing. And we’ll see what the Canadian government says. But I imagine there will be a difference between the experience that some potential attendees had entering the US and Canada, depending where they’re coming from. I know at least if you are in one of the Commonwealth countries, travel between those countries is much easier. And we’ll see how it is with other countries.

[00:31:12] Nathan Wrigley: Just a bit of a hat tip moment really, I just wonder if you want to rattle off as many of the names of the people who’ve been on the team organising this event. Now, obviously there’s the caveat that you may miss any out, we’ll apologise.

[00:31:25] Shawn Hooper: Definitely have to include Shanta Nathwani and Matt Graham, who are the two other co-leads of this event, Shanta being our lead organiser. Big thank you to Paul Byrne, Rick Radko, Kira Howe, Jamie Osler, Ernest Mugga, Alicia Leno, Aaron Lynn and Gina Burn. Those are probably the most active of our organising team. And we are also still recruiting people who want to help out on the organising team before the event. I expect that list to grow.

[00:31:56] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, very nice to give these people a shout out, for the hard work that they’ve done already. I think it’s all too common for people’s names not to kind of get any spotlight. But a lot of work done in the background, gratis, with no expectation of anything in return. But thank you for giving them a bit of a shout out there.

As Shawn said, the volunteers are most welcome to apply. The sponsors are most welcome to apply. The event is going to be taking place between July the 11th and the 13th this year, 2024. It’s taking place at the Infinity Convention Center in Ottawa, in the fine country of Canada.

I do wish you incredible luck. I think it’ll be really interesting to see how this country-based event goes. Because I have an intuition that something similar could take place in the country where I live, because everything has more or less shut down. So the idea of opening up a kind of UK based event, which over the years would dot itself around into different parts of the UK. It feels like we could copy that model very successfully.

So all eyes on Canada, let’s see how that goes. But Shawn Hooper, thank you so much for chatting to me about WordCamp Canada. Really appreciate it.

[00:33:05] Shawn Hooper: Thank you, Nathan. It was a pleasure being here.

On the podcast today we have Shawn Hooper.

Shawn Hooper is a key figure in the Canadian WordPress community. He’s an advocate for national and local gatherings that bring WordPress enthusiasts together.

I have to say a special thanks to Shawn for stepping in at the eleventh hour to do this podcast recording with me. He was not the guest originally lined up and I’m so pleased that he was able to join me to get this important topic some attention.

So later this year, the first ever WordCamp Canada, or WCEH for short, will be held in Ottawa. The event is deep in the planning stages. The venue is secured, the speakers have been finalised, and it’s now up to the team of volunteers, of which Shawn is one, to make the event a success.

We talk about why the Canadian community felt the need for a national event. It’s not typical to have events based upon a country, although WordCamp US is a notable exception. Shawn explains how, after Covid, the community has not got back to where it was, and how an event like this might act as a catalyst to more participation.

We get into the challenges of creating an event of this scale. From conception until now, there’s a lot of moving parts. The venue, food, transport, volunteers, sponsors, speakers, the list could go on. It all needs to be planned, tasks assigned and executed.

Shawn tells me about the geography of Canada and how the sheer size of the country makes gathering a challenge. We also touch upon how, if the event is successful, it’ll move through different locations year by year.

The team are hoping that an event such as WCEH will act as an inspiration for other locales to take up the idea of larger events, and I’m sure that many in the community will be paying close attention to how the event is executed.

If attending WordPress events, and volunteering your time, is your thing, this episode is for you.

Useful links

WordCamp Canada (WCEH) 2024 website

WordCamp Vancouver

WordCamp Montreal

WordCamp Europe

WordCamp Asia

WordCamp US

WordCamp Y’all


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