Charity Hackathons in 2017

When we were looking forward to 2017, one of our goals was to work with local WordPress communities to organize charity hackathons in order to help non-profits benefit from open source tools. We made sure to achieve this goal by bringing the do_action event series into our program.

do_action is a charity hackathon that uses WordPress to uplift local communities by having volunteers come together to build websites for non-profit organizations.

Over the course of the year, we supported four local communities in running do_action events – Johannesburg, Beirut, Cape Town and Montreal. Each event was very successful, resulting in a total of 122 volunteers building WordPress sites for 17 different non-profits organizations — with the financial and logistical support from the WordPress Foundation to make it all possible.

Here is a small selection of the sites that were created at these hackathons:

Along with their websites, the non-profits also received invaluable WordPress training, making these events educational as well as charitable.

Looking back

We chatted to the organizers of the four events this year to get an idea of why they chose to do them, and how they feel about it all – they had some interesting insight into their events and the impact that the do_action events can have worldwide.

Beirut

The Beirut event was held on July 8 — they had 30 volunteers attending and helped 3 organizations get online with WordPress.

The primary organizer for the Beirut event, Marina Pape, had a great team working with her to make it happen. She said that “do_action seemed a good fit as the tech scene in Beirut is pretty alive and there are a lot of NGOs doing great stuff, but needing websites.”

Group of participants from do_action BeirutThe event “went smoothly, with a great group of people. It met the goal of rallying the WordPress community, creating connections between WordPress developers, designers, and marketing people.”

Marina and the Beirut community are interested in organizing another event in the do_action series for 2018.

Cape Town

This was Cape Town’s fourth annual do_action event — this year they held the event on July 15 and had 70 volunteers working to build new WordPress websites for 9 organizations.

I was the lead organizer for the Cape Town event and we put the event together because we wanted to open our local WordPress community to the broader community of Cape Town and using our web-building skills for this just made sense — we, as a WordPress community, have all the skills needed to build a great online presence for anyone. Couple that with the fact that there is a lot of need amongst Cape Town non-profits for this kind of thing, and an event like this becomes the logical next step.

Cape Town do_action participants working on the non-profits websites
Photo by Basil Parker: Instagram @basilparker

While it’s difficult to gauge the impact of a do_action event in its entirety, we’re confident that we met the goals for the day. The non-profits all left with great new websites along with training on how to use them effectively in order to grow their own causes — that’s the goal of this event.

Aside from the broader impact of the non-profits being more empowered to continue their good work, our WordPress community worked together in a way that we never have before — the impact of this on each of us as individuals and our community as a whole has been fantastic. We now have a greater awareness for organizations outside of our usual circle, and we have shown that we can use WordPress as a powerful tool to provide a dynamic platform for any non-profit organization.

Johannesburg

Johannesburg held their event on February 4; 10 volunteers attended and they helped 1 charity with a new WordPress website.

Seagyn Davis, who was the lead organizer for the Johannesburg event, said that they “always love giving towards good causes and do_action is a great initiative that allows them to use the great skills found in the WordPress community to do something really great for someone who really needs it.”

When we asked about the possibility of doing do_action again in 2018, he said that “the people that were involved really loved it and would do it again” — they are in the process of recruiting an organizing team for the next event already.

Montreal

Montreal hosted their event on October 14 — they had 28 volunteers coming together to build WordPress websites for 4 organizations.

The motivation behind the Sasha Endoh’s plans in leading the Montreal event, was that though her “business is focused on working with non-profit clients, there are many times when smaller organizations who do important work can’t quite afford to hire a professional team for their project.” She wanted to give back to the community “by giving support to these organizations and helping them have a greater impact.”

Montreal do_action participants working on the non-profits websites
Photo by Jer Clarke: jerclarke.org

When asked after the event about what impact she felt the hackathon had on the broader community of Montreal, Sasha commented that, by assisting the organizations that took part, “we hope to have helped to bring more cultural events, create a community space, connect and support folks who’ve been through the foster (care) and adoption system, and put a dent in the abandoned animal problem in our city.”

“It was amazing to see so many different folks come together for a good cause — the organizing team is eager to go to work on the next event!”

Looking ahead

The plan for 2018 is to continue promoting the do_action hackathons and supporting more communities that wish to organize them, around the world. There are already four events on the schedule for next year – three of which are in cities that have never hosted one before (Bristol, Pune and Zurich) along with one returning city (Cape Town) – and we fully expect at least another five communities to be organizing their own events over the course of the year too.

If you’d like to become an organizer for a local do_action event, you can find out more in the organizer’s handbook.

To help support this program, and the WordPress Foundation’s other efforts to educate people about open source and WordPress, you can donate here!

Call for Organizers: Introduction to Open Source

To further the WordPress Foundation’s charter to educate the public about WordPress and related open source software (OSS), we want to sponsor a new series of workshops/training events introducing people to open source.

