State of the Word 2020 Scheduled for December 17, with Virtual Q&A

WordCamp US 2020, previously scheduled for October, was cancelled due to pandemic stress and online event fatigue. Organizers did opt for running it as an online event, but Matt Mullenweg’s annual State of the Word address will be delivered virtually this year. It will be streamed on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter on Thursday, Dec 17th, 2020  at 1600 UTC.

In previous years, the State of the Word has been one the most highly anticipated keynotes at WordCamp US. Attendees pack into the venue’s auditorium in anticipation of hearing about all of the highlights and milestones the WordPress community has achieved over the past year. Mullenweg often uses the time to recast his vision for the project and deliver important announcements.

This year has been unlike anything we have experienced before, but one thing has remained constant – WordPress’ phenomenal growth continues, as other major open source CMS’s are slowly declining. It is currently sitting at 39.3% of the Alexa top 10 million, 4.2% higher than November 2019, according to Joost de Valk’s biannual analysis of the CMS market share. de Valk attributes much of that growth to WooCommerce, which accounts for more than 18% of all the WordPress sites W3techs can detect.

Despite the global upheaval caused by the coronavirus, WordPress’ development has remained steady. More than 605 people contributed to the last major release (5.6) and there were 805 for the previous release (with 38% of them being new contributors.) In addition to reinventing WordCamps for the new virtual event frontier, the community team has also launched the Learn WordPress platform to make educational resources more globally available, placing a new emphasis on training. The platform is cracking open a world of WordPress knowledge that was previously relegated to more limited in-person audiences.

“Since we’ve collectively come to the realization that talks and training content can be delivered and consumed asynchronously, there will be less need to use the high-bandwidth time of physical events to passively watch a talk where we aren’t actively engaging with others,” WordPress community manager Hugh Lashbrooke said in a post with predictions on post-COVID community building. “The focus of these valuable meetings will rather be on interpersonal connection and mutual learning through active participation.”

Lashbrooke’s predictions recognize a friction that has always existed at WordCamps: the “hallway track” is more engaging and more popular than most of the talks given at events. It’s the interpersonal connection that people crave more than turning up for sessions that are usually being recorded anyway.

To those who have been homebound for the better part of this year, it may feel as though the world is standing still. But the WordPress community has put many meaningful changes in motion in response to the pandemic’s unique challenges. Despite all the uncertainty, WordPress is moving forward like a steady ship, with reliable improvements to the software and the community, thanks to the goodwill and cooperation of its unwavering base of contributors. This stability is worthy of commendation among this year’s milestones and is a testament to the maturity of the project.

Join the Virtual Q&A by Submitting a Pre-Recorded Video

Matt Mullenweg will be running the Q&A portion of his address virtually this year, with pre-recorded videos of questions from the audience. WordPress Executive Director Josepha Haden Chomphosy outlined the instructions for participating:

To take part, record a video of you asking your question to Matt on your computer or phone (landscape format, please). Don’t forget to include your name and how you use WordPress! Try to keep your video to under a minute so Matt can answer as many questions as possible.

There are some positive aspects of this method but also a few drawbacks. It can create a more polished and efficient experience of Q&A where the audience is less likely to have to sit through long, rambling questions. It also allows equal opportunity for people living in all time zones to submit a question.

On the other hand, the questions will be screened and pre-selected, allowing more preparation time for the answers. A live Q&A offers the opportunity to catch the person off guard and get answers that might not be delivered the same way in a different format. Pre-recorded videos have a few trade-offs but they may be the best option we have for this event.

The deadline to submit video questions is Friday, December 11, 2020. Haden recommends participants upload their videos to YouTube as “unlisted” and send a link to ask-matt@wordcamp.org

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