Wordcamp Europe: the good of the ‘webinar’ with the best of the face-to-face

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There were lines everywhere, but far from despairing, the participants in the event seemed happy that there were so many people. They gave a good account of it dancing and chatting at the Super Bock Arena in Porto. It was not a festival. Not only live music is back, but also work events.

Wordcamp Europe is the largest WordPress event in the world. And this year, on its tenth anniversary and after two remote editions, it could not disappoint. It did not. With just over 3,000 tickets sold and as many thousands of people watching the event live and deferred online, Wordcamp Europe has broken records. «There is a desire to return to the face-to-face», recognized José Ramón Padrón, general director of Siteground Spain and Wordcamp Europe, one day before the congress started

Siteground is a hosting provider. It is the one we use here in Yorokobu and the one that makes it possible for you to be reading this news. But for a few years it has been much more than that. Siteground hosts events and webinars and publishes eBooks. Everything to condense the greatest amount of knowledge about marketing and digital culture.

Padrón usually organizes these workshops online, so he is used to doing webinars. “During the pandemic he was crazy,” he acknowledges. «We had about 400 people live, which is already a lot. But during confinement we got to have 1,200 ». The running of the bulls caused many people to turn to the online world and begin to train, to learn informally, by consuming videos.

It broke down barriers and made it possible for people who didn’t go to events for financial, geographical or simply lazy reasons to discover that visiting them from the computer wasn’t such a bad idea. The webinars were more comfortable, they allowed learning from home, whenever they wanted, since many can recover after their live broadcast. There was a worldwide fever of this format.

At Siteground, for example, they went from doing two to six a month. And all full. The new situation strengthened ties that had been weak until then. “A very strong collaboration between Spain and Latin America was created,” says Padrón. “Speakers from both sides went to different meetups, and there has been a very important exchange of knowledge and experiences.”

The new customs settled. After the initial rush there was a plateau, but there were definitely more webinars and more audiences than before the pandemic. However, it was necessary to return to face-to-face. Padrón is not very critical of the format, but he recognizes that there are things in the real world that are impossible to replicate in the virtual one. “For example, networking,” he points out. In the first virtual year of Wordcamp Europe, they enabled Zoom rooms. In the second they contracted a platform specialized in these events. But nothing, it was not the same.

This year there has been a party, there has been a concert by a group that covered songs by Queen. The event was themed around the number ten, to celebrate the tenth anniversary. All of this is impossible to replicate even in a metaverse. In addition, the community that participates in WordPress, an open source blogging platform (also the one we use here in Yorokobu and on many other websites) often already works remotely. Getting together to get faces is something that always comes in handy.

This year, in the Wordcamp Europe they have made a Contributor Day. It is a day in which some members of the community, about 700, according to the organization, sit at huge tables and discuss where they want to take the platform.

It’s not about creating a plug-in in 24 hours, it’s not a hackathon, but a sharing of ideas, a discussion about who we are and where we’re going. “It’s not a very productive day,” Padrón admits with a laugh, “but it is a valuable day.”

That may have been another of the great lessons of the pandemic. Remote work, the opportunity offered by webinars compared to traditional seminars, is appreciated. They shorten distances, bring cultures closer and make life more comfortable. But face-to-face contact is sometimes necessary.