Since early 2013, I have started taking part in WordPress meetups. My initial goal or motivation was to create a group that met once a month or so – and create a common newsletter or forum where people could connect.
Basically I wanted to connect with WordPress fans in Mumbai with each other on some sort of platform and on a regular basis. I did not really find something like this online. Thankfully a good friend Alexander, had similar ideas and started working on building a meetup group along with a Facebook group. I decided it was a good idea and was on board.
Over the next year, we had many WordPress meetups, we even ended up applying for a WordCamp in Mumbai.
In this post I am semi-conversing with myself. It is also a call out to WordPress fans in Mumbai to get more involved.
More of that at the end of this post.
Now some numbers
Our meetup.com group has over 330 members.
I must have met atleast a 100 developers or designers using WordPress show up at our meetups over the last couple of years.
I probably have meet several more who might be experts by now but were just starting out using WordPress.
This is from my personal experiances with Meetups in Mumbai, I have missed more than a couple of meetups over the last year alone.
Yes, we are doing a lot of things right! One of them is transparency and being open about disagreements and enjoying debates and differing points of views.
While I can feel happy about really connecting with the local Mumbai based local community but some of these numbers need some perspective.
We might have 330 members in our meetup group – but we usually end up having meetups with 10 to 20 people showing up every time we have one.
WordPress is used by 22% of the web! Let’s say (and I am coming up with some terribly conservative number here I think) Mumbai has over 40,000 websites owners. 22 % of them are probably using WordPress if not more.
So now rounding it up to 20% of 40,000 users (discounting people who are using WordPress.com to blog but I guess they also count for several hundreds if not thousands)
So now a safer number we have is 8000. We are nowhere close to even having 10% (800) register on our meetup.com website.
So since we do this in the name of a open-source community, are we really having a good idea about what the community is like? What it exactly wants?
Are we even reaching out to the proverbial vocal minority which keeps a community alive and well? Possibly not always and lets be honest, everything is work in progress.
So how will things move forward? A lot of that will have to do with what a local community should be like in the first place? What should it stand for, what should it’s priorities be and more.
Dictatorships vs Democracies
Dictatorships work at times in developer communities. I have seen open-source leaders behave like dictators when it comes to deciding what the way forward is for certain open source software.
Some of these communities disintegrate with internal fights and some really survive for a long time. Some disintegrate when the dictator simply is no longer interested in the project. But things are really facilitated and organised when dictators, especially the benevolent kinds take care of open-source projects. Code backed by idealism often do great things.
But Dictatorships of open-source development projects cannot be replicated with communities that meets to discuss or learn about a software and not necessarily develop it or decide its future course of action.
Also WordPress is not about just code. It is about writing, designing, photography, enterprise and a lot much more. This is why the community cannot be dictated to. It is anarchist at its core, pulling its interests, values and ideas in different directions – so no template, no set of rules and hierarchy can really work.
So a WordPress community should be democratic.
But Democracy is tricky!
We think of elections in democracy – which is fundamentally a way to allow people to elect / select or nominate people who lead but maybe not really facilitate things. Also leaders end up consolidating their hold over what the community does and does not do. This democratic setup is actually more technical and really not an answer. The preamble should not be technical but more philosophical.
The idea of a vocal minority that does awesome things in a community. I have been to job fairs where literally thousands of young college going kids did not know about WordPress – did not have an idea about open-web for that matter. I think a great WordPress community would be one that manages to facilitate people to learn WordPress – become awesome designers, developers, writers, get jobs, create jobs and more.
I am a WordCamp co-organiser in Mumbai. Volunteer would be better term in my opinion but I won’t waste time over technicalities of events. A lot of very good people are involved with WordCamp Mumbai. Some are volunteering, some are speakers.
If you are coming over to attend WordCamp Mumbai this weekend meet anyone of from list of organisers.
Meet anyone of these speakers and talk about how we can do more in Mumbai in 2015.
Talk about this openly, find some commons and then maybe together can be part of 3000 instead of 300.
Notice that I have not really answered the question I ask in the title of this post. This is because it is a call to get involved and discuss, find answers, agree on common ground and move ahead.
PS – If you cannot make it to WordCamp Mumbai to discuss these things – make sure to leave comments. Or check out some of these links to attend a meetup or workshop.