Pondering WordCamp speaking

Upcoming WordCamp London became the first one to break my speaking streak and reject my talk application.

I took a bit of time to be miffed and mopey about that (I don’t handle rejection well, ok!? :), but really it was a timely reminder to review the WordCamp speaking as activity for me.

New activity

I had never quite planned to pick up delivering WordCamp talks as activity. I just ended up urged to apply the very first time. My habitual inertia (and backlog of ideas) took over from there.

After several talks I was in a bit of a haze about it. I had no excess of excitement about it, but no particular disdain either.

I think the most disorienting was the missing feedback loop. I don’t like to stick witch activities I have no affinity for. It was getting hard to have no sense of scale how my speaking is working out (or not so much).

It was strange to fill out staple post–event polls with whole pages dedicated to talks, and having never once get a tiny bit of that information about my own talks provided.

Cost to benefit

Last year the conversation about paying speakers and/or compensating their expenses had briefly flared in WordPress context. Turned out it wasn’t a particularly rare conversation in larger tech world. It also turned out that WordPress policy of forbidding to pay/compensate speakers falls very far off the practices of commercial tech conferences and not in a good way.

Since my conference attendance and speaking was exclusively through WordCamps, it wasn’t an angle I had even considered before that.

On one hand I was clearly pulling it off in practice, so finances angle was not vital. Neither am I opposed to do it for free at non–profit event (which WordCamps are). Which is run by volunteers, who deserve to be paid for their effort way before and above me.

On other hand I realized that I approach speaking in certain way — sticking to completely original, non–repeating content, as well as doing it out of my own pocket (there are quite a few speakers for whom their employers take care of expenses).

In other words I maximized my resource burn on it.


WordPress community is unsurprisingly constantly hungry for contribution. At times, in my opinion, it is too eager to cross the lines before cultivating and expecting, accepting and demanding it.

But the most practical lesson I learned, that whenever I give (or even sell) my time to WordPress things — there will almost never be someone to make sure it works out for me too.

I had found my own lines of what I can sustain, and unfortunately most of the discovery was waking up far behind those lines.

It is important to me now to look for those lines, not stumble over them.


So… This is not a ragequit. This is a time for chill reflection, before a ragequit catches me off guard.

I think that I will not apply to speak at any WordCamps in near future. The time freed up I will put to channel the backlog of talk ideas into other forms, such as blog posts.

Then will see how it goes. Luckily there is always another WordCamp. :)

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  • Ryan Hellyer #

    I've never understood why some people think they should be paid for speaking at WordCamp's. I've always considered it a privilege, not a job. I have plummeted the number of conferences I've given talks at now though. I find it distracts me from just chit chatting to people at events. My most recent talk in Norway is now being regurgitated for multiple meetups in Berlin now. I have two lined up for later this month, and I suspect I'll end up using it for other events later on too.
  • Andrey “Rarst” Savchenko #

    I think the challenge of seeing it as a job is due to general slant towards throwing yourself at the things for free in WordCamp community. As per post it hadn't even occurred to me to think about speakers getting paid angle until the topic got forced. This is definitely not the attitude in larger tech world. I would recommend to read You're paying to speak and discussion for some perspective.