In this episode, we recap our experience at WordCamp US 2023, from accessibility talks to Contributor Day to being an event sponsor.
Mentioned in This Episode
>> CHRIS HINDS: Welcome to Episode 32 of the “Accessibility Craft Podcast,” where we explore the art of creating accessible websites while trying out interesting craft beverages. This podcast is brought to you by the team at Equalize Digital, a WordPress accessibility company and the proud creators of the Accessibility Checker plugin.
In this episode, we recap our experience at WordCamp US 2023 from accessibility talks to Contributor Day, to being an event sponsor. For show notes and a full transcript, go to “AccessibilityCraft.com/032.”
Now on to the show.
>> AMBER HINDS: Hey, everyone, it’s Amber, and I’m here today with Chris.
>> CHRIS: Hey, everybody.
>> AMBER: And Steve.
>> STEVE JONES: Hello, everyone.
>> AMBER: And we are going to be talking about WordCamp US 2023, and accessibility around the event, and just our experience being there, but of course, we always start with the beverage first. What are we drinking today, Chris?
>> CHRIS: So continuing my recent theme of, “It is too damn hot outside in Texas,” we’ve got the Alaskan Chillin’ Cold IPA, which is supposed to be a very clean and very crisp cold fermented IPA, which I was reading about this. A cold fermented IPA is an IPA that’s been fermented below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s like a cold fermentation, which is supposed to produce smoother flavor, lower acidity, and just be clean and easy drinking, and I mean, the whole can is just ice cubes and a cute little seal, and it’s got the word “Alaska” on it, and “Chillin’ Cold.” And I was sitting at my desk sweating in this Texas heat, and I saw this, and I was, like, it just got me. I had to get it. I know nothing about the brewery or anything. Never had any of their stuff before, so excited to try it.
>> AMBER: I think I heard on the news that we’ve had more than 60 days over 100 degrees this summer. It is really hot here, so yes, this can which looks like ice floating in water, it does seem quite appealing when it’s 100 degrees up. Normally, it’s not fermented at a cold temperature. It’s just like room temperature. Is that why this is different?
>> CHRIS: Yes. I mean, bacteria yeast likes warm environments. At least for baking, the optimal is, like, 100 degrees Fahrenheit, so like what it is outside right now, but this is done at almost half that temperature. I was a little intrigued by that, and I don’t know, just layering cold on top of cold on top of cold just appealed to me in the moment.
>> STEVE: Yes.
>> CHRIS: So shall we crack these open?
>> STEVE: Let’s do it.
>> AMBER: Yes, let’s do it. Maybe. I can’t get it open.
There we go.
>> STEVE: It’s very foamy right out the gate.
>> AMBER: Are you pouring it into a glass or drinking out of the can?
>> STEVE: No, no. It just came foaming right out of the can.
>> AMBER: Well, you’re not supposed to shake the can, Steve.
>> STEVE: I didn’t shake it.
>> CHRIS: I definitely smell the hops. It’s a little citrusy on the nose, but not overwhelming.
>> AMBER: I see the tasting notes are a little bit like grapefruit, and I kind of do get a grapefruit smell. Like a juicy grape. I like the smell of this. I’m not a huge IPA fan, but I like the smell of this.
>> STEVE: Yes, I’m not an IPA fan either.
>> AMBER: I don’t think you’re a fan of many beverages except for Coke.
>> STEVE: Yes, yes. Diet Coke.
>> CHRIS: Steve’s got the strong grimace going here.
>> STEVE: It’s making me pucker a little bit. [laughs]
>> CHRIS: Yes. It’s got that classic hoppy bitterness that you would expect from an IPA. I’m going to take another sip before I really weigh in here. I got to think about this one.
>> STEVE: Maybe because it’s only 78 degrees up here in the north. Maybe that’s why.
>> AMBER: Yes. Just about here.
>> STEVE: I’m not hot enough. Yes.
>> AMBER: You know, I realized this as we were sitting down to record that I had a really lost opportunity, which is I could have put a pint glass in the freezer, because I think actually pouring this into a frosted pint glass would have been really tasty, so next time, I am totally going to do that. I actually like this. I’m not a huge IPA fan, but I like this one. It’s good.
>> CHRIS: Yes. I appreciate how light bodied it is, so it’s not super thick or dense. It’s definitely got that hoppy bitterness that you would expect with an IPA. I think I had hoped that maybe there would be less bitter and more fruity with the cold fermentation, but I don’t know really how beer works other than just the mechanics of the basic process, but it’s not bad. I mean, on a hot day, knocking back one of these after mowing the lawn or something, I could be OK with it.
>> STEVE: Yes. It would definitely make me forget about the heat.
>> CHRIS: Yes.
>> STEVE: I’d be thinking about how bitter this is. [laughs]
>> CHRIS: Yes.
>> AMBER: Well, I wonder actually.., so we’ll frequently have IPAs with spicy food, right? Because it balances out a little bit because it’s a stronger flavor, but what would you put this with? Is there food, do you think, that might make somebody who’s not a huge IPA fan, like, it balance the flavors better?
>> CHRIS: I mean, something like this, it’s a little bit harder to do than a stout or even an ale or something more medium bodied. Just because it’s so light bodied, I think you have to be careful about what you pair this with. It’s really bitter, but that bitterness isn’t backed up by full bodiedness or acidity or anything, so it has to be lighter foods. I could see this working well with a fried piece of fish or fish tacos or something. I think it could stand up to that OK without you losing it or losing the flavor of the beer or the food, but honestly, to me, when I drink this, I don’t wish that I had food to go with it, which happens sometimes.
