WCEU 2022: Studio Wombat’s observations

wordcamp europ 2022 in porto

Just like 2,000+ other WordPress enthusiasts, Studio Wombat attended WCEU 2022 in Porto this year. It was our first large in-person event since the start of the pandemic, so we needed a little bit of time to adjust. But in general, this networking and learning opportunity felt like a milestone in returning to normality.

Below are some of our takeaways from attending WCEU 2022.

Networking is powerful

WCEU is a 2-day event all about WordPress. The schedule is packed with interesting talks about a large variety of subjects. In between talks, you can walk around the venue and check out the different booths set up by WordPress businesses or hosting companies.

This is where the real power of WCEU lies for us. Talking to other businesses helps us to get a clear picture of the direction WordPress & WooCommerce are going in. We can network, form partnerships, and talk to old (and new) friends.

For introverts, it’s not always easy to talk to people, but the WordPress community is friendly and very approachable. That makes a WordCamp the perfect place for us to get out of our comfort zone and network.

We needed some time to warm up (by playing various games at the different booths), but afterwards we walked around and chatted to people we had not seen in years. There was lots of talk about our business, growth, WordPress, and WooCommerce.

We learned what the WooCommerce team is working on and saw (early) previews of what they’re cooking up. Since we rely on their platform, it’s super interesting to be a bit closer to their reality and hear about news from the horse’s mouth.

The competition is friendly

WordCamp Europe is big and attended by many – there were over 2,000 attendees! It’s inevitable that you’ll run into a business or individual you are competing with at some point. In our case, that means talking to a WooCommerce business that has a similar plugin to ours.

While that may sound a bit awkward, there was no hostility. Everyone is supportive, trying to help other businesses grow, and forming partnerships. This feels pretty unique: it’s amazing that we can share a table and talk openly about our businesses and learnings.

The good news is, even though we are competitors, the demand is big enough for multiple businesses to coexist, and we are happy to support each other and see other businesses succeed.

Three different WooCommerce plugin businesses getting along: Studio Wombat (Maarten), together with our friends from Puri.io (Morgan) and VisserLabs (Michael).

WP.org will never be a marketplace

The last talk of the event was a Q&A with Matt & Josepha. When they were asked if the plugin repository on wp.org could ever become a marketplace where premium plugins can be sold, Matt was clear: this is not the direction they want to go in.

We’re obviously biased, but we think that’s a mistake. Right now, there are too many places where people find premium plugins: CodeCanyon, the WooCommerce marketplace, and sellers’ own websites (to name a few). This is confusing to users: they know they will need plugins to do a certain task, but the first hurdle they have to overcome is figure out where to look for those plugins.

The various marketplaces are pushing to become the number 1, but the user doesn’t benefit from that.

Having one true marketplace would fix those problems and give the same unified experience to all WP users. If nothing else, it would certainly eliminate friction. Perhaps it would eliminate ads inside plugins too?

I understand Matt’s point of view: selling plugins goes against the spirit of the GPL. But the GPL doesn’t dictate what you can or cannot charge for software or services (such as support and automatic updates). A marketplace doesn’t necessarily violate the GPL, but I do understand how it can seem ironic.

Too much swag

While it was amazing to see the impressive organization of this event (big shoutout to the WordCamp team and 164 volunteers!), we felt a bit uncomfortable about the huge amount of swag that the different booths were giving away.

Sure, everybody likes free things, but it seems pretty wasteful give away so much stuff that people probably won’t end up using. This seems to go against the sustainable philosophy that WordPress is trying to adhere to. Especially when you realize that a lot of people travel to Portugal for this event and can’t take things home with them.

Not accepting any swag doesn’t seem to cut it either, as the booth staff also need to travel home and probably don’t intend to take the leftovers back with them. This results in a lot of waste, which is a shame.

That’s why we were happy to see that a #sustainability channel was created in Making WordPress Slack within 10 minutes of Nora Ferrerio asking Matt Mullenweg, “What can we do to improve sustainability?”. We don’t have a ready answer, but some rules about swag could definitely make a difference.

In conclusion

We won’t lie: after 3 years, it was very exciting to be back among the WordPress crowd and connect with likeminded people. The conversations we had with other businesses were very valuable, and we had a great time discovering Porto. We came back home with plenty of ideas and plans, and are looking forward to the next WCEU in Athens!

Want to read more WooCommerce business news? Check out our business section on the blog!