The WordPress community is often fraught with confusion. What's the relation between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? Does Automattic own the WordPress software? What about the trademark on the name? How is the WordPress Foundation related to everything else? Do we have to use a capital P?
Some of the confusion is innocuous enough. Knowing whether or not to use a capital P won't end your career in the industry. Misunderstanding which WordPress-related support forum you should use to ask a question will have you referred to the correct location in a friendly manner.
Some confusion, though, can be rather damaging.
Knowing how to promote a product or business without violating the "only promote open source" rule of the WordPress community is a tricky slope for many. I've seen speakers have videos pulled from WordPress.tv because of casual mention of a non-GPL marketplace. Some mistakes can be costly.
When it comes to the WordCamp community, there are little things more confusing than WordCamp San Francisco.
Before I professionally joined the WordPress world, I looked at WordCamp SF as the end-all be-all of WordCamp experiences. It was the "official" conference of the community. If you spoke there once that resume point carried far more value than speaking at any other (or any combination of) regional WordCamp.
Unfortunately, I missed WordCamp SF for several years due to other obligations. When I finally did make it to the conference, I was under the impression things had changed.
WordCamps, as a whole, were scaling back. Gone were the days of large, summit-level events located around the globe. Instead, WordCamps were meant to be organized by and for a local community and should encourage a minimum of travel, both by organizers and speakers.[ref]According to WordCamp guidelines, 80% of your speakers should be local. WordCamp SF often ignores this rule, and they're the one and only exception to it.[/ref]
These changes made all WordCamps, including WordCamp SF, seem a little less grand in my mind.[ref]I came from a world where tech conferences cost $400 or more per person and almost universally required travel to attend. $20 WordCamps present a far different expectation, and just calling WordCamp SF a "WordCamp" lumps it into the same boat regardless its final cost.[/ref] People still traveled from all over the world to attend, but the emphasis on WordCamps[ref]In general, not WordCamp SF itself.[/ref] being "local conferences for the local community" was not lost on me.
This is why I was so surprised to see a particular question on a WordCamp quiz the other day.
It reminds us that WordCamp SF is not a local WordCamp. It stands alone as the "official annual conference of the WordPress project" itself, necessarily dwarfing all of the other conferences.
Should local events compete with the scale and scope of WordCamp SF? If so, what does that mean for SF as the "official" community conference? If not, then why does WordCamp San Francisco carry no additional branding or distinction setting it apart from other WordCamps?
From an outsider looking in, the only difference between a WordCamp in SF and a WordCamp in Portland is the location. From a sponsor's perspective, from a new attendee's perspective, from a new speaker's perspective they're the same. But the "official" status of SF changes all of that for those of us who've been in the community a bit longer.
Does WordCamp SF have this right in the first place? If so, why and why are we, as the WordPress/WordCamp community, comfortable with that position?
In a community steeped in so much confusion about the names, duties, and roles of various players, why are we still confusing the conference issue when it comes to WordCamp SF?