>> STEVE: It’s getting Amber, see? It’s so bitter, it’s making her cough.
>> CHRIS: Yes. I’m leaving it in.
>> AMBER: I can’t breathe. I tried so hard. I was trying to hold in my cough because you’re recording [laughs].
>> STEVE: I’m going to chase mine with some diet Coke.
>> AMBER: I actually think it does have a decent… It’s subtle. It probably could be fruitier, but for an IPA, I do kind of get a grapefruit note from it.
>> STEVE: Yes.
>> CHRIS: Yes.
>> AMBER: So, like, the fish tacos with a grapefruit or a citrus salsa would be good.
>> CHRIS: Yes, so one of the fun things about doing this podcast with beverages is we don’t always get to just ship one of these to our homes, and so regularly, it’s, like, six packs or 12 packs that end up going, and so Steve had this whole thing to share. I think, Steve, some members of your family tried this beer before you got to try it.
>> STEVE: [laughs] Yes. Yes, my mother-in-law came in to let the dog out. We were gone, and she grabbed one, and I think she thought it was like a seltzer water or something, you know, like a sparkling water, and she took a drink and thought it was the nastiest thing she’s ever had, and she doesn’t drink beer ever, you know? [laughs]
>> AMBER: If it’s hot out, and you think it’s water, you’d probably take a really big drink.
>> STEVE: And then my father-in-law came in, like, a week later and did the same thing, and he thought it was pretty nasty too.
>> CHRIS: Yes. If I was introducing someone to beer, this is not the beer I would hand them.
>> STEVE: No.
>> CHRIS: I honestly don’t know what beer I would hand them, but I know it wouldn’t be this one.
>> STEVE: Right. Right. [laughs]
>> AMBER: Yes. Transitioning a little bit to WordCamp US. Last year, WordCamp US was in San Diego, and when we go places, I really like to try local beers, and in San Diego, it was all IPAs. Like I said, I don’t normally drink IPAs, but I tried to drink some.
>> STEVE: Yes.
>> AMBER: Because I was, like, “I want to try the local stuff.” I don’t want to drink, like, Bud Light or something, you know?
>> STEVE: Yes.
>> AMBER: But this year at WordCamp US, it was in DC, and they had, like, more ales, I noticed. It’s interesting, like, regionally, how beers happen, but I appreciated this year’s WordCamp US beverages more than last year’s. [laughs]
>> STEVE: Yes, yes, totally. Same here.
>> AMBER: Yes, so should we talk about WordCamp US?
>> STEVE: Let’s do it.
>> CHRIS: Yes. This was my first WordCamp US in many years, and also my first ever Contributor Day, so maybe we can start with Contributor Day.
>> AMBER: Yes, so it was not my first Contributor Day, but I was the table lead for the accessibility team, and it was the first time I did that. I was super nervous, but it ended up being not as scary as it sounds, so if anyone is out there thinking about leading a table during Contributor Day, you can do it. I was a little worried. I think it helped that we had some other seasoned people from the accessibility team, so what we did was sort of a divide and conquer. Joe Dolson and Alex Stine were there, and they had a table, and I was just, like, “I’m going to send all the developers there.”
So people who want to know about patching things, I don’t patch things, so I was, like, “I’ll send them there, and they’ll tell them what to do.” And then at our table, we did testing, so we had some people who were interested in coming, but they didn’t know how to test, so that was sort of fun. I showed them how to test. They were all on Mac computers, and most of them had never turned on voiceover, so we did a quick, like, “How to use voiceover” demo, which was really fun, and then we tested the new 2024 theme, because that was announced on that day, I think, or the day before, and so we did some accessibility testing on it, logged some GitHub issues. It still needs some testing, but maybe not by the time this episode comes out.
You were at the dev table, Steve. What was your thoughts on that table during Contributor Day?
>> STEVE: I thought it was good. I think it’s a little overwhelming at first, right? Like, you think you’re going to get in there and you’re going to either test a patch or create a patch and you’ll be a contributor all in one day, right? But it’s limited time. In all, I don’t know how many hours, you know, you got four or five hours in total there, right?
At our table, we had Alex Stine, and he was blasting away at testing patches and stuff, and he was actually helping me a lot getting a local environment of Gutenberg set up. I got a local environment of Core set up, which was pretty straightforward. Gutenberg was a little bit more of a challenge to get set up local.
>> AMBER: Why was that? What’s different about the environments?
>> STEVE: The documentation for Core was better than the documentation for Gutenberg.
>> AMBER: OK, so we need people to contribute to documentation.
>> STEVE: Yes, yes. Especially like on the Gutenberg is, you know, on GitHub, so maybe on that homepage, if the documentation could be updated with quick steps, the NPM commands that you need to run to get it up and running, so I leaned on Alex a little bit for some of those commands.
So I got both of those Core environments set up. I was able to run them in Tandem. I guess previously there used to be issues with running both at the same time. I don’t know if they used to run over the same port locally or not, so I got those rolled up and I started diving into Gutenberg.
