Episode forty-nine of the WordPress Briefing explores the What, Why, and Who behind the upcoming Community Summit in National Harbor, DC, USA, August 22-23, 2023. Join Executive Director Josepha Haden Chomphosy to learn the importance of the gathering to the WordPress project.
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[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:00:00]
Hello everyone, and welcome to the WordPress Briefing, the podcast where you can catch quick explanations of the ideas behind the WordPress open source project, some insight into the community that supports it, and get a small list of big things coming up in the next two weeks.
I’m your host, Josepha Haden Chomphosy. Here we go.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:00:40]
A couple of episodes ago, I mentioned the Community Summit in the small list of big things. That’s coming up on August 22nd and 23rd, right before WordCamp US. And for some of you, that made complete sense, and the only thought in your mind was, wow, our last one was in 2017, how could so many years have passed since then? And since so many years have passed, today we’re gonna talk a bit about the Community Summit, what it is, where it came from, and why it’s so important for the WordPress project.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:01:09]
First things first, let’s talk about what exactly the Community Summit is. The Community Summit is a small event where folks from around the WordPress project and community come together to work through some of the most difficult topics the project currently faces, many of which are easier or at least less fraught when we can be face-to-face.
The Community Summit is usually done in an “unconference” style, and when we were smaller, we left topic gathering and voting to the day of. That’s evolved a bit as our group of fearless contributors has grown over the years, and this year, we have been asking for topics ahead of time so that we can make sure we have the right folks in the room and are making the best use of everyone’s limited time.
It’s easy to take a look at this event and think it’s like some fun exclusive thing with a who’s who of WordPress.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:02:00]
But I assure you it’s a working event. Decisions are not finalized during the event, but since we try very hard to account for many, many viewpoints, it ends up being two days of hard discussions, contentious viewpoints, and problem definition at a level of complexity you don’t really see every day.
Hearing how hard this event is, you may be wondering why we put in that effort. There are a lot of reasons, but there are three that come to my mind immediately. So for starters, working across cultures is hard. Apart from the cultural differences, we tend to be aware of things like where we’re located or our lived experiences, things like that– working remotely or distributedly is a whole different set of skills than working in person. This helps remind everyone that we’re humans, that there are humans behind those comments and behind those messages in Slack. The second thing is that I’m a big supporter of Tuckman’s theory of group development.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:03:00]
If you don’t know what that is, you can look for it, we’ll put a link in the show notes, but it’s that forming, storming, norming, performing kind of concept of how groups come together. Because there are so many of us and our community has such a large footprint, there are little storms a-brewin all the time.
Some get really big, some stay small. But at some point, most of them have to be addressed. And this is a space that is specifically designed to help us do that. Which brings us to the third reason that we do it. This event uses something called the Chatham House Rule, which creates a kind of temporal psychological safety.
Right. Psychological safety, if you’re a leader, you know that that’s something that is built over time and requires a lot of trust and a lot of conversations with people that you’re working with, and we can’t quite do that.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:04:00]
And so Chatham House Rule builds an environment that helps create that suddenly in the moment and requires, you know, some, some faith in one another.
But basically, no one can be quoted about what they said in those conversations. No one’s examples can be attributed to them. But the conversations can be summarized and published, which we do on the Community Summit website. And then, we publish those for our collective knowledge over time. This lets folks who are attending advocate for themselves and others fully without worrying over whether they’re gonna be taken out of context later.
And finally, one of the biggest questions we get ahead of any Community Summit is why it is by invitation only. The most commonly cited reasons for keeping this small and invite only have everything to do with logistics and leadership. You want it to be large enough to have good representation but small enough to have high-quality interactions. It’s just a really narrow Goldilocks moment, if you will.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:05:00]
But that reason doesn’t necessarily address the need for invitations rather than letting it be first come, first served. The reason for that is more of a philosophical one and requires you to go on a mini historical journey with me.
This also has changed a bit over the years. The first ever Community Summit, way back in 2012, was before my time, but if I recall my history correctly, it was truly by invitation only. The summit after that included a closed nomination process. The next included a team nomination process, and then the last two, 2017 and 2023, have included open nominations.
Now, even in the nomination era of Community Summit organizing, there is still a selection process. The organizers review the list of suggested attendees and check for the same types of things we expect major WordCamp organizers to look for in their speaker selection.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:06:00]
Things like which teams they contribute to, what communities they advocate for, and how long they’ve been a member of the community.
