WordCamps and defining “local” after COVID

When it comes to regional WordCamps, the focus is on a speaker selection that is a majority local. 80/20 rule where the 80% are folks that live in the area of the WordCamp. WordCamp Montclair (the camp I’m an organizer of) defines this as the tri-state area: New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania… the latter two being New York City and Philadelphia areas.

In the past this was easy, as we had a local community that met in-person at our meetup space in Montclair, NJ at the United Way building.

When COVID hit everything went virtual. Instead of the United Way building, we scheduled monthly meetups on Zoom. While the pandemic was very challenging, we also found opportunity. We communicated more with each other over Slack, we worked with and supported other NJ WordPress meetup groups, and as a result our community grew… a LOT. And a good deal of that growth was outside of our tri-state area. People saw we were doing things virtually, and they joined in.

Two years later we have folks that attend our monthly virtual meetups from all over the country and world. Many of whom are also active on our Slack account.

WordCamp Montclair 2022 is planned for June 25, 2022 and will be in-person. This got me thinking about how I now see our “local” community today. I raised this in a few channels and got some interesting thoughts.

In my mind, if you are active in our community by attending meetups and engaging with folks in our Slack, then you are also in our community, and if you submit a talk to our WordCamp, I would consider you local, regardless of where you physically live.

Many agreed with this new definition of “local” for regional camps that were active during the pandemic. However, one very important response that is worth noting is that another reason behind the 80/20 rule also involves travel: How will the speaker be getting to your camp?

Having more speakers physically close to your camp makes it less risky that the speaker will cancel due to travel issues. So this is definitely something to consider as well.

So while keeping things physically local is still important, also think of people who are part of your community that may not meet the old definition of local.

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