Amber had suggested maybe we look at the table block, and maybe adding vertical header rows, but you’re diving…
>> AMBER: This is my dream, everyone. I want the Core table block to actually be capable of making really solid accessible tables, because one of the major problems that we come across all the time in our audits is, people don’t have row headers on their tables, and you can go listen to our episode all about tables if you want to hear more about that.
>> STEVE: Yes, totally, but you dive in the Gutenberg and you quickly realize that maybe making that change is not all that difficult, but then there’s deprecation, so the deprecation file for that block is much larger than the actual code that does it, because you have to consider backwards compatibility, so I quickly realized that a patch for that was not going to happen within a few hours, but I would consider it a success that I was able to just get familiar with the Core environment, with the Gutenberg environment. Getting them both pulled down, running in composer on my local environment, I think that’s a huge first step, and then getting on the accessibility Slack.
This morning, they had the Bug Scrub. It’s a cool name.
>> AMBER: That’s every Friday at 10 am, US Central Time.
>> STEVE: Yes, so this would be the first time that I was paying attention to that, and I was in there just kind of lurking and watching and seeing if there’s some way I can contribute or that I could provide some information to add value to the team there, so if you’re thinking about getting involved in contributing, I think it’s, you know, baby steps to get there, and, you know, there was one ticket that was raised this morning that I think I might be able to look at and contribute some time to, if I have free time, but it’s always hard when you’re working on your own services and products, but yes.
>> AMBER: Yes. You and I had an episode a while ago with Joe Dolson where he came on and he talked about contributing to WordPress. I think it’s hard finding that balance, but at some point, if you just sort of say, “I’m going to do this. I think this is important. I’m just going to make time for it,” I mean, that’s a little bit like the way it is for us with the meetup. We talked for a while about running WordPress Accessibility Meetup, and then we didn’t ever take any action, because it felt like, you know, where are we going to squeeze out the time?
>> STEVE: Yes.
>> AMBER: And then we finally were, like, “Rip off the band aid.” Podcast was the same way, right?
>> CHRIS: Yes. It’s just like, “Just do it.”
>> AMBER: We’re just going to say, “This is when we’re going to start. This is how we’re going to do it. We’re just going to set a deadline and we’re going to figure it out, and we’re going to do it then.”
>> STEVE: Yes, and it doesn’t always monetarily make sense, right? But I think there’s a bigger purpose here, right? Like, we’re trying to give back to the community the best we can.
>> AMBER: Well, and I mean, when it comes to contributing to accessibility in WordPress, it flies with our mission. You know, we’re a certified B Corp. We’re not always 100 about profits, right? We’re trying to also do good things in the world, and make a difference for people, and I do think if we can improve the accessibility in the software itself, think about how many people use that software and how many people we can impact.
>> STEVE: Yes.
>> AMBER: So anyone who’s listening and they want to get interested, it’s not scary if you want to get involved. Maybe it takes a few steps to get set up.
>> CHRIS: It’s a little scary, but the scary part is how quickly I got editor access to the WordPress docs website.
>> AMBER: Oh, yes, so, Chris, you were at the documentation table.
>> CHRIS: Yes.
>> AMBER: How was that?
>> CHRIS: It was good, and shout out to Drew Janes [phonetic], who encouraged me to do that instead of the “WordPress.tv” team. I enjoyed myself over there on the docs team. Like Steve kind of alluded to, right? There’s the ramp up time if you’re not an experienced contributor, just getting in all the systems, figuring out what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed to do it, and getting everything set up, but now I’m all set up, and I’m in the docs Slack, and I’m getting pinged about it, right? And so now I’m that much more likely to, when I have some downtime, go back and be, like, “Hey, is there a docs issue I can go fix?” But my goal was just, can I identify one documentation issue that I feel like I am qualified to go fix? And I found one, and I did, and my paranoid brain has me checking GitHub every three days, where my comment is still lingering, and the issue is still open, and nobody in charge of docs has yet reviewed my contribution, which is already live, but I keep going back and checking to make sure nobody hates what I did or is yelling at me, but so far, fingers crossed, that has not manifested.
Although, this kind of brings us back to some conversations with Joe Dolson in getting the accessibility team more ingrained, like the docs team is. When I went in to the open issue that I decided to tackle in docs, and this is, like, every issue on the docs team, at the very top, there is a list of, basically, I think they’re issues or pull requests. I think it might be pull requests in GitHub, in WordPress Core or wherever, right? Whatever’s being documented or Gutenberg, and you can go read all of those patch notes, and they include screenshots, exactly what was changed about whatever they were modifying in their pull request, and then you basically could cross-reference what was changed with what’s in the current documentation, and you just make sure that the documentation doesn’t need to change.
So I had to update a bunch of stuff with the one I selected, and basically, it was a partial rewrite, with brand new screenshots for everything because of how the particular block changed, but my understanding is the accessibility team doesn’t have anything like that. They don’t have, on their issues or in their section of GitHub, however that works, right? They don’t have… Nobody, I guess, raises issues like they do with the docs team, where it’s, like, “Hey, we have these pull requests that may have a front-end or back-end accessibility impact, someone from the accessibility team needs to review these.” It seems like the accessibility team is just sometimes approached in an ad hoc way, like, “Hey, we should probably call them in for this.” And it would be much nicer if there could be kind of that level of connection where it’s connected to individual pull requests, and that was something I was talking to Joe about. Please weigh in, because I’m brand new contributor to WordPress.
