Originally, I was going to title this post “changing the vernacular of WordPress” but I didn’t think that was as clear as just saying “how we talk about WordPress influences how others perceive it.”

The bottom line of what I’m trying to say, though, is that we use the word “WordPress” to mean something different depending on the context in which we’re speaking.

  • As Developers, Designers, Users, etc. “All of you involved in WordPress…”
  • As a Core Developer or Developer. “I’m working on WordPress…”
  • As a Community Member. “WordPress is a pretty great community…”
  • As a Developer, Designer, User, etc. “WordPress can change your life…”
  • …and so on

And I’m sure you can come up with much better examples than I have.

Anyway, though it works for those of us who are using the platform, it doesn’t necessarily clarify what we’re talking about to outsiders.

How We Talk About WordPress

Okay, so how should we talk about WordPress? Good question. I don’t have a definite answer for this.

But after being involved with the project for some time, working with clients, participating in meetups, and giving talks in a variety of different places, I think one easy way to help clarify how we talk about WordPress is to be clearer about the aspects to which we’re referring.

  • Is it the local community or the online community?
  • Is it the core code?
  • Is it the core development team?
  • Is it the service, WordPress.com, or the software, WordPress.org.

I’m guilty of not doing this. That is, I use the word “WordPress” when talking about so many different aspects of all that it is.

That doesn’t help anything. Maybe some of the below would help. Note that none of these are in particular order.

0. The WordPress Name

Granted, I’ll be the first to admit that the name, WordPress, sounds like it’s responsible for providing a blogging solution.

How we talk about WordPress

And though that once was true, it also matured into something greater than allowed for content management. And though that once was true, it’s also maturing into something that allows for building web applications on top of it.

But that’s not an excuse for lack of context is it?

1. The Context of Our Work

When talking about working with WordPress, talk specifically about what you’re doing:

  • Are you building a web application, a theme, a plugin, or something else?
  • Are you using the REST API, are you committing a patch to core, or are you creating a child theme?
  • Are you attending a meetup, are you speaking at a conference, or are you just hanging out with a group of other people in the same field?

Regardless of what you’re doing, be sure to give greater context, so those who are watching or those who are following along have a clearer idea as to what you’re doing.

2. Ignore The Detractors

There is always going to be a group of detractors. Regardless of what you’re discussing, if it’s popular, then it’s going to have it’s naysayers. It’s how things work. And if you’re new to working with WordPress, then be prepared for it.

WordPress Issues

Okay, so these aren’t exactly those type of issues, but you get the idea.

When you’re involved with it, it will appear like every other platform is this shining example of what developers should be using and why WordPress shouldn’t be used.

If you’re new to developing solutions using WordPress, this is something that may negatively impact you. The best advice I have to give is to ignore it. I know, it sounds like something a mother or father tells their child when someone is picking on them at school.

Honestly, though, this is coming from experience. It’s normal. It’s been there for a long time, and it’s going to continue to be there.

But if you spend time looking at the communities around those other platforms, they have their same arguments, debates, grievances, and praise as those who are involved with WordPress, too.

3. Dot Com or Dot Org?

If you’ve ever been to a happiness bar, a meetup, or just had a conversation with someone who is looking to setup a site using WordPress, the way that the project is split between WordPress.com and the self-hosted solution (at WordPress.org) can be confusing, to say the least.

This doesn’t even account for how some plugins are available for self-hosted installations but must also connect to WordPress.com to take advantages of some of its features. I digress at that point.

Further, using phrases like “hosted solution” and “self-hosted solution” is jargon to those who aren’t technically savvy enough to know what it is they need. So when we’re talking to someone who is trying to setup a solution on WordPress, we need to make sure we’re asking questions that help us understand their needs better.

WordPress.com?

From there, if they are looking to get started on WordPress.com, then go the extra step and explain to them about purchasing a domain, premium themes, and so on.

WordPress.com

Otherwise, they may end up purchasing a domain from a third-party service and hosting from another service and be stuck with even more jargon such as DNS and nameservers when all they wanted to do was set up a blog.

WordPress.org?

