Yesterday the first ever BuddyCamp was announced. BuddyCamp Vancouver 2012 is the brainchild Cyri Jones, a Vancouver-based educator and entrepreneur who works a lot with WP and BP. I think it’s going to be a very cool event.
The idea of a BuddyPress-specific event along the lines of WordCamp has been tossed around a lot in the past, at least between the most active members of the BP community. Some have argued that BP is a bit “niche” to serve as the foundation for an event like this (see some of the comments in this WP Realm post, for example). However, while it’s clear that BP has far fewer users than WP, those who do use BP on an everyday basis are often very passionate about it. I think that the community is plenty large at this point to support local events of this type.
In the past, John Jacoby has suggested that a more general “WordPress Plugins Camp” might be a logical precursor to a BuddyCamp – after all, there are lots more plugins than just BuddyPress, which translates to many more potential attendees. I think a general Plugins Camp is a pretty kickass idea, and devs/designers working with BP would have a lot to bring to such an event. But it’s worth noting that this first BuddyCamp will be about a lot more than just devs and designers. I’d wager that over half the attendees will be people who are using free software to build online community space, from a non-technical point of view. These people may not know the first thing about building a WordPress plugin, but they have lots to say about how software can facilitate community – and this is something very specific to a BuddyPress event. So I think there’s really a need for something like a BuddyCamp, where the people who are building the software can get in the same room with the people who are pushing it to its practical limits in real-world scenarios.
Also, while I wish that the whole thing had been arranged a few months sooner (sometimes the best ideas happen at the last minute!), I think the timing of BuddyCamp Vancouver is really great. It’s sandwiched between two events, also being held in Vancouver, which should have huge overlaps in terms of interested attendees: WordCamp Vancouver and Open Ed 2012. I’m hoping that, in particular, a lot of people coming into town for Open Ed will think about coming a day or two early to talk about BuddyPress and its uses in supporting online learning communities. Spoiler alert: I may be talking about this very topic in my own BuddyCamp Vancouver session
I’m hoping that this is just the first of a series of BuddyCamps. I can easily imagine that there’s enough interest in BP to support a handful of similar events around the world each year. If you’re a motivated fan of BuddyPress, you may want to think about planning such an event in the future!