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>> AMBER: Yes. None of us were at Community Summit, but I got some secondhand information about Community Summit, and I do know that was one of the discussion topics, which was, how can other teams think about accessibility and bring accessibility in more easily. With the docs team, the way that works is, some of the docs actually, like, sync off of GitHub, so you submit a PR, and then it goes. That’s how it pulls it onto the website, so I think that operates a little differently.
Accessibility team, really, it’s… Well, there’s Trac, which is WordPress Core, and then there’s GitHub, which is Gutenberg, and, like, the 2024 theme is on GitHub, and there’s some other stuff there, but really it’s hashtags or tags. I don’t know why I said hashtags, but like tags, right? So we’re tagging issues as accessibility, but I do think sometimes maybe there’s not as much of getting accessibility earlier in the process.
I had mentioned that we did some testing on 2024, and one of the things that came up on that theme.., and there were a few issues that we opened, like, they have the site title set to an h1, so the h1 on every page would be the name of the site, not the title of the page, and the title of the page is the h2, so that’s not really like that happened in dev.
Although the design has a lot of these asterisks that they’re using just as decorative accents, and some of them are quite large. It’s an asterisk in 250 pixel font, but it’s literally just typed in a paragraph block, and then they’ve used CSS to position it or they’ve made it light gray, so you can barely see it, but a screen reader going through that page, it’s, like, “asterisks,” reading out the content. “Asterisks,” reading out the content, and that’s an interesting thing, because they make Figma files for the designs, for the themes, and I’m guessing they didn’t think to ask anyone on the accessibility team before they built it out, “Hey, would you go look at the designs for 2024 and give us feedback either on how we should achieve this, or if there’s an accessibility problem in the design.” One of the things that I noted is links are not underlined in 2024.
Now the challenge is, of course, there have been conversations, well, should accessibility team just be in all the Slacks? But there’s a lot of different channels for a lot of different teams, and to put that on the small handful of people who are really active contributors to accessibility, which is not a lot… I mean, really, I want to say like four or five. It’s a small number … To have to monitor everything that every other team is doing, that’s really challenging, and so I think there needs to be more of this other teams maybe thinking of accessibility and being, like, “Even if I don’t know about accessibility, I should proactively come out and outreach to the accessibility team.”
>> CHRIS: Well, that was one thing that I don’t know if this was Joe’s idea or my idea or just something that came out of conversation in general, but we were talking about this problem just over lunch during WordCamp US, and we were talking about the idea of having an accessibility liaison on every major WordPress contributor team, so someone who can champion accessibility that’s embedded with that team, so they’re on that team. They’re not on the accessibility team, but there’s someone who cares about accessibility, and can be kind of a point person to help advocate for the right timing to pull the accessibility team and/or raise things for the accessibility team as possible areas to investigate or issues to help solve.
>> STEVE: Yes. Again, that’s probably difficult, given the amount of teams and the amount of people, right?
>> CHRIS: Yes. No, it’s all organized chaos, now that I’ve seen it much more up close.
>> STEVE: That’s a good way to put it.
>> AMBER: You know, I do want to say, though, something that really stood out to me.., so last year, Steve and I went to WordCamp US, and I spoke and did a workshop with Alex Stine, and there were a couple of other accessibility talks. I feel like just the overall accessibility vibe at WordCamp US this year was significantly increased or higher. I don’t know what that is, and maybe I could be wrong. I haven’t, you know, cross referenced the schedules, but I feel like a greater percentage of the talks were accessibility talks this year than there were last year. I think the fact that NASA was the keynote, and they talked about accessibility, that helped, because a lot of people went to the NASA keynote because it’s a big name, right? And so people who might not attend an accessibility talk went to that, and they got to hear a little bit about some accessibility. They touched on it at multiple points throughout their presentation, which I thought was nice.
I just felt like the conversations I was having with people, I wasn’t hearing as much of, “Well, what do you mean, you do accessibility?” I think more people seem to know what accessibility was.
>> STEVE: Yes, totally. There was one talk in particular that was really good. It was, an anatomy of an accessible navigation menu.
>> AMBER: [laughs] I was going to be, like, “Are you about to say your own talk, Steve?”
Toot my own horn. No, no.
>> AMBER: How do you feel about talking on stage at WordCamp US? Like, that was a big room. When I talked last year, well, first of all, the event was way smaller last year because of COVID, but also, they had me stuck in some side room that was small, and so it’s not as nerve wracking, but you were in one of the biggest rooms.
>> STEVE: Yes, yes, so I’m a musician. I’ve played on lots of stages, and actually, the bigger the stage, the better. You’re more disconnected from the audience the bigger the stage, right? And they had…
>> AMBER: But when you play, do you have light shining on you, and it’s dark, so you can’t actually see people’s faces?
>> STEVE: That was exactly what it was at WordCamp US. They had this floodlight.
>> AMBER: Oh, really?
>> STEVE: Yes, because they were filming it for YouTube. We can put a link in the show notes to the talk, and the other talks. They’ve broken them up into individual YouTube videos, but yes, they had big old floodlights on to light you for the YouTube live stream, and the room was so huge that people were so spread out.
I should have done the church thing, where it’s, like, “Everybody move forward,” [laughs] you know, like, nobody wants to sit in the front pew, you know?
>> AMBER: Well, I sat in the front. I was, like, going to make faces at you, but then I decided to be nice.
