Last month on 24th January, along with some friends I attended WordCamp Baroda 2014. This was the second time I was attending a WordCamp in Baroda and overall I have now attended four WordCamps. Will be attending a fifth one but more on that later.
The WordCamp in Baroda, itself was a good one. The venue was at the outskirts of Baroda city. It might have been difficult for some attendees but there were bus pickups arranged from two different points in the city. It meant a big benefit which was, that most attendees came to the venue and left the venue at the same time.
The speaker sessions were interesting and a lot of impromptu discussions were held too. These unstructured discussions are one major reason I actually like visiting WordCamps. One such impromptu discussions was actually a self-appraisal of speaker sessions themselves by Saurabh Shukla. The simple question was to ask if some sessions were adding any value to the attendees. This stirred some passions but in the end the tone of the WordCamp Baroda turned from officious to camp like.
The formalities were dropped and the informal discussions ended up being a blessing for healthy debates and a lot more audience participation took place over the two-day event.
I have a lot of respect for WordCamp organizers and volunteers today than I ever did before. That is because I have ended up in the organizing team of WordCamp Mumbai 2014, which takes place on March 15th-16th. In this post more than reviewing WordCamp Baroda, I am taking stock of the WordCamp and by extension the WordPress culture in India.
Some delusions about meetups in India
There were some arguments made about how tech related meetups do not work in India. I do not mean tech related events but meetups organized by like minded people where entry is free and control over what is discussed is minimal to none. The constant argument made against organizing such meetups are “Meetups do not work in India as India is different from other countries”.
In my personal experience is absolutely untrue. I am part of WordPress meetups in Mumbai for over a year and we might not boast of a large community but all the organizers of WordCamp Mumbai 2014 met each other at meetups and did not know about each others existence before these meetups began.
This clearly shows that India is not any different and meetups can and do work in India. It just requires people to keep having meetups regularly. I have attended meetups with only four people (me included). I have a simple rule to decide if a meetup is successful or not. If I meet someone new, the meetup is successful. In Mumbai we organize meetups over coffee or even dosas which always get decent number of people attending.
Too many celebrities at WordCamps
I found a disturbing trend at all WordCamps I have attended till now. There is a bit of a celebrity culture around some people. These celebrities are usually popular bloggers. Too many people mob and excessively praise popular bloggers. I won’t blame the bloggers themselves and I think most are a bit embarrassed by the attention.
I think this can be toned down a bit in the future – again back to the importance of meetups – if these bloggers were accessible with local meetups, I do not think there would be too much fawning over individuals.
Organizers need to contribute their experiences
I think people who have organized WordCamps in India, have missed a trick by not writing down detailed posts on what went behind organizing such an event. Explaining how they approached WordCamp Central and what should other budding organizers do would be a lot more helpful.
Hopefully after WordCamp Mumbai 2014 is over, I will write a series of long posts on what exactly happens behind the scenes while organizing the event.
Over to Mumbai!
As I wrote earlier, I am part of the organizing team for WordCamp Mumbai 2014. There are some very good speakers lined up and one of them is our very own Rahul Bansal.
The big challenge was to make this WordCamp in Mumbai accessible to everyone. We have started that by keeping the ticket prices to a minimum of Rs. 300/-.
Here are some of the useful links for WordCamp Mumbai 2014 (March 15-16)
The WordCamp culture in India is still nascent but I can see it has moved forward since I wrote about my experiences at WordCamps a year ago. It is definitely becoming more informal and approachable. Hopefully it continues down this path. There are several thousand WordPress experts in India and hopefully they do not remain just a talent pool for companies but also end up becoming a thriving community.
Update: Rahul Banker brought to my notice that he had chronicled his experience as a organizer in a post last year.