Picking up the pieces and moving forward: the WordCamp Houston 2010 wrapup, part 1

I am quite aware that this, the WordCamp Houston 2010 wrap-up post, is way overdue. Originally, I had planned to make this one long post. However, there have been ongoing events about WordCamp Houston and now the Houston WordPress Meetup. I also originally thought we’d get to a relatively quiescent point, but as time has gone on, that has not happened. There has to come a point where I draw a line and post what I have, even though events are still ongoing.

I intend this series of posts to be my last posts ever with substantial commentary about the WordCamp Houston 2010 event. I don’t see there being anything more to write except to mention in passing. My focus has now shifted to the Houston WordPress Meetup, and making WordCamp Houston 2013 happen.

First, the good news which I have not had the chance to acknowledge here just yet: As you may be aware by now, the proceeds of WordCamp Houston 2010 have been awarded as a college scholarship. Per the announcement dated 2012 January 9, the scholarship was awarded to Andrew Douglass. I wish Andrew the best in his studies and in life, and I would assume the rest of the community does as well.

Also of note, I am aware that the organizers published the budget from the 2010 event on 2012 December 3. The discrepancy which I pointed out in my previous post has been acknowledged and answered with a posting of the budget, and according to the budget as posted, the amount of the surplus is $2,790.30, which I have also been told is the revised amount of the scholarship award. Based on everything I’ve seen and read, there appears to have been no interest earned on that money over the past two years. For the moment, at least, I’m willing to let that go; it may have been a mistake on my part to even mention anything about interest.

I’ll get back to the budget later on. First, I need to apologize for my own rather sloppy research habits regarding the Flip video cameras that were unsuccessfully used to record the breakout sessions of WordCamp Houston 2010. Specifically, I apologize for assuming, in error, that the “technical issues” explanation from the as-yet-unidentified sentient being who e-mailed a reply to me from behind “admin@wordcamphouston.com” was a cop-out for operator error. I recently learned that Cisco quit making the Flip video cameras entirely as of 2011 April, and there well-known technical issues involving the Flip cameras as evidenced by this video by Jon Paula of “Is It a Good Idea To Microwave This?” fame (note that he does swear quite a bit on this video, and unlike “Microwave This?” it is not beeped out during editing). I really should have taken the time to research this before posting; the most cursory of searches would have uncovered this somewhere. I have high standards on my blogs, and to say the least, in this instance I fell way short.

(Incidentally, I still haven’t found out for sure who wrote that message, and I still think it is poor public relations to reply to a message such as mine and not sign a name to it. )

With that out of the way, I need the original call for nominees back in 2010. The organizers, Monica Danna and Chris Valdez, state in the most recent call for nominees that they published a call for nominees for the scholarship back during the time shortly after the event in 2010.

In 2012, I observed that the call for nominees in 2012 was posted on Facebook, Twitter, the Houston WordPress Meetup discussion boards, WordCamp Central, and on wordcamphouston.com itself. However, back in 2010, there were no such posts in any of these forums as far as I knew, despite my being on the lookout for such, nor were there any mass emails which I received. (I should have been on the email list as a volunteer at the event. I’m treating any email messages I did not receive, whether for “technical reasons” or being intentionally removed from an email list by one of the organizers, as having not been sent. From my point of view, it’s the same thing.)

Note also, that by the organizers’ own admission, there were no nominations for scholarship recipients in 2010. It follows, therefore, that any such publicity of the scholarship in 2010 was at least effectively nonexistent, even if not absolutely nonexistent.

It’s likely that many of you, if not most of you, are willing to give Ms. Danna and Mr. Valdez the benefit of the doubt. I am not; I, personally, do not think there was a call for publicized nominees in 2010 at all, and thus Monica Danna and Chris Valdez told an outright lie to the Houston WordPress Community stating there was a call for scholarship nominees in 2010. This is completely unacceptable.

Further, I asked in an email for either the details on exactly when and where the call for nominees was publicized in 2010, or a retraction of the portion of the announcement implying that there was a publicized call for nominees at all. No response was received, and no retraction has been issued of which I am aware. I’ve heard back absolutely bupkis from the organizers, or for that matter an attorney representing them. So it would appear Ms. Danna and Mr. Valdez believe it is beneath them to respond to a legitimate inquiry from me. This is also unacceptable.

The result of this is that I am a bit hesitant to accept the budget posted as the final word and the whole truth. Nothing appeared to me to be obviously out of whack the first time I looked at the budget, but due to time constraints I was facing at the time, it was not as thorough a look as I would have otherwise taken. I was able to take a closer look in early January, and at that time I noticed that the T-shirt sale proceeds were not included (and I was not able to get the email out about this until after the scholarship had been awarded). While it is unlikely this amount is large, it does need to be acknowledged in some form (even if it’s missing).

In a previous post I addressed the overticketing in excess of the venue’s capacity limits. However, I left out what I think is the most important part: this is against the law. It was very unwise of Ms. Danna to admit to a violation of the law to a roomful of volunteers. (According to my source, there were 150 to 170 seats total in the rooms we were using for breakout sessions. The budget shows that there were 250 lanyards and badges printed, and 200 “attendee bags” printed. Assuming all those attendee bags were claimed, that’s at least 30 over capacity no matter how you slice it.) Thinking back, I can only imagine what might have happened had a fire marshal showed up (I think the museum would actually have gotten stuck with the citation, not Ms. Danna). Worse, imagine if an actual fire had broken out at the museum during WordCamp Houston 2010, and someone couldn’t get out in time because the crowd was too large. That’s why this is a big deal.

In part 2 of this series, I will address another instance of former WordCamp organizer dishonesty as well as the original Houston WordPress Meetup and what would, as of now, appear to be its unfortunate and untimely demise.