>> STEVE: No, it’s always nice to have Amber in the front row of your talk, because you may need an assist, and I think you only gave me one assist, but.
>> AMBER: Oh, yes, I only said one thing in the middle of the Q&A.
>> CHRIS: I think it was, like, spelling out a link or something that was on a slide.
>> AMBER: Oh, yes. I, like, mouthed to him, “Read the link to your…” Because you had a Bitly link or something to your code.
>> STEVE: Yes, Yes, totally.
>> AMBER: And you just showed it. Kevin from Georgetown was there. He’s, like, the IT director or something at Georgetown University, and he’s blind, and I was like, “Oh, Kevin might want to know where to get the code too.”
>> STEVE: Yes, yes, totally.
>> AMBER: I feel like there’s this whole art to giving accessible presentations, and maybe that should be a podcast episode in the future.
>> STEVE: Yes, yes, totally, and I think a big takeaway and some of the feedback that I got from my talk was that, I think anytime you give an accessibility talk and you use a screen reader, it opens people’s eyes. I got a lot of feedback, like, “What are you using for the screen reader?” “How do you get your computer to do that?” And I think anytime you can integrate that into an accessibility talk, it just opens people’s eyes, like, “Oh, that’s how somebody that can’t see uses a website.” And I mean, the same as yours and Alex’s talk last year, Amber. I mean, that was the same thing, except for it’s a lot cooler to see Alex do it, because he can do it in super-fast motion. He does it so fast. I have no idea what the screen reader is saying, but he can interpret it. It’s like speed reading, right? Speed lit.
>> AMBER: Yes, he’s probably got it on like 4x speed or something.
>> STEVE: I know. I know.
>> AMBER: I asked him about the YouTube videos or the podcast episodes with the meetup recordings and stuff, and he said even sometimes when he puts YouTube speed as high as YouTube will go, he thinks it’s too slow.
>> STEVE: Really? Wow. It’s definitely like a superpower, you know?
>> AMBER: Yes. I will say, like, as I’ve played around with screen readers a little more, I’ve been able to get, I mean, nowhere near what he does, right? But when I first started using it, I feel like I had it set at like 40% or 50%, and it was very similar to someone talking, and now I get it to go faster because I’m like, “I want to test faster.” And I get used to hearing it.
>> STEVE: Yes, and you can almost anticipate what it’s going to say. You hear the first few words, you’re, like, “No, I don’t need that tab.” And in my talk, you may have noticed that there was a couple of times where I was running the screen reader, and I’m tabbing through the page, and I’m, like, in my head, I know what this is. I don’t need to hear it, right? But then I was, like, I need to stop and wait and let it read everything out for the audience to kind of understand what’s going on.
>> AMBER: Yes, so on the WordCamp note, one of the other things that I thought was improved this year.., and I’ve had a few chats with people about comparing last year to this year. Last year, there were some challenges, and people may or may not remember, Michelle Frechette [phonetic] wrote a post afterwards about her experience with lack of accessibility at the venue. Last year, she got trapped inside a bathroom because they didn’t have a way for her to open it. Well, she was in her mobility scooter, and they didn’t have an accessible hotel room for her, so she wasn’t able to shower, so after that happened, there was a lot of work that went out in the WordPress community and they drafted guidelines for in-person organizers to talk about what they should look for in venues. Like having ramps to get on stage, like, don’t assume that everyone can walk upstairs to get on a stage, and things about doors and hotel rooms, and that kind of stuff, and I did hear some more generally positive about this current venue, that it seemed more accessible.
Another thing that I appreciated both last year and this year was, there were volunteers who volunteered to be Alex’s guide for the day, and Connor, I’m going to give a shout out to Connor. I don’t remember Connor’s last name, but he did it both last year and this year during WordCamp US, and he helped Alex get around, which I think is really nice. Of course, during parties and stuff, he hung with his friends and we all helped him do that as well, but I feel like there has been some positive movement towards making WordCamps themselves more accessible. They always have, and for a long time, they’ve had live captions. I think they even had captions back when we went to WordCamp US in, like, 2015, I want to say, but I do appreciate that, and it seems like there’s been more improvement along that line.
>> CHRIS: Yes. I finally did get my Michelle and me selfie during kind of the beginning party before the event, and she and I had a short conversation, and that post that you mentioned came up, and I don’t want to put words in Michelle’s mouth or anything, but it seemed to me like she had a more positive experience this time than she did previously, so kudos to the organizers of this year’s event for trying to do better.
>> STEVE: Yes. The hotel was massive. It was just huge, so that probably lent itself to, you know, some more… The place last year was real tight. Everything was real close.
>> AMBER: And last year, it was almost like a vintage-y style motel, so maybe it was built like pre… Like the doorways weren’t as wide or like that kind of stuff, but I did notice, or I did note that this is the first WordCamp US in a long time where they haven’t announced where the next one is going to be, and didn’t Matt say something? What did he say, Steve, do you remember, when they were doing the future of WordPress talk in the end?
>> STEVE: He said something about the venue, you know, and he said something, like, “If we come back.” It was like a statement like that, and they didn’t announce, so I’m assuming they’re probably considering other places. I’m not sure why, but the vendor hall was so far away from all the talks.