Specifically, we want to shine more light on the potential of open source software in countries where there is less participation in OSS projects. To help spread the word about the potential that open source has to offer, we’d like to provide financial support for two educational events this year, to be organized in parts of the world with less participation in open source: Latin and South America, Africa, Oceania, and Asia*. Here’s what we have in mind:

Event title: Introduction to Open Source

Event description: What do people mean when they use the term Open Source when referring to software? This workshop will cover that question as well as what the GPL software license provides, why WordPress is an open-source project, and how this is important for both the users of WordPress and the contributors to WordPress.

Event purpose: Spread knowledge and understanding of the open web and open source through two-hour training events, staffed and organized by local communities, and financially supported by the WordPress Foundation, using training materials here: https://make.wordpress.org/training/handbook/user-lessons/what-is-open-source/ and https://make.wordpress.org/training/handbook/user-lessons/what-can-you-do-with-wordpress/

Financial support: up to $500 USD per event, available to defray costs associated with event venue, refreshments, and/or videography.

Expectations for organizers: Event should be free of cost, open to anyone, and organized/held in 2017. Strong preference will be given to organizers who are already members of a community group that is part of the WordPress open source project’s meetup chapter program, but has not yet organized a WordCamp. Organizers should not need to solicit additional event sponsorship. Financial support will be provided via Paypal or wire transfer, and will require documentation.

Interested in organizing an event like this? Fill out this 10-question application!

We’ll close applications on August 21, and notify the successful applicants no later than September 8, 2017.

*According to a recent study, the majority of Github participation in OSS projects is centered in North America and Western and Northern Europe.

Looking forward to a great 2017

Happy New Year! We are excited for a great 2017. This year the WordPress Foundation will continue to pursue our educational mission in a number of ways.

First, we plan to contribute financially to other non-profit organizations; we’ll be making major (to us) grants to Hack the Hood, Internet Archive, and Black Girls Code. Second, we’ll be working with local WordPress communities to organize charity hackathons, helping non-profits benefit from open source tools. Finally, we plan to promote education about open source in economically disadvantaged nations.

If you’re interested in how you can support the WordPress Foundation in these efforts — maybe you want to organize a charity hackathon in your community or volunteer to teach a free class about open source software — please drop us a line and tell us how you’d like to help.

The other major news from 2016 is the creation of the new subsidiary, WordPress Community Support, PBC. This entity will continue to support WordCamps and WordPress user groups across the world hand in hand with the volunteers who dedicate their time.

For more news and details, keep an eye on this blog!

Introducing WordPress Community Support, A Public Benefit Subsidiary

Since January, we’ve been working on switching all operations related to official WordCamp and Meetup organizing to the new subsidiary of the WordPress Foundation, which is a public benefit corporation called WordPress Community Support, PBC (WPCS).

One of the main advantages to the change from the WordPress Foundation (a non-profit) to the WPCS (a public benefit corporation) is that the rules around sponsoring official WordPress events are much simpler. The WordPress Community team has updated sponsor rules to eliminate the barriers to value-add details on promotional items, while keeping rules that helped us form a trustworthy, community-focused sponsor program.

This also means that, by and large, the WordPress Foundation is no longer the financial entity for WordCamps and Meetups. Donations to the WordPress Foundation will still be accepted, and will support the Foundation’s charter to educate the public about WordPress and related open source software.

One of the few disadvantages to this switch is that WordCamps and meetup/user groups are no longer eligible for non-profit discounts. While this does present a problem for some groups, we think that the benefits we can provide outweigh the loss of the discounts for non-profit status.

WordPress Foundation currently holds a blanket insurance policy that covers all WordCamps in the US and Canada. WordPress Community Support, PBC is being added to that policy as a subsidiary, and we’ll be able to issue certificates with WPCS as the insured party, just like we did with the Foundation last year. All events using the WordPress Foundation name and info on their contract in 2016 will be covered by the blanket policy.

Large portions of this are excerpted from the post here, by Andrea Middleton.

WordPress Meetups

In our October update, we mentioned the WordPress Foundation has an official Meetup.com account through which it covers costs of organizer dues.

As of this month, 23 meetups are now under this central account.

There’s a lot of cool stuff in the works for the Meetup.com Program:

  • Making WordPress Events is a discussion forum for WordPress event news and updates, as well as an online resource for organizers and volunteers (including, most recently, a series on meetup best practices).
  • Buying and sending out items like projectors and video cameras to meetup groups that need them.
  • A variety of training sessions, with the help of the Support and Community teams, to bring professional WordPress education to more people. As curriculums are tested and approved, they will be available online for use by meetup groups running official training sessions.
  • A core team of volunteers to work on meetup guidelines for organizers.
  • Other plans to expand the program, from a monthly email that suggests and provides possible content to groups, to meetup starter packs with fun stuff like flyers, table signs, buttons, stickers, sign-in sheets, and a T-shirt for a new organizer to wear to their first meetup.

As you can see, 2013 is already a busy year for WordPress meetups. We expect more groups to join in this spring — if you’re looking to add your meetup group to the WordPress Foundation account, please visit and follow along at Making WordPress Events for what’s happening with meetups.

WordCamps and Such

Howdy! This blog has been quiet but the Foundation has been busy and I want to catch you up on what’s been going on.