And then they adjust for balance. In addition to those things, there are also four types of voices that we always want represented at our Community Summit. So first is leading voices, people who are already in the community and kind of are helping us to make decisions. I am considered one of those leading voices; I have put in my application to be included in the Community Summit. Really hope we select me.
The second one is future leading voices. Specifically, those are people who are active in the community already and are showing a lot of promise, either because they really understand the values that the WordPress open source project is putting forward or understand the basic processes of communicating and guiding people in such a complex ecosystem as the WordPress project represents. Or because they have said quite plainly they are interested in helping us to make sure that the WordPress project is able to move and continue to create and continue to support democratizing publishing.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:07:00]
So it’s a little bit potentially folks who are self-selecting for that. People who already are showing that they are doing that either in WordPress or in their local communities. That’s one of the types of voices we want to include. A third one that we want to include all the time is voices we need, so voices that we need to hear. People that specifically we are building WordPress for, people that have indicated to us that the CMS is not necessarily perfect for some of the use cases that they run into regularly.
So the people and users and community organizers that can and are able to advocate for the types of user interactions, the types of community interactions that we absolutely want to be able to see.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:08:00]
And so that’s a third group of voices that we want to make sure we have represented.
And then the fourth and final group that we always want to have represented is a group that I call voices we miss. And so those are the people that we want to be able to hear more from in our project that we don’t necessarily either have a good group of representative voices for, so it’s hard to hear them, or that we know are probably users of the CMS or they are attending events, they are somehow involved in the WordPress project.
But we don’t necessarily have any way to have accounted for them while we were building solutions way back in 2012 or 2006 when things were being built for us. And so those are the four groups of people, the four types of voices that I absolutely want to have represented at our Community Summit.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:09:00]
And I ask organizers to go through this incredibly complicated selection process because we want not simply a microcosm of the WordPress community as we see it today and hope to see it in the future but also an equitably voiced forum during that critical problem definition phase.
So TLDL. For, listen?! T L D Real Listen. Although if you didn’t make it through that, you definitely are not getting to this point. So a TLDR for folks who skimmed the transcript and got here, I guess we keep this invitation structure because we want to account for voices we don’t hear every day in the WordPress project. Not because we don’t value them but because we already hear them.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:09:44]
And now that brings us to our small list of big things. This week it’s actually kind of a big list of big things, but you know, there it is.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:10:00]
First things first. The applications for the Community Summit are now open. Those are the applications to attend. It’s pretty short. I filled mine out this morning and it’s three questions about who you are and your username on wordpress.org, and then three questions about the topics you are most interested in and the experience that you have in those conversations so far.
Yeah. It took me, like, I think, 90 seconds. Like, a full minute and a half. So head on over there. We have a link in the show notes, but also, you’ll be able to find it in newsletters across the entire WordPress media ecosystem. I am pretty sure about that.
The second thing is that there is a proposal out for a project-wide mentorship program.
This is a huge potential win for us. It is aiming to fix some of our broken ladders. If you’re not familiar with my Broken Ladder Theory of the WordPress project, I’ll try to remember to find a link to that post and put that in the show notes.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:11:00]
Number three is that Openverse moved. I shared this last week that happened last week. They didn’t move very far, though. They have a new URL, you can find them at openverse.org. It’s the same team. It’s the same product. It’s the same group of excellent openly-licensed images and media that you have come to expect. It just has its own standalone URL now. Huge kudos to the contributors who got that done.
Another thing that happened last week is that WordPress 6.2 has moved into its beta phase, and so now is the time to get out there and test.
There also was an excellent, excellent write-up about how to test any given release. And I think it also includes how to file a good bug. And so we’ll send all of those things into the show notes. They’ll be easy to find. Get out there and do your testing.
And number five, longest, small list of big things in recent history.
[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:12:00]
I got some interest on [a] women, and non-binary led release for 2023, and so since there was some interest shown for that, it is hereby verbally confirmed. Keep an eye out on make.wordpress.org for more information about what that process is gonna look like and how to volunteer your time for that if that is something that calls to you.
Woo. And that, my friends, is your small list of big things, your big list of big things. Thanks for tuning in today for the WordPress Briefing. I’m your host, Josepha Haden Chomphosy, and I’ll see you again in a couple of weeks.