My Opinion WordCamp

It is time to rename the “Happiness Bar”

tldr: The “Happiness Bar” needs a new name. I’ll start the brain storming here:

  • Help Desk
  • Help Bar
  • Admin Bar
  • WordPress Help
  • Q&A Desk
  • Support Desk
  • Support Bar
  • Service Bar
  • Oracle Bar

I’ve been a volunteer at the Happiness Bar of close to 10 WordCamps in the last 5 years. The experience of interacting with and helping others working with WordPress has been educational, entertaining, and often enlightening. There is no better place to see first hand the incredible diversity of our community and to experience WordPress through the eyes of other users.

Even so the Number One takeaway from my Happiness Bar stints is this:

“Happiness Bar” is a name nobody understands.

Unless you have volunteered to stand behind the desk at a Happiness Bar in the past or you are a WordCamp organizer there is little chance you know what a “Happiness Bar” is, so let me introduce you to the concept:

The Happiness Bar is a desk at a WordCamp (or other WordPress-centric conference or event) staffed by volunteer WordPress experts where you can ask questions and get help with WordPress. The name “Happiness Bar” probably comes from the thought that getting help and finding solutions to your problems will make you happy.

The problem, which is pretty obvious, is that the name “Happiness Bar” says nothing about what is being provided.

The most important task of giving a service a name is to ensure the name communicates what the service does to the uninitiated. And while a help desk may induce happiness, that is not the function of the help desk. The help desk is there to provide help. The name “Happiness Bar” is more befitting a bar where they hand out cotton candy, hugs, or free jokes.

Talking to WordCamp attendees and asking them what the “Happiness Bar” is I’ve gotten every answer but the correct one:

“Is it where they hand out swag?”
“It’s a place where they give you life advice?”
“It’s a desk where they have life/business/happiness coaches?”
“You go there to get a massage?”
“Do they give away candy?”

When I co-organized WordCamp Vancouver I refused to have a Happiness Bar because I already knew the name was misleading and nobody would use the service. Nobody even noticed. Having staffed Happiness Bars in different cities before and since just validated my suspicions: Calling the Help Desk the “Happiness Bar” is a surefire way of confusing the audience enough that those who could actually use the help won’t ever find it.

I think historically the name makes a bit of sense, but that is irrelevant. The use of the name today is an anachronism at best and self-defeating at worst. What is meant to be cute, fun, and non-conventional, is in reality confusing, non-explanatory, and misleading. When WordCamp attendees are looking for help and can’t find it even when they are standing directly in front of a huge sign saying “Happiness Bar!” any marketer would tell you there is something off about the branding. That happens. All the time. At Every. Single. WordCamp. Old-timers like me know what the “Happiness Bar” is. The rest of the attendees think it’s a place where they hand out swag. Or candy. Or massages. Or some unknown substance that provides happiness.

I think we should have a Happiness ย Bar that hands out swag, candy, massages, and free hugs. But if we are going to continue offering WordPress help at WordCamps we need to give the help desk a befitting name. My vote is “Admin Bar”, but that’s just me.

By Morten Rand-Hendriksen

Morten Rand-Hendriksen is a Senior Staff Instructor at LinkedIn Learning (formerly specializing in AI, bleeding edge web technologies, and the intersection between technology and humanity. He also occasionally teaches at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. He is a popular conference and workshop speaker on all things tech ethics, AI, web technologies, and open source.

23 replies on “It is time to rename the “Happiness Bar””

It’s not a bad name and i honestly haven’t encountered many that have truly have no idea what it is (maybe because the WordCamps i’ve been at have explained it well). But in the interest of “don’t make the user think” philosophy, then “help desk” or “help room” would be what I would lean towards. Remove “bar” unless it’s an ACTUAL bar at the venue.

Whatever you name it, I usually don’t see these promoted at WordCamps enough. I think every talk should end with “if you have more questions, meet me in the help desk/room” from the speaker.

Agreed. At the Press Publish conference we just ran this weekend in Portland, all the speakers were told to end their talks with “Follow me to the happiness lounge if you want to ask more questions or talk!”

(Since it was an Automattic event staffed by Happiness Engineers, the name was more applicable.)

This is a pretty good idea. I am one of the organisers of our very first WordCamp Lahore. I think I will try something like this, where speakers after their talks go to the happiness bar, even if it is just for 30 mins.

Historical reason it was called that: It used to be Genius Bar, and at SxSW an Apple person came over, smiled, and took a picture, and we were afraid we’d get sued. WCSF was coming up soon and all the natural names like WP Help Desk etc had independent businesses attached to them, and we didn’t want to have a conflict with any small businesses. Since back then Automattic ran WCSF (vs a .org community team like now), happiness bar made sense for that one event, because they were mostly Happiness Engineers and it didn’t infringe on anyone’s business. After that, other WCs wanted to copy it. I begged them not to, to just call it a help desk or something, but organizers persisted in wanting to adopt that nomenclature to be more like SF. (I didn’t use it at the WCs I organized in NYC or Savannah.) I work for Automattic so I obviously think it’s a good company, but the devotion to that name in other contexts has always bummed me out, because it doesn’t mean a damn thing to anyone unless they have already been indoctrinated with the whole “focus on happiness, not support, because the happy outcome is what we want to provide” thing, which almost no one has.

That said, admin bar would also confuse a lot of bloggers, bc they would likely think of it as a sysadmin kind of thing, not wp-admin (and people on .com don’t even see that anymore).

But yes, happiness bars should be renamed. You should post something like this over on to start a conversation in the official group that handles WordCamps. Cami or Josepha can give you posting access if you don’t have it. ๐Ÿ™‚

I like help desk. There’s a desk and people are there to offer help. It’s pretty self explanatory. I agree with David, that unless there’s also drinks on offer the “bar” doesn’t make sense.

Hi Morten,

Some early morning ideas (have not had coffee yet, so won’t be very helpful, but still)

WP Gurus, WP hub

I really don’t care what is called as long as the nme tells what it is. Help desk or whatever. The first time I went to a Wordcamp I took a pass at the Happiness Bar as I went there to learn, not to drink. Too bad I didn’t understand what the bar was.

Wait, wait, I thought it had something to do with the fact that at the bottom of a lot of old WordPress pages, there was a smiley face. ๐Ÿ™‚ (Also equally confusing to me.)


I agree with the thought that ‘Happiness Bar’ doesnโ€™t really explain what it is.
When I first heard the name, it didn’t make sense.

I like “Community Support Lounge” as it infers that it’s staffed by the community, you get support and it’s informal.

What about something more community oriented. What does everyone need help with? Why is it a station? I would say it is more a collaborative concept building than a lab or bar. What if we called it an acronym like the W3BC (Word Camp Collaborative Concept Building) or some play on words. Lets revolutionize and create our own language and community than recreate what catchy Apple concept they came out with that is already outdated and over used. Apple has disappointed me for probably the last 5 years. I am convinced Lenovo is taking over. Has anyone seen the website lately? They just launched a responsive website. Their products do far more than Apple has even become close to doing. Everyone needs to wake up.

Help Desk does seem the most obvious. How about the Answer Desk?
btw I really enjoyed your presentations (my first WordCamp). Glad you made the trip to Miami ๐Ÿ™‚

I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.
Martha Washingto How to Be a Bigger Winner **

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