Walking Away From WordPress Orlando

It’s been a rough week. Being an ally and applying your privilege isn’t supposed to be easy. Still, I didn’t expect this. So it’s time to walk away from WordPress Orlando.

Apologies First

Before I explain my decision, I feel it is important to start off with an apology. I failed WordPress Orlando and WordCamp Orlando with this tweet. Not because of the message, but because I spoke for the group without discussing it with them first. That tweet remains my personal belief, but it does not necessarily represent the organization as a whole, and for that error, I sincerely apologize.

An Unhealthy Relationship

It has become increasingly clear over the past few months that my personality doesn’t fit well within the group. I get it. I’m not the easiest person to deal with. I’m really opinionated and don’t back down when I really believe in something. That’s not easy for some people, and that’s okay, but it creates an unhealthy relationship for everyone.

What’s clear is someone from either the group or WordCamp Central has taken issue with me. More on that in a bit, but clearly they disagree with how I handled last year’s challenges, and want to make their feelings known…without attaching their name. I would have preferred a conversation, but what’s done is done. I would, however, like to set the record straight.

The 2019 Incident

The comment in question refers to a speaker problem we had with last year’s camp. Nearly two months prior to the event, Florida State Representative Anna Eskamani was invited by speaker coordinator David Wolfpaw to be our keynote speaker and she was added to the schedule. Late Friday night, around 10:30 pm, an issue was raised on Slack by the lead organizer. Shortly thereafter, before David or anyone else was able to respond and have a group discussion, Eskimani was removed from the schedule entirely.

The ensuing discussion divided the group pretty heavily. I disagreed heavily with how the situation was being handled, and on the advice of the people I trust most announced that I was stepping down as an organizer, speaker, and attendee. Central stepped in to moderate and I rejoined the team in full capacity after a compromise was reached.

To be clear, I in no way boycotted WordCamp Orlando 2019. My personal choice to not participate was just that, a personal choice. I went out of my way to keep the details of the situation quiet as to not embarrass the organizers personally. I simply didn’t want to associate with or support the actions that took place. That’s it. Everyone else was free to and encouraged to make their own decision.

Why That Matters

I thought all of this was in the past until that comment happened. As the situation, or at least the details of it, was relatively hush-hush, I never expected it to come up again. In planning meetings for 2020, the incident and my involvement was a non-issue. Or so I thought.

The reality is, not that many people knew what went on, which means either one of the current WordCamp Orlando organizers or someone involved with the Central WordCamp/WordPress Meetup organization made the choice to bring this back up again to hurt me. Why I don’t know. Without knowing who it is, I can’t even begin to figure that out. I hope they reach out privately at least to explain themselves.

Time to Go

With all that in mind, I’ve decided to walk away. Reading that comment sent me spiraling in a way that was deeply unhealthy, both physically and mentally. While I’m not normally bothered by internet comments and Twitter trolls, that comment got to me. More importantly, the idea that someone in my community or the larger WordCamp organization holding a pretty clear grudge against me got to me.

What comes next remains to be seen. I am still attending WordCamp Miami this weekend and speaking. Even more than before, I’m looking forward to seeing friends I haven’t shared a room with in over 6 months. I miss my WordPress family.

I’ll find a way to give back. I’ll find a way to contribute. And, as always, I’ll be here if you need someone to talk to. Until I figure that out, I’ll be focusing on my friends and family.

Thanks for listening. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you want to chat.

Adam Soucie
Adam is a WordPress developer based in Orlando, FL, and the founder/CEO of Impossibly Creative. He is a member of the WordPress Orlando organizing team and a frequent speaker at the WordPress Orlando meetup.

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