Update: One of the hosts of this year’s WordCamp Toronto has replied in the comments below.

There are a lot of uses for a blog.  I like to use mine to post new ideas for projects, or to discuss/propose controversial issues.  But today I’m going to use it for the other purpose: venting.

WordCamp Toronto may or may not be coming up soon.  I have been a pretty avid attendee here in Toronto.  I spoke at the conference in 2009 and got hooked.  I attended in 2010, and was hopeful to attend again in 2011.  So in February or March the site went up for WordCamp 2011 and the first thing I looked at were the cost of the tickets and the venue to make sure it’s not in the middle of nowhere.  The tickets were a little high ($35 for early birds and $55 for not), but more strangely the venue wasn’t printed in big bold letters on the home page like I would expect.

After some digging I found they had not yet chosen a venue and were waiting to see how many attendees there would be.  Fine, that’s reasonable if I think through it.  Cutting it close, but these people have likely not run a conference before (the WordCamp Toronto conferences I have been to in the last three years have been run by as many different people and organizations).  So I dutifully paid my $35 to let them know at least one more person would be in attendance.

And then… they redesigned their site and it was sexy and edgy and fun.  And it still didn’t have the venue information on the home page.  But, wait!  There was a Venue section on the site!  Hope!  Joy!

It linked here.  You could win a ticket by guessing the mystery location!  Wait… what?  Your only clue is “It’s in the city of Toronto.”  Recent population data says that 2.7 million people live here.  Needless to say it’s not a small city and there are tens of thousands of possible venues.


I am all for promotion and I get that this is probably being put together by amateurs, but this is crossing the line.  Not only is there no venue, there is a page that reads to me like a desperate attempt to crowd source venues that almost never gets updated, and a contest to guess where it might be.  Plus there’s no shortage of misinformation on Twitter about what’s happening now and their registration page is down (that I pray to god isn’t true given their no refund policy — good thing PayPal does charge backs!).

This kind of silly game dilutes the value of WordCamp as an event and a brand.  I am fortunate enough to live in Toronto this year, but the previous years I’ve had to fly in to attend.  People can’t do that this year without information about where they should stay.

WordCamp Toronto has been on a definite decline in recent years but this takes the cake. It looks unprofessional and untrustworthy, especially to those who might want to come in to the city to take part.  Better to not have a WordCamp at all than to have a poorly put together event that tarnishes a good brand.  This feels more like a con than a conference.


9 Responses to How Not To Run A Conference: WordCamp Edition

  1. Wow that is crazy dude. As an organizer of WordCamp Montréal for 3 years in a row I can tell you that what’s going on with them is not ok in my book. In the past we’ve always waited as long as possible before selling tickets if we didn’t have a venue, and we would certainly never mess with people and make them wonder if there’s a venue or not!

    I was also at and spoke at the 2009 event which was awesome. It was actually organized by Brendan Sera-Shriar, who has since moved to montreal and joined the core team for WCMTL. When I applied to speak at WCTO 2010 they never even wrote back to me despite my huge amount of speaking experience, since then I’ve been doubtful about the whole thing.

    If you’re looking for a great WordPress event you should come down to WCMTL2011, it’s Jul9-10 and Ma.tt will be there :D


  2. I spoke at WordCamp Toronto 2010, and was disappointed by the event. This year’s event seemed oddly organized, so I didn’t apply to speak again. If I had, I’d be out a couple hundred in train fare. I’m also an organizer for WordCamp Montreal. Please come and see what we do here (after we announce the venue). We’ve been organizing the event for 3 years, with the same team, and great success year-in, year-out. All WordCamps are not like this event.

  3. Tm Mahdi says:

    Hi Terry and Responding Comments,

    Thank you for taking the time to vent on this topic. You have brought up some good points and our committee have discussed them in and out for the longest time when planning this event. We are aware of our performance and communication in have been lacking and for those who have supported us along the way – we really appreciate their efforts to make this year noticed. We know there is a lot of hard work inputting together an event in this caliber and we have spent 100’s of hours to bringing it this far. We love the WordPress community and for all who have helped us.

    Agreed, this is not your typical WordCamp. We did want to appeal to the interest of blogging from a beginner stand point to a hardcore frame integration level.

    Point being, we support the WordCamp Community and all WordPress users. We are working with WordCamp Central to make an effective transition. We have believed in being honest from first of day. And such do not feel its fair to keep WordCamp Toronto tickets for a WORD11 event. All registered guests will be updated on our action plan to refund ticket sales. I kindly ask that you stay tune as we work with our partners and supporters.

    Much Appreciated,
    tm mahdi / host

  4. Terry says:

    Thanks Jeremy and Shannon! I’ll definitely try to make it to WordCamp Montreal.

    TM: Let me know how things progress, and what the timeline might be.

  5. I’ve been holding off on registering until they announced the venue and list of speakers/topics and am now glad I did! In the meantime, I’ve been rescheduling meetings and other activities to keep this date open, so at least now I can get on with my life!

  6. @tm: I’m disappointed you’re making announcements in a random blog comments section, rather than offically on the conference site. This just fuels rumours. Don’t you have a communications plan?

    My advice is update the wordcamptoronto website with the latest news NOW. And going forward make announcements on the website first; then you can mention it on other blogs and twitter and such, and link to the canonical announcement.

    PS: so sorry to hear WordCamp11 is being cancelled. (well, is it being cancelled or postponed? I’ve heard both.)

  7. Tm Mahdi says:

    Thank You all for your comments and responses.

    We have scheduled today as the official release of the news. Various aspects of the news were not meant to come out on individuals’ Twitter feeds or on blogs, and we apologize for the confusion that has arisen. The news will be on the official conference site as planned. Please look there for all the official information.

    We have spent the past week to inform our speakers, sponsors and supporters of the news and in preparation to this big day. We have also worked with them to make this a smooth transition for all.

    We have complete respect for the WordPress Community and for all WordCamps, and we are more than happy to provide our support on the next WordCamp Toronto when a new committee/host is approved by WordCamp Central.

    I personally am sorry to have inconvenienced you with this news. And hope we can work together to present a more fruitful and united community as the days progress. Those of who know me and the events we have done to give back to the community, can admit to it.

    I appreciate your patience.

    Kindly Yours,
    tm mahdi / host

  8. [...] I was out and about this morning I came across Terry Smith’s post about his criticism of the “upcoming” Wordcamp Toronto 2011. I put upcoming in [...]

  9. Christina says:

    Hi Terry,

    Thanks for drawing attention to this subject. I thought a lot about whether to register for WordCamp, but didn’t want to do so unless the site offered more information about what workshops would happen in each of the four “streams” the site mentioned.

    Now with the aid of your post and the announcement of the cancellation and rebranding of this event, the dots are much easier to put together: it’s not that I was unable to find the information I needed – there was simply no information to find at all.

    it’s clear that the people behind WordCamp 2011 were woefully underprepared.

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