The WordPress community global. As members, we connect on a day-to-day basis via several online channels. It’s a great way to learn and get to know each other.

But the icing on the cake has always been in-person events. WordCamps and meetups have allowed us to share more than just a text message and a profile picture. We sit side-by-side during sessions, chat about things outside of WordPress, and even share a meal or two. They provide an opportunity to form personal and professional bonds.

It’s also something that we’ve sorely missed since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in 2020. Events were outright canceled or converted into virtual gatherings.

None of this stopped the WordPress community. New versions of our favorite content management system (CMS) have been released. And we’re still sharing knowledge. Yet, the loss of personal interactions has taken a toll.

Thankfully, 2022 has brought back some of what’s missing. Among the highlights is WordCamp Europe (WCEU), held in person from June 2-4 in Porto, Portugal.

Here’s why the return of in-person events will help rejuvenate the WordPress community.

Why WordCamps Are Still Important

Communication has evolved enormously since the time WordPress was launched back in 2003. In those days, we were still relying on bulletin boards for online interaction. Communities were very much walled off from the rest of the world.

For better or worse, social media has changed the paradigm. Connecting with other WordPress users has never been easier. And algorithms encourage us to expand our network to include more and more people.

So, why are in-person events like WordCamps still important? They take us beyond the casual “like” and retweet.

Those actions may have friendly intentions, but they require very little effort on our part. We may simply use them as a form of politeness – while not taking the time to fully engage in what a person is saying.

WordCamps let us see each other as people. The human element lets us engage on a level that isn’t possible online. So, even if we happen to disagree with someone, we can still interact and hope to find some common ground.

Seeing each other face-to-face generally means we can’t shout past one another. For example, it’s a chance for both fans and detractors of the Gutenberg block editor to see things from another point of view. This type of connection is vital for a healthier community.

A Chance for Some New Energy

During the pandemic, WordPress has undergone some major changes. Full Site Editing (FSE) has been introduced. The block editor has further embedded itself into everyday tasks. And several products in the theme and plugin ecosystem have changed hands.

Each of these items has had a real impact on the community. And yet we were left with very little opportunity to discuss them in a personal setting.

Both developers and casual users have lost out on chances to see live demos of new features. They haven’t been able to directly ask questions about them and get answers in real-time.

When it comes to theme and plugin acquisitions, WordCamps have often been a way to interact with product makers. Whether it be at a sponsorship booth or a hallway chat, we could gain a better sense of what the future will bring. Without these events, there hasn’t been much of a dialogue regarding changes.

Thus, the return of WCEU and other events can bring some new energy to the WordPress community. Finally, attendees can get together and take stock of what’s happening.

In the past, this has led to better communication. Not that everyone involved will (or should be expected to) agree. Rather, it’s about pulling back the curtain and providing members with information on a more personal level.

And the beloved contributor days have brought a higher level of collaboration as well. This is particularly important in a time when WordPress desperately needs more volunteers.

Bringing the WordPress Community Back Together

All in all, WCEU’s return (as well as the upcoming WordCamp US) is a great thing for our community. It offers us a chance to reconnect. These past few years have been difficult and we could all benefit from the return of the comradery that in-person events can provide.

Yes, there are still pandemic concerns. Let’s hope that in-person events don’t contribute to any virus outbreaks. Safety will need to be a paramount concern from here on out.

And while WordCamps alone won’t bridge every divide, they can certainly help to be a part of the solution. The direction of WordPress will always be a hot topic. But by getting together and helping each other adapt, we can demonstrate that we’re not alone in this journey.

With that, here’s to:

  • Catching up with old friends and making new ones;
  • Getting out of the office and into a venue with other WordPress users;
  • Taking the time to share opinions and listen;
  • Seeing things through a different point of view;
  • Feeling better about ourselves and others;

In-person events are indeed coming back to the WordPress community – and not a moment too soon.

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