A new beginning: Houston’s WordPress community over two years later

It’s hard to believe that over two years have gone by since our issues with WordCamp organizers failing to award the event proceeds as a scholarship as promised on video, a year-long lapse in WordPress meetups, and an organizer with an inflated ego removing me from the Meetup.com group for what by now has been shown to be obvious personal/political reasons. I’m only linking to the past posts for completeness, and I wouldn’t even be blogging about this if I did not consider it only fair to report on the epilogue of those posts. The past posts, for those that care to read through the complete history:

Sometime in 2013 (I don’t have an exact date handy, unfortunately), Chris Valdez resigned as co-organizer of the Meetup group, and has not attended any meetups since. Mr. Valdez’s resignation was expected, and to me it was long overdue. Unfortunately, I found (and still find) it quite disturbing that his resignation was done quietly, with no explanation and no apology to the community for his dismal performance as WordCamp Houston 2010 organizer including the mishandling of the proceeds. But nevertheless, he did finally resign and get out of the way.

Even more surprisingly, Christopher Smith is no longer an organizer of the Meetup group, as of 2015 March 26 (possibly a day or two earlier). What appears to be his now former company, DesignBigger, has no tweets or Facebook page posts since 2014 September, and appears to be out of business. (Score one for the good guys.) Mr. Smith himself has relocated outside of the Houston area for whatever reasons. I’m not sure exactly when he moved (possibly weeks or months before this), and it doesn’t really matter all that much in the context of what lies ahead. I’m not sure if the city or even the state where Mr. Smith relocated to is supposed to be public information. I will simply state it’s far enough from Houston, TX, that I’m satisfied. Mr. Smith’s resignation also came far more quietly than it should have; he loved the Houston WordPress community so much that he didn’t bother to write a farewell email to the group or otherwise announce his departure, choosing instead to basically just disappear (poof!).

Also conspicuously absent from the current incarnation of the local WordPress community are Monica Danna-Garcia and Katie Laird. While still in the online Meetup.com group, I have seen neither at a meetup within the last year. So in summary, we have a great group going with no remnants of the previous leadership or any remaining organizers of WordCamp Houston 2010 as regular attendees. Which means I’m happy, and will remain happy if things stay that way.

Surprisingly, I didn’t have to wait until March to rejoin the Meetup group; I was allowed to rejoin on 2015 January 22, and the reason why it even took this long is surprising. Apparently Meetup makes it relatively easy to kick people out and ban them from rejoining a group, and difficult to lift those bans, at least according to the organizer who unbanned me. (I had been attending the meetups themselves in person, but was unable to RSVP online, or participate in online discussions. Thankfully the active organizers did not consider Meetup.com RSVPs a requirement for attendance.) Be aware of this if you run a group on Meetup.com, especially if you have co-organizers. Some organizers may call this a feature; to me, it’s much closer to a bug.

The new leadership (and this is public information accessible to anyone browsing the page on Meetup.com) consists of Rick Ankrum, Lester Buck, and John Peterson. All three of these men have proven they can be capable leaders.

The Meetup.com online group is now being paid for by Automattic’s WordPress Meetup account. With this change, it’s also highly unlikely we will ever go an entire year without a meetup or with all the co-organizers “asleep at the wheel.” I still have rather strong doubts about the wisdom of organizing WordPress meetups on a proprietary platform which does not use WordPress in any form. Nevertheless, the current state of affairs is still a huge improvement over where we were at this time in 2013 or so, and it is my hope those days are behind us for good.

There is even a WordCamp in the works for Houston in 2015. (Yes, the URL says 2014 but that will be changed soon.) Not much progress has been made as of yet, but I’m hoping that will change soon (ideally with my help). Even if I am once again only a mere attendee or volunteer, the upcoming WordCamp Houston will be an exciting day/weekend, and I am looking forward to it.

In summary, this is an exciting time all around for WordPress users in Houston. We still have a lot of lost time to make up, but I believe by the end of this year the Houston WordPress community will be much closer to where it should be in terms of activity, membership, and camaraderie.