>> AMBER: I think that might be what it was, to be honest. The other thing that always comes up, and this is tangentially related to accessibility, is the price, so our team got an Airbnb, and the price of our Airbnb with a house with three bedrooms, where everyone had their own bathroom, nobody even had to share a bathroom, was the same price as one room at that hotel, which was why, you know, we did… Also, we had a kitchen. It was kind of nice having more space, but I have heard people say that can be challenging for some attendees, especially, you know, they don’t pay speakers. They don’t pay organizers. Everyone is doing it voluntarily. Everyone’s volunteering their time, which is wonderful to support the project and all of that, but when you have it in a really expensive city, that can sometimes stop people from being able to attend.
>> STEVE: Yes.
>> CHRIS: Yes. That actually reminds me of a conversation that I had this week from someone who I don’t want to give him away, but he’s very high up in IT in a very large and well-known government organization, and he came to WordCamp US, and he was telling me privately in a call that he kind of left the event feeling disappointed. The reason that he left the event feeling disappointed is, he was going to the event hoping to get just piles of education on how to do cool shit with WordPress, just like back to back for hours on end, right? Just tons of education, and he said, to him, it felt way more like a social and networking event, and so he was asking me, he was, like, “Chris, is this how it normally is?” And my first response was, “Well, I’m not the right person to ask because I’ve been to two of these in the last seven years, or however long it’s been.” Yes, like, seven years, but I don’t know. What do you all think about that? I didn’t look at a lot of the talk titles. I mean, I was literally there to do what he said he was disappointed was happening, which was networking and meeting people.
>> AMBER: Yes. OK. We can give a little, we did sponsor WordCamp US, so we did not attend many talks. I went to some accessibility talks because I’m interested in the accessibility talks. I like listening to them. I went to Gen Herres’ accessibility talk. I went to Daniel Zakara’s [phonetic] talk.
>> STEVE: Steve’s.
>> AMBER: I went to Steve’s, of course, and then we were at the NASA stuff because we needed to be at the NASA stuff. Did he go to talks the entire time? Or did he just notice that a lot of people weren’t going to talk?
>> CHRIS: I didn’t dig into it too much because it wasn’t really the driving focus of the call, but I wanted to pass that along, just in case someone in the WordCamp organizer planning sphere, which I mean, frankly, we are because we run a meetup and we’ve helped run events, right? But like, that was someone who is incredibly influential in a very high place in government, who left the event disappointed because he didn’t get the information that he would have found valuable, and I think what’s interesting to think about from that perspective is, when planning future WordCamps, how do we make WordCamp as valuable as it possibly can be, not just for the people who are already embedded in the community and want to network and want to, you know, promote what they’re doing and promote the things that they care about, but also the people who are just coming in, who are just becoming interested in WordPress as a CMS, whether they’re young, old, high influence, low influence, like, making that a valuable event for them.
I didn’t go read the full list of talks that were available, so I can’t speak to this really intelligently in any sense. Like, I don’t know. Maybe there were a bunch of really educational intro to WordPress how-to talks that he just straight up missed. I’m not sure.
>> AMBER: But maybe he also wasn’t looking for intro talks.
>> STEVE: Yes. I can speak to this a little bit because I’ve experienced a little bit of the same, and I think what happens is, you know, you said he’s high up in IT, right? So in my head, he’s technical. I think a lot of time at WordPress events like this, the talks are not very technical.
>> CHRIS: Well, yours was.
>> STEVE: Mine was, but I will say that a lot of technical people, developers, are not very good speakers, right? And a lot of people that are very good speakers, a lot of times, are not technical, so you can end up with people that are just very good at giving speeches and very good at writing, you know, submitting talks that are appealing that aren’t going to go technical. They didn’t necessarily have a developer track, right? This year? No.
>> AMBER: No. I’m looking at the schedule right now, and that’s what I’ve been at once before where they said, “This is a business track.” “This is a developer track.” “This is the marketing track,” or something like that.
>> STEVE: Plus, the format doesn’t always lend itself to technical talks. You got 40 minutes, you know, like, maybe less, 35 minutes with 10 minutes of Q&A, so you don’t really have a lot of time to go super deep.
There were a lot of accessibility talks at WordCamp US this year, and I think a lot of them touched on it. A lot of them come and it took, like, from a design angle. There were different angles. I tried to be the one that was the technical angle, so I think that accessibility itself was kind of hit on a lot of levels, but yes, it’s hard, and I think sometimes at those events, it is about like community and networking, and I think as an attendee, sometimes you got to search out those little points of inspiration. You have to think like, “If there’s, like, one thing from each talk that I can take away and that inspires me to do a little something more, maybe it’s on the technical side.” But yes, it’s hard to get like a real in-depth technical primer on anything within that short time frame, and like I said, developers don’t speak very well, and developers don’t want to get on a stage a lot of time and talk about their code.
>> AMBER: So what I will say, and this is maybe something that we should probably go put feedback in the WordCamp US Slack channel and tell them, but thinking about that, what he said, and then thinking about some of the other conferences that we go to, because we go to conferences outside of WordPress, some of which are tangentially WordPress related, like WP Campus, and some of which are accessibility, so like AccessU, and I will say, I think what the challenge is with a WordCamp.., and this was a big event. It had over 2000 registrants, I think. They’re trying to provide content for a lot of different people with a lot of different objectives and a lot of different skill sets, and because they’re also the WordPress Foundation, the Community Foundation wants it to be available to everyone. It’s like $25 a day maximum price that you can charge to attendees, which is wonderful, but I do think that it can sometimes, like, it maybe brings in people who are just getting started, and so as a result, you need to have more of that beginner-level content.
