Theme Weekend #1: Come Together, Right Now, Over Themes

Open source is all about collaborative coding, but more often than not that coding happens in isolation, the contributors only connecting via bursts of zeros and ones over global networks. And though this works quite well, it does little to establish true relationships and encourage conversation, idea exchange and innovation. For that to happen physical proximity and face-to-face interaction is required. What was needed was a meeting place, an agora where like-minded people could come together over a common goal. This is how Theme Weekend came to be.

Check out all my photos from Theme Weekend on Flickr.

The Inception

I’ve been talking about it ever since the idea popped into my head around January 2012. It was based on the same lofty “built it and they will come” principle that the 12×12 Vancouver Photo Marathon came from, and with the first event completed it is clear that principle is still sound.

Theme Weekend attendees
The inception of Theme Weekend came from three things: My own experiences working with designers and developers, conversations with members of the Vancouver WordPress community, and requests from members of the Vancouver WordPress Meetup of hosting hands-on classes and events: The interaction point between designer and developer is a much joked talked about area of frequent conflict. The simplistic view is that this is because the two sides have different ideals and goals and don’t understand each other, but my feeling is it’s because they don’t speak the same language and don’t have the experience of working together necessary for that common language to establish itself. Speaking to members of my own community I realized the only real interaction that takes place between these two groups is through clients or emails. There is no common meeting point where they can work together in a non-competitive or non-task oriented environment. In addition we’ve gotten frequent requests from both designers and developers to host hands-on events that focus on “actually building something”. Combine these three observations and the answer is clear: Theme Weekend is long overdue.

The First Theme Weekend

The Theme Weekend Class Photo
In early June I announced I was looking for some collaborators to pull off the first edition of Theme Weekend and Joachim Kudish and Pauline Lai immediately voiced interest. Joined by my trusted partner in crime Angela the four of us worked out the practical aspects of how to organize the event, nailed down a venue, got a sponsorship from the WordPress Foundation and started promoting the event.

It didn’t take long to get the 20 seats filled, and on Saturday the 20 participants along with our three volunteer “floating experts” Catherine Winters, Christine Rondeau, and Andrew Ozz and the organizing team set up at Vancouver co-working mecca The Network Hub for two days of WordPress geekery. For a full recap of what transpired, check out Joachim’s post.

This was just the beginning

Theme Weekend attendees
Anyone who knows me knows that my ideas are always huge, all encompassing and intended to expand and evolve. Theme Weekend is no different. From the original idea – get some WordPress designers and developers together to build themes over a weekend – the idea quickly evolved to something more akin to a targeted Open Source creating event . Theme Weekend will be an event template that can be used to host events around anything and everything open source all around the world.

The first key component of Theme Weekend is the “theme” part: Each weekend has to have a specific goal in mind, clearly defined and curated. The first installation was about creating general WordPress themes. The next one will likely be about creating free WordPress themes for a specific pre-defined audience or even a specific organization or cause. But Theme Weekend doesn’t have to be about creating WordPress themes. It can be about creating Drupal templates, or Joomla templates, or WordPress plugins, or Orchard whatevers. The point is to bring people together to create something while learning from each other. And I believe giving these people a specific target to work towards makes that process far more effective.

The second key component of Theme Weekend is to ensure what is created at the event continues to evolve after the event. For that we landed on the use of GitHub as a repository for all the projects. This proved to be a bigger hurdle than we anticipated due to the unfamiliar nature for most of the concept of version control, but this is a hurdle I think can be overcome with good documentation and careful planning. By using a version control system and publishing everything in public on the web, the team members themselves and others interested can continue working on the projects long after the event is over. And as Theme Weekend becomes more prevalent we’ll see a burgeoning archive of crowd-created open source projects appear on the web for the world to use and contribute to.

Coming Soon: ThemeWeekend.org

To ensure that Theme Weekend spreads and evolves I am working on a website that will be hosted at themeweekend.org. On the website you’ll find a full and evolving rundown of how to host a Theme Weekend along with lists of upcoming Theme Weekends, archives of past Theme Weekends, and links to all Theme Weekend projects. The site will serve as a central hub for the even concept and will allow us to evolve the concept by letting you and others interested take part, organize, collaborate, improve and make the event into all it can be. We’ll start off with the lessons learned from the first event this past weekend and expand from there. And hopefully we’ll soon see Theme Weekends pop up elsewhere around the world bringing communities together to do what we all love to do: Create Open Source greatness just because we can.

Theme Weekend is powered by us, the Pink & Yellow Not For Profit Society, and is hosted in conjunction with whomever decides to organize an event. We provide the template, you use it to create something awesome.

One thought on “Theme Weekend #1: Come Together, Right Now, Over Themes

  1. T’was an incredibly creative community-building experience that produced not just wonderful and inspiring collaborative works, but also lasting friendships and enhanced mutual respect between peers. Seclusion between the different schools is an all too oft result in the world of website creation. Theme Weekend shows that a simple mixer is all you need to create some pretty awesome magic, especially when someone spikes the punch bowl ;o)

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