WordCamps: world-wide

Since spring 2012, WordCamps have been held everywhere from Seoul to Seattle, Bucharest to Boston, and Vegas to Vancouver. (Vancouver also hosted BuddyCamp, the first event to be focused entirely on BuddyPress). If you’re interested and passionate about WordPress — whether you’re a blogging newbie or a professional developer — you could certainly trek the globe from camp to camp.

Something we’ve been doing experimentally is to remove the financial burden for WordCamp organizers and provide logistical support so they could focus more on their content and the community. WordCamp organizers can opt for the Foundation to manage their funds which allows WordCamp to use the Foundation as their financial and legal backer and:

  • removes the financial barrier to entry for organizers,
  • protects organizers from being sued,
  • protects organizers from having to answer any awkward questions from the IRS about why, for example, they ran a $15,000 conference through their web design business, and
  • protects WordCamps from embezzlement and fraud.

To date, people around the world have attended 207 WordCamps in 116 cities, 38 countries, and 6 continents. In October 2012 alone, 15 WordCamps were scheduled.

As we approach 2013, the events keep on coming.

Sessions available on WordPress.tv

Back in 2010, we bought the first video kits for use at WordCamps. In 2012, we provide camera kits not only to WordCamps in the US, but to events in Europe and Canada as well. It’s a wonderful program that ensures all sessions, including non-English language content, are published to WordPress.tv.

We’ve seen a steady increase in the number of WordCamp videos posted to WordPress.tv since 2007:

  • 7 in 2007.
  • 75 in 2008.
  • 337 in 2009.
  • 180 in 2010.
  • 271 in 2011.
  • 325 (ytd) in 2012.

Meetups: the WordPress world where you live

I love when people in a community who are interested in WordPress — from bloggers and business users to developers and consultants — get together to educate each other about WordPress at lectures, presentations, hacking meetups, and social gatherings. It shouldn’t cost anything beyond time for someone to run a WordPress meetup.

To help out now we have an official Meetup.com account and the Foundation covers the costs of Meetup.com organizer dues for groups who are part of the WordPress account. We’re reaching out to organizers to figure out how else we can offer financial support to local meetup groups.

In addition, we’re working on other community initiatives to support and expand local WordPress meetups by incorporating feeds from meetups in WordPress.org, expanding the video equipment program, helping meetup groups offer WordPress classes in their community, mentoring WordPress clubs at schools, and developing guides and support forums for new organizers.

Simply put, we’re very excited about the projects we’re working on and look forward to what’s next.

Our First Project: WordCamp Videos

It’s been pretty quiet around here, but it’s been busy behind the scenes as we worked through budgets, tax requirements, legalese and reviewing the ways in which the Foundation could be of most use in helping to promote WordPress and provide education to the WordPress community. Our first program is centered around making it possible for all interested parties to benefit from the presentations and workshops given at locally-organized WordCamps around the world.

WordPress.tv hosts all WordCamp video free of charge as a community service, but not every WordCamp is able to record sessions, as organizers and volunteers don’t have access to the proper equipment. Moving forward, the Foundation will be working on making it possible for every WordCamp to publish their session videos by providing video kits.

We used WordCamp NYC as a test drive, and bought a handful of Flip HD Slide cameras and gorillapods, thinking that small, easy-to-use cameras would be the easiest for volunteers to operate, as well as the safest to ship back and forth between WordCamps. However, we found that the Flips had four serious problems:

  1. Though the Slides were chosen because they can record up to 4 hours of continuous video, the fact is that the battery does not last more than 2 hours. They didn’t put that in the ads! WordCamp NYC was a nightmare in this respect, with Flip operators constantly needing to trade out cameras so they could be recharged, because….
  2. You can’t plug a Flip into an outlet while it is in use. We bought a couple of wall chargers, but plugging the USB connector into the outlet charger still means the camera can’t be recording at that moment (and when it’s plugged into a computer’s USB port, it’s obviously out of rotation).
  3. The USB connector that flips (ha) out is not as sturdy as other Flip models, so that when it is plugged into a computer port or a wall charger, it is precarious, wobbly, and stops charging (and downloading video) when the connection is interrupted.
  4. The sound is terrible unless the camera is right in the front row during a presentation, and you can’t connect an external microphone.

Because of these issues, we’re going to go with a slightly more complex, but vastly more reliable solution. We’re buying kits containing a Canon Vixia camcorder that records onto SD cards, a compact, expanding tripod, an external microphone, and a hard case to hold it all. The cases will provide protection for the electronics during shipping, and we’ll put together a simple user guide for the volunteers to learn how best to record the sessions.

We’re ordering the first of these kits now, and once we confirm that the components we’ve chosen are definitely the best ones for the job, we’ll buy more kits so that we can cover multiple tracks at the larger WordCamps and/or multiple smaller WordCamps. For now we’re going to begin with WordCamps in the U.S., but hope to expand this to support international events in the future. Since WordCamps are some of the best educational WordPress events around, it will be awesome for people around the world to be able to watch the sessions whenever they like for free on WordPress.tv, overcoming the barriers of geography, economics and time that might prevent them from attending a WordCamp in person.