When I compare that to some of these other more focused… Like, WPCampus is all about WordPress in Higher Ed, so it is very tight on WordPress, and very tight on a very specific industry, and the first day of the event, they do all-day workshops.
I led one just on how to test, and instead of doing a 40-minute, like, “Can I really tell you how to test something,” I had five hours? I think it was five hours, and so we could really go in, and there was time for people to actually do something effective.
At AccessU, their shortest talks are 90 minutes long, some of them are much longer, and they’re all accessibility related, so it’s very targeted, and so I think, you know, maybe the thought for somebody who is more advanced like that is that, “Yes, I’m not sure if a WordCamp is the best place to go.” But perhaps that’s also a problem with WordCamp, and the fact that we’re just making city-based WordCamps or geographic-based WordCamps instead of, like, “This is the accessibility WordCamp.” Or, “This is the enterprise WordCamp, and it’s national, and people come from everywhere, but all we’re going to do is talk about enterprise at this WordCamp.” And that was a big thing with our meetup. I had to go through a whole process to get them to approve us having the accessibility meetup, because that’s a topic-based meetup, and until I submitted that request to get it approved in the official meetup program, they had always said you can only have city-based meetups. You cannot have topic-based meetups.
So I think the challenge with that then is you don’t build a community around a topic, and so where are you going to get a whole conference around a topic? You’re not, right? At least not within the official WordCamp sphere, but that could be interesting, right? Like, you know, WordCamp for government or WP government, like there’s WP Campus, but is that going to be part of the official WordPress? I don’t know. It might not, somebody has to get motivated.
Like Rachel Cherry [phonetic], she got really interested and she started WP Campus, and she made it what it is now, so yes, I don’t know. That’s hard, but that’s what I think. I think that’s the difference.
>> CHRIS: Yes. That was a way more comprehensive answer than I was expecting. Thank you, Amber.
>> AMBER: I’ve actually thought about this a little bit because of just like the content and that stuff, and it is interesting, you know, like, we go, and we hardly go to talks. We’re there to socialize, network. We’d planned meetings in advance, but we also went to like WordPress VIP, had a panel discussion, and a whole separate event that they scheduled next to. It was like a public sector event, and it was adjacent to or right before WordCamp, because everybody was going to be there in DC, but it was not a WordCamp event, and so I kind of feel like that’s the one thing about the community, which is it’s always going to have to be more broad, and so if you want something more targeted, you sort of have to start it? And that’s maybe the downside of open source. It’s only as good as you make it.
>> STEVE: Yes, yes, totally, so you mentioned we sponsored the event, right? So what are your guys’ observations or experience in sponsoring?
>> CHRIS: I left Washington, D.C. very, very happy, and I don’t know if that is solely the credit of the WordCamp US organizer team. I’m not trying to denigrate what they did, because obviously they put on a successful event. I do wish the sponsor hall had been closer to where everything was happening. That’s probably my one piece of feedback for them, but I feel like we had kind of a confluence of many different things that all lent themselves to accessibility being topical, our company and our tooling being mentioned, and then we had dedicated space and dedicated meetings happening around the clock for two days straight, and so for me, from a sales perspective, I got home, and you all saw the screenshot I posted in our private company chat room. It was like 20 or 30 inquiries were in on Monday, and I’ve been getting two to three a day every single day since the event, and it’s incredible.
>> AMBER: So people can get our free plugin off “WordPress.org,” but they can also get it off our website, and if you get it off our website, we give it to you with easy digital downloads, which is the same way we sell the pro plugin, and then we have a Zapier integration that sends just, like, “Oh, someone got a free thing” or “Someone bought something,” just so our team can see it, where we’re hanging out. That it’s open for [inaudible].
>> STEVE: It’s a dopamine hit, right? Dopamine?
>> AMBER: Yes, it is a dopamine hit, and I will say, both free opt ins and purchases, like the cadence, was up quite a bit during WordCamp US than it was, you know, like on an off week where we’re not doing something like that?
>> STEVE: Yes.
>> AMBER: I do think, you know, maybe some of the some of the messaging I got, like email communication could have been slightly improved, but I felt like they did what they needed to do.
One of our team members, Belinda, was on the sponsor team, so, you know, if I had a question, I would always just ask him at Basecamp. [laughs] “Hey, Belinda, do you know about this?”
>> CHRIS: And to their team’s credit, I had multiple organizers checking in with me multiple times per day, like at our booth or just in the hallway, just being like, “Hey, how’s it going?” “Do you need anything?” So I think I think they did a very good job.
Also, shout out to the Gaylord Nationals kitchen team. From a former chef, all the food was very good both days, and I’ve definitely had way worse food at WordCamp, and this one was a standout for me.
>> AMBER: Well, I liked that a lot of the stuff was kind of like build-your-own. Like, they’d have salads, but it was almost like a salad bar, I guess, which is nice because then people can pick what they want and leave off what they don’t.
>> STEVE: Yes. It was a little fancy. I’m the kind of guy that’s OK with the Chick-fil-A box, right? [laughs]
>> AMBER: Yes. Well, so let’s tinge it for a minute, because we definitely took you out of your comfort zone with the restaurant. [laughs]
>> STEVE: Oh, man. Yes.
