WordPress events are invaluable to the success of WordPress and its community. They’re educational, inspiring, and provide attendees an opportunity to have meaningful face-to-face conversations with like-minded individuals.
Despite the relative affordability of tickets, there are several other costs to consider when attending a WordCamp — travel and accommodations being two of the most notable costs.
WordCrash.net is a new service that helps cut the costs of attending a WordCamp and build relationships with others in the WordPress community by allowing “traveling WordPressers to view a list of friendly folks across the globe who are willing to offer free accommodations and start a conversation with any of them about visiting their town.”
To learn more, I interviewed co-founder of WordCrash.net, Kyle Maurer.
Torque: Can you talk a little about what you do and about what inspired to create WordCrash.net?
KM: Absolutely and thanks for asking! I am the co-founder of a company called Real Big Marketing and we build a lot of WordPress sites and custom plugins for clients. I’m also a co-organizer of the Jackson, Michigan WordPress meetup and WordCamp Ann Arbor. I love traveling to and speaking at WordPress events as often as I can.
Earlier this year, I spent some time traveling to several WordCamps. When it came to lodging, for some trips I stayed in a hotel. But on a few occasions, I connected with a friend in the area and ended up staying with them on their couch or in a guest room. After a few of these trips I began to reflect on the differences and observed that my overall experience was significantly better when I stayed with a friend. My reasons included:
- Cost – Since I’m funding my own trips, this is a big deal. My friends didn’t charge me to stay with them so I saved a ton of money by avoiding paid lodging.
- Carpooling – I was able to save even more time and money by carpooling with my host to and from venues.
- Exploring – Having a local host resulted in me getting to experience the city better than I did when I stayed by myself. When I stayed alone, I didn’t know where to go and what to do and what to avoid. With a guide, I was taken to the hot spots and highlights and came away feeling as though I’d really experienced this new place.
- Navigation – I hate getting lost and somehow, even though Siri is super helpful, when I’m on my own in a new town, I end up making all kinds of annoying mistakes and being late for things I’d rather be on time to. A friend guiding me around eliminated this problem.
- Relationships – Most important of all, I made more friends and strengthened more relationships by spending time with someone instead of alone in my hotel room.
All this got me thinking about how nice it might be to encourage this kind of thing. I have lots of friends who are big fans of couch surfing and after chatting with some of my WordPress pals, I started to really think that a website for this could be useful and fun.
Some time later I was chatting with Ross Johnson who is the organizer for the Ann Arbor, Michigan WordPress meetup about the idea of doing a group project as a meetup session and I suggested WordCrash. Both of us had considered the idea for years of spending a meetup session with everyone working together on a single project and this site seemed like an interesting one to work on. So not long after we held a meetup where ~30 people worked together to build WordCrash.net from nothing. Everyone contributed something and the site turned out really well in the end.
We made the site knowing that, worst case scenario it would simply have been a good learning experience for our meetup members who helped put it together. But there was always the possibility that my assumption of there being a decent number of WordPress folks out there interested in something like this would be validated and the site would eventually prove useful.
Torque: Can you provide a walkthrough of the process of using wordcrash.net (from signing up, to searching for hosts, to staying with them, reviewing, etc)?
KM: We had lots of brainstorming sessions about how the site should work before we built it. Sites like couchsurfing.com have so many robust features that we thought could be useful but ultimately we decided to keep the site as simple as possible from the start. This is both because we didn’t want to go overboard when we didn’t even know if anyone would use the site and because we didn’t want to make too many assumptions about the features people would actually want.
Currently, the site’s process is very simple. Anyone who has any interest at all in the possibility of hosting a traveler can fill out the host registration form. Once they fill that out they’ll be registered as a user on the site and, once they’ve activated their account, they’ll be anonymously listed on the site’s homepage. We believe it is important that hosts be able to choose when to identify themselves.
Travelers can then browse through all the hosts. If they see one in or near a place they’d like to go, they can click on the “Contact Host” button which prompts them to answer a few quick questions and when submitted shoots an email directly to that host. At that point, the host can decide if they are comfortable engaging the traveler in a conversation and can email them back directly. WordCrash is no longer involved in any way from this point on. It is simply a conversation between two people.
Torque: Are ‘crashers’ able to review their hosts and vise versa?
KM: At this time, the feature set on the site is quite limited. All the work on the site is done by volunteers and we’re trying to make sure we only include features that people really want. If a point comes when it becomes clear that a review system is needed then we will gladly develop such a feature. I’ll add that anyone interested in contributing to make the site better is 100% welcome to do so. We have the theme and functionality plugin over on GitHub just waiting for new issues and pull requests.
I’ll also add that, as I see it, the WordPress community has certainly become quite large but is still small enough that anyone considering staying with or hosting some stranger shouldn’t have much trouble finding a mutual acquaintance or at least getting references. This is just my recommendation for anyone using the site as WordCrash is currently not involved in the conversation after it has started, but I do believe it is a good idea to ask for references or find mutual acquaintances before actually doing something with someone you’ve never met.
“I believe the site has the potential to be useful to lots of people, especially those who want to travel more but are limited by financial constraints. For my part, I believe that increasing in-person contact and relationships only strengthens our community.”
WordCrash.net has the potential build relationships, connect WordPressers, and cut the costs of attending WordPress events. Head on over to WordCrash.net and check it out for yourself!