TL;DR: If you’re going to write about WordPress, it’s important to determine about which you primarily want to write. Is going to be less subjective material such as code or more opinionated material such as op-eds?
Further, know that whatever it is you share online is up for grabs for conversation, and sometimes it can go in unexpected directions. Be prepared for this to happen regardless of your intent.
To some degree, you get to pick the game you want to play. But when you do that, know the rules, play by them, and be careful what you write.
In the last post, I stated the following:
Since I don’t think someone should go into writing about their experiences blindly (especially when it comes to the negative that may come from it), it seems only fair to also share what that looks like.You Should Write About Your Work
And the reason I think this is deserving of its own post, perhaps now more than ever, is because whenever you publish anything regardless of its a blog post, video, podcast, there are obviously going to be people who are going to read and respond (even if they don’t do it directly to you).
After all, what’s the purpose of publishing things publicly if you don’t want people to hear them?
Years ago, I learned this the hard way. And I’d be disingenuous if I didn’t talk about the less flattering side of when you write about your work.
⚠️ Careful What You Write
Note: I’m writing this section after I’ve completed the first draft. Heads up, this is going to be longer than some of the other content in this series.
It’s important, though, because it’s not something I’ve ever really talked about since the fallout of it all. And it’s something that I think anyone getting into this industry absolutely needs to be aware of.
For as much as I’m a fan and proponent of sharing your work, it’s not all sunshine. And if I’m giving advice to my past self or someone just getting started, this is important.
🔖 Once Upon a Time
Years ago, after I’d been working in WordPress for a significant amount of time – or what I thought was a significant amount of time – I wrote a post as to how I was perceiving parts to the community.
And to be clear, I truly mean the community. I don’t mean the economy, I don’t mean the software, and I don’t mean anything having to do with the business-side of things. Nothing like that.
This was all about community politics and what some know as
The post in question was my perception of what was happening, my grievances with how things were happening, and the frustrations I was seeing. It was coming from a place of “I care about what’s happening because I care about the software and I care about those of us who work in this segment of the industry.”
I think the same can happen in other communities, too. Think .NET, PHP, React, etc.
Anyway, at this point in my WordPress career, I’d committed some code to core, blogged a good bit, sold products, done consulting, attended conferences, presented, spoke on podcasts, etc. The reason I mention this is to give a sense that I wasn’t the new kid on the block. I’d been around a while. And I wasn’t particularly fond of how things were being run.
In short, people were giving a lot of feedback on key decisions that were being made. But then said feedback was ignored or certain people were stonewalled.
That bred frustration so I wrote about it. It wasn’t my normal kind of post. I’ve often tried to write strictly about software but, at the time, it felt like it was important.
Anyway, I published the post and went on about my day, my work, and so on. Fast forward a few hours and the comment section is blowing up but it was quickly going sideways. It wasn’t so much about what I wrote, but people began to personally drag other people – other people with whom I interacted with and who have done a lot for WordPress.
Comments started becoming way off topic of the post and far too personal about a few individuals. So I contacted said individuals and asked if they wanted me to take the post down or to shut off comments.
Though I may be fine making my opinion known, I’m absolutely not fine with people being collateral damage on an opinion that I hold especially when I wasn’t saying anything about a particular person to begin with.
So this person said that they would rather the comments remain open so they could participate and it could showcase this side of the community. On one hand, I really respected this move and this stance. On the other, I hated how things were playing out.
Nothing I wrote about was the focus of what was happening in the comments and people were dragging other people. Then I started to get an influx of messages about how terrible of a person I was for allowing something like this to continue on my blog. It’s a weird dichotomy to have people saying to keep those going to expose a weaker side of a community while others are coming at you. 🤷🏻♂️
That’s content for another post that I’ll never write. Suffice it say, thick skin goes a long way.
As with anything, it finally dissolved but there was a long tail on this. I was asked to talk about this for a few newsletters, issue statements on another blog post, and even come on podcasts to talk about it.
In retrospect, when I write it out like that, you’d think that I committed and grave crime against humanity. Hardly. I had an opinion, I shared it, the comments got hijacked and good people had their character attacked, people wanted to keep the comments open to let this play out, and on and on it went.