>> AMBER: But it ended up being good, right?
>> STEVE: Yes. I mean, I’m about as versed in fancy restaurants as I am in craft beers. [laughs]
>> AMBER: Well, what do you like better? Chicken at the really fancy traditional Italian restaurant, or Chillin’ Cold IPA?
>> STEVE: I’ll take the chicken.
No, no, it’s good. I think that if you have a professional chef at your side when you go to these restaurants, such as Chris, I think that’s definitely beneficial.
>> AMBER: Oh, I still sometimes. I’m, like, looking at the menu, having a hard time. I’m, like, “Chris, what should I order?” [laughs]
>> STEVE: Yes. Oh, really? Yes. I think my favorite part about that Italian restaurant… I forget the name of it. We could shout it out.
>> CHRIS: Officina, in Washington, D.C.
>> STEVE: Yes.
>> CHRIS: Very, very good.
>> AMBER: And the chef formerly worked at a Michelin star restaurant, so that’s the level of restaurants it is.
>> STEVE: Yes. I got probably the most tame thing on the menu I probably could get, for somebody that’s not versed in super fancy restaurants, and I couldn’t really understand anything on the menu.
>> AMBER: It was all in Italian.
>> STEVE: Yes, but I enjoyed Chris helping me pair, you know, the wine with the meal, and, like, kind of thinking about that, you know, as I’m eating and sipping the wine, thinking how they go together and stuff. It’s kind of a new thing for me. I liked it. It was fun. I had a Chardonnay, right?
>> CHRIS: Yes, you had a Chardonnay. I remember it was like a chicken dish. I had octopus.
>> STEVE: Yes. Yes.
>> AMBER: We can just say he had something that came out. It wasn’t even sliced. It was just a tentacle laying on his plate, everyone. The rest of us at the table were just like, “Oh.” I mean, I guess I had stuff piled on top of it.
>> STEVE: Yes, he was brave. I mean, I’m not one to take pictures of food, right? But I had to take a picture of that to show my family, and they were all thoroughly disgusted.
>> AMBER: None of them wanted to go there and try octopus?
>> STEVE: No, but it’s good to push outside your comfort zone. I appreciate you guys helping me do that.
>> CHRIS: Yes.
>> AMBER: Yes.
>> CHRIS: Well, it’s fun to get together as a team, too, in person. I think that’s the other part that made WordCamp US special for me in particular. Amber and Steve, I know you all have been together in person a couple times this year, but for me, it had been literal years.
Also, shout out to our marketing person, Paula, who also came to the event and held down our booth for two full days while we all ran around and had meetings and did talks. She was instrumental. She also brought us rum from the Dominican Republic, where she’s from, which was fun, and I managed to…
>> AMBER: And dark chocolate.
>> CHRIS: And dark chocolate. Single origin dark chocolate that was made in the Dominican Republic, so that was really special and nice of her to bring, but all in all, it was a great event. I don’t know that there is much that I would have changed about it.
>> AMBER: Yes, I think of all of my WordCamps and WordCamp USs, that was my favorite one.
>> STEVE: Yes.
>> AMBER: There’s just a lot about it that was really wonderful. The Smithsonian was where the after party was.
>> STEVE: Yes, that was excellent.
>> AMBER: I super liked that. It was non-alcoholic, which I thought was wonderful. I think, Chris, you might have spent more time networking, but we got there, and I was a little bit like, “I’m going to look at exhibits.” So I just walked around with Joe Dolson. [laughs] He and I just looked at stuff, and we mostly didn’t talk business, and then every once in a while, someone would come up to us and they’d talk to us about accessibility for a little bit, and then we’d be, like, “Why are we talking about accessibility? Let’s keep walking.” [laughs] And then we would talk about animals again. [laughs] It was cool.
>> STEVE: It was refreshing not to be stuck in a loud, noisy bar with everybody back to back. Everybody could spread out. That was probably the best after party I’ve ever been to. Or that’s probably the best event I’ve ever been to.
>> AMBER: They did that in Philadelphia too. The WordCamp US in Philadelphia, the one that Chris spoke at, that one was also in a museum of some sort. It was like a history museum, kind of like that, but I don’t remember what it’s called. That was fun. They did have alcohol, though, and so there were still just some people who were drinking a lot. I just enjoyed that it was just more casual, and they had quite tasty desserts, and I like desserts, so.
>> STEVE: Yes, yes. Yes, they did.
>> AMBER: So I think we’ve maybe successfully talked about WordCamp US, and we’re not so sure about the drink, but WordCamp US gets major props from us, so anybody want to say anything before we sign off?
>> STEVE: The drink’s a little bitter, but WordCamp US went down smooth.
>> CHRIS: Nice.
That’s our closer. All right. See you all later. Bye.
>> AMBER: All right, bye.
>> CHRIS: Thanks for listening to “Accessibility Craft.” If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe in your podcast app to get notified when future episodes release. You can find Accessibility Craft on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and more, and if building accessibility awareness is important to you, please consider rating “Accessibility Craft” five stars on Apple Podcasts.
Accessibility Craft is produced by Equalize Digital and hosted by Amber Hinds, Chris Hinds, and Steve Jones. Steve Jones composed our theme music.
Learn how we help make thousands of WordPress websites more accessible at “EqualizeDigital.com.”