WordCamp US 2020 organizers have cancelled the in-person event in favor of hosting it as an online-only conference. With more than a million confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. today, 63,000+ deaths, and 31 states set to partially reopen this weekend, the pandemic’s trajectory throughout the country has become increasingly uncertain.
Many statewide stay-at-home orders are expiring tomorrow, despite no state having met the federal guidelines for reopening. Some businesses are opting to reopen in a limited capacity, but the general populace is still wary of returning to their previous way of life. In the state of Missouri, where WordCamp US was to be hosted in 2020, there will be no limitations on social gatherings as of May 4, as long as individuals maintain social distancing. It’s not yet possible to predict what will be happening in the area in October or how it might impact an event with international attendees.
After organizers extended the WCUS speaker application deadline for another 1.5 months on April 17, it seemed the general disinclination towards traveling and gathering in large groups had already taken hold. Booking hotels and travel arrangements five months in advance is still too much of a gamble for speakers and attendees.
The WCUS organizing team emphasized the longterm health and safety of the WordPress community as their primary concern in today’s announcement about moving to an online-only event:
The WCUS organizing team has been working with WordCamp Central and local health authorities to try to make sense of the current COVID-19 pandemic and what it means for our event in St. Louis this October. Throughout this, we have held the longterm health and safety of the WordPress community as the highest priority of our event. To move forward in a way that honors what is best for our community – both locally and globally – we have made the hard choice to convert WordCamp US 2020 to an online only event.
WCUS will still happen on the originally scheduled dates, October 27th – 29th. Organizers plan to run sessions, workshops, and a virtual Contributor Day, along with the annual State of the Word address from Matt Mullenweg. They are also putting together a hallway track, some form of swag, and creative ways for attendees to connect, which will be announced at a later date.
WCUS is now free for anyone who wants to attend. Without the necessity to rent a venue, provide lunches, and other physical aspects of the event, sponsorships are easily able to cover the cost of streaming to an unlimited number of attendees.
The call for speakers is open until May 31, 2020 at 11:59 pm CDT. WCUS is still accepting sponsorships and will be publishing a set of unique sponsorship packages for the virtual event. Organizers plan to put out a call for volunteers in the near future.
WordCamp US follows other major regional WordCamps in Asia and Europe that have canceled in-person events due to the pandemic. Several other upcoming WordCamps, including events in Spain, Kent, Denver, and Minneapolis / Saint Paul, have also announced that they are transitioning to online-only events.