If, on the other hand, they are looking to get started using the self-hosted solution, make sure they understand the differences and make sure they are aware of the technical aspects of what’s required when going the self-hosted route.

WordPress.org

Find out if they are looking to setup a blog, a site, or if they are looking to setup a development environment. Tailor the conversation around the various requirements of what they are looking to do before actually doing it.

This may help shed some light on what they are doing and help you determine if this is the best route for them to go.

Oh! And don’t view everything through your developer goggles because not everyone is going to want to go that route, not everyone is interested, and not everyone even cares. Sometimes, they are looking for a solution, not a means by which to build a solution.

Conclusion

These are just some of my suggestions (and I’m interested in yours, so don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments).

Anyway, as far as my ideas are concerned, I don’t know if they carry any real merit or if it’s something that would even help others who are on the fence about getting involved move forwarding with doing so or not.

But I do know that simply using the WordPress name can be more confusing than not especially when being used for blogging, content management, application development, and more.

If we go just a little further and improve how we talk about WordPress, maybe we’ll help some of those who are trying to get involved, take at least one step further into doing just that.

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Join the conversation! 7 Comments

  1. I think this is a great start. I have a very good friend who is fond of telling me to ‘de-geek-ify it” … and I think sometimes as we learn more about WordPress, development, or anything that can be ‘technical’ it’s way to easy to also slip into the vernacular we’re most comfortable with.

    Unfortunately, that means we can tend to leave friends, potential clients, and just about anyone else in the dust when it comes to understanding exactly what we’re talking about. Especially once you add on hosting, and DNS, and Nameservers … ooooh … the eyes, they do glaze over ;-)

    Not positive how I’d add to what you’ve already included above, but it gives great food for thought.

  2. Always love your posts as they ring so many bells with me. This is so true and you made good points about how it’s used in so many different ways. I can tell you, I have seen more than my share of confused faces :)

    And within each one of those you mentioned, and as you noted, there are so many more variables and gray areas. Especially around the “WordPress” community and exactly what the heck that means.

    It’s easy to just throw it out there but I think we can all take your advice and pay a little more attention to who we are talking to and what we are trying to convey when we say WordPress. We never want to assume… because we all know what means.

    • Always love your posts as they ring so many bells with me.

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Bob. Seriously :).

      This is so true and you made good points about how it’s used in so many different ways. I can tell you, I have seen more than my share of confused faces :)

      Given your line of work, I definitely understand and can only imagine, TBH.

      It’s easy to just throw it out there but I think we can all take your advice and pay a little more attention to who we are talking to and what we are trying to convey when we say WordPress. We never want to assume… because we all know what means.

      Bingo!

  3. I agree with everything you said. Context is everything.

    I can’t tell you how many times we have had a Meetup discussion about how to accomplish something that totally confuses one of the members because the speaker is working on a self-hosted site and the member is looking at a WordPress.com dashboard.

    Every field has its own vocabulary and learning that vocabulary is probably the most important first step for a new WordPress (any kind of WordPress) user.

    • I can’t tell you how many times we have had a Meetup discussion about how to accomplish something that totally confuses one of the members because the speaker is working on a self-hosted site and the member is looking at a WordPress.com dashboard.

      We’ve experienced the same things at our meetups so it’s one of the first questions we ask whenever we get started answering questions :).

      Every field has its own vocabulary and learning that vocabulary is probably the most important first step for a new WordPress (any kind of WordPress) user.

      Agreed! And it’s doubly-difficult whenever one word is overloaded to mean different things.

  4. There is definitely a lot of talk about WordPress.

    It is a buzz-word in many corners of the forest, similar to “SEO”. Many folks don’t understand what the word means but believe they need it. This unfortunately opens a door for those with less than honorable intentions. I’ve been told “I need a WordPress with lots of SEO” – Cha-Ching! (mua ha ha) – and that’s how bad reputations are built.

    A willingness to help and clear explanations tailored for context helps everyone.

    • I’ve been told “I need a WordPress with lots of SEO” – Cha-Ching! (mua ha ha) – and that’s how bad reputations are built.

      Indeed. Snake oil and scum and all that jazz.

      A willingness to help and clear explanations tailored for context helps everyone.

      I completely agree.

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