I hated it. I hated the way it felt, I hated how others were unnecessarily drug into something that had nothing to do with them, and I hated seeing how truly awful some of the comments were.
So after a persistent individual asked me to talk about it, I acquiesced.
I eventually closed comments on the post. I eventually stopped writing about my opinions. And I continued to focus on writing about what I cared about most: Writing code and sharing how problems were solved for different people.
More on this in a bit.
🤔 Thinking About Content
Anyway, when it comes to publishing any type of content there’s very few things that are going to be purely objective. From the way you write code to the way you justify what you’re doing is all going to be fodder for scrutiny. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
But there are varying degrees of that.
For example, whenever you’re part of an community as active as WordPress (or really any community, for that matter), and you share an opinion, you are absolutely setting yourself up for people to talk with you about it.
- Sometimes it will be in the comments if you comments are on,
- Sometimes it will be on Twitter,
- Sometimes it will be on Reddit,
- Sometimes it will be on Facebook,
- Sometimes it will be in a newsletter,
- Sometimes it will be in a podcast,
- And sometimes it will be all of the above.
Know this: As soon as you publishing something somewhere on the Internet, assume it’s going to be there forever and assume that someone, somewhere is going to talk about it if not judge you for it.
Yes. Someone is judging this post right now. I see you. 🙃
🗿Define Your Content
The first piece of advice I would give is this: Determine what type of content you want to write.
For example, if you simply want to share about the code you’re writing and the reasons for why you’ve chosen to implement your solution in the way you have, you’re not going to be making a lot of controversial statements.
Sure, people can come along and critique it and many who do will do so in an attempt to point out areas in which it can be improved. Education, edification, and improvement. All that stuff. It’s signal.
Others may look at it and then critique you, as personal, and your ability and often times this comes as a personal attack. Whatever to that. It’s noise.
If you’re someone who’s only interested writing about this type of content, then only engage in responses around that. That is, pay attention to the signal; ignore the noise.
💬 Define Your Intent
The second piece of advice I would give is this: If you’re going to write what essentially about to op-eds about the WordPress space, prepare for lots of chatter in every corner of the Internet as listed above.
It doesn’t matter how good your intent is, you’re going to stir the pot and get people talking. It doesn’t matter how negative your intent is, you’re going to stir the pot and get people talking.
The common denominator is that people are going to talk and often times, because the more subjective something is, the more divided they become, and the more you’re going to be mentioned, discussed, and perhaps even pulled into conversations you never thought would happen.
If this suits you, go for it. If not, be aware of it. I’m not here to say what you should or shouldn’t do. I don’t know and I don’t particularly care. But know what you may be getting yourself into when you share said opinions.
🎬 How Did It End?
So back to my original post: The good news is that I’m obviously still here and I have a lot of friends in WordPress. The people whom ended up being most affected are still around and we still talk.
Personally, I had to make a decision on how I wanted to move forward with this blog. With a few exceptions, this is how I view what I write:
- Blogging is a game with players on various sides. You’ve got those who write, those who read, and those who respond. There’s overlap in the last two players.
- When opting to play the game, I have to choose which variation of the game I want to play. That is, what do I want to write about? What are the rules?
- If, when playing the game, am I playing by a different set of rules? If so, then I’m playing a different variation of the game. I don’t want to do that.
- So if I’m going to play this game, I want to play by the rules set for the variation in which I want to participate.
This means, on the whole, I want to write about my experience, the problems I’m solving, how I achieve it with code, and how I can help others and perhaps garner feedback to make my own work better.
I’ve no interest in writing about the social side of WordPress. Though I know we can’t all get along, I don’t want to contribute to anything that exacerbates that truth. I’d rather do what I can to help others, to get along with them, and to put less controversial stuff on the web.
We’re fortunate in what we do when we get to write in the software industry. As soon as you pick a profession, you’re in some variation of the game. But we, within reason, get to pick the rules by which we play. We should pick them carefully.
Oh! And as for comments on this site? They’ve disabled not because of the story from earlier but because conversation as moving more and more towards Twitter and that was easier to manage.
That’s all. No other reason.