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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 ┬áBar 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.