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I don’t know why I feel compelled to begin a post like this, but this is going to be lengthy as it covers quite of a bit of the state of the culture of WordPress right now.

As someone who loves the software, makes a living off of it, and tries to follow along with everything going on with it, things have gotten really intense over the past few weeks – more intense than usual, that is – and it’s kind of a bummer to see.

Secondly, I’ve been told on a couple of occasions in the past that I don’t do a good job of staking my own claim in terms of how I perceive a given situation. That is, I’ve been told that I tend to hang out in the gray versus the black or white of a issue (so I try to weigh both sides of an issue – big deal :) – but I thought maybe I’d take this time to lean in one direction or the other a little harder than I usually do.

Like I said, I don’t know why I should preface what I opt to write about in this post (as it kind of enforces the point above), but I figured it was worth giving some background of where I’m coming from.

And my experience won’t be the same as yours and yours won’t be the same as mine or the next persons, but this is my take on what I’ve seen over the last few months all the way up until the last day or so on what I’ve seen going on with WordPress and the WordPress community.

From Web Publishing to Egos and Beyond

I’ve been working with WordPress for quite a while now. First as a blogger, then as a programmer, then as a programmer and a business owner, and I can’t think of a time in which the general community has ever been more divided.

Being divided, by definition, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it can lead to some really good changes within the software and within the community. But it can also lead to a lot of hot topic debates that ultimately result in people being rude, snarky, and flat out mean to one another.

And it’s pathetic.

It’s a bunch of adults passionately arguing and personally attacking one another over topics that could be respectfully discussed and handled in a significantly more mature way.

Passionately arguing about something is one thing. Personally attacking someone else is another.

We often talk about those on the outside looking in and wonder how they may perceive what it’s like, how they should be involved with WordPress, and all of that other lip service that we love to espouse.

On the contrary.

We should be embarrassed of how it looks, but it’s not just those who are standing on the periphery – there are those of us who are deeply engaged in WordPress itself who don’t even want to get into the fray of everything because it appears to be such a waste of time. I’ve yet to see something productive come from half the things that have come up in the past quarter, let alone six months.

At some point, the software that aims to democratize web publishing has become so focused the promotion of egos and clever subtweets.

And for those who are building other content management platforms, other publishing platforms, and other similar software, it’s gotta appear like we’re anything less than professional.

Would you want to work with (let alone hire) you based on how you’ve interacted with others online?

Furthermore, how can we honestly talk about “those people on the periphery” or “those outside the community” or whatever phrase you opt to use when we can’t even bother to get ourselves together enough to have mature discussions?

A Comedy of Drama

For those who spend the majority of their time working with WordPress may not necessarily be those who are following the latest trends in WordPress drama (or #wpdrama).

And that’s fine.

Then there are those of us who love the software and who are trying to run our own businesses off of it, educate others on how to use it, and also apply software development practices to it who try to follow along with everything that’s happening within the community in order to stay updated on what’s in the pipeline for upcoming releases.

It’s a lot of reading, it’s a lot to keep up with, and I have a love/hate relationship with it.  Or, maybe a better way of putting it, is that I love reading about what’s going on – whether or not I agree with the topic doesn’t matter – but I definitely dislike reading some of the pure hatred that’s expressed when there’s even the slightest bit of dissension around it.

Up to this point, I haven’t even referenced anything concrete and I hate it when people end up doing that in their articles. So to provide some form of context, there are some quick examples of things that have been going on thus far:

  • A Trac ticket for disabling the Customizer and the ensuing discussion
  • The discussion on WP Tavern around [one of the many] the Menu Customizer
  • Another Trac ticket for adding a new function to introduce a wrapper function to help decouple parts of WordPress and, again, the ensuing discussion
  • Any of the various tweets that include #wpdrama
  • …and there is much, much more that I’ve not bothered linking for a number of reasons

And that’s just within the last month or so.

To be absolutely clear (because this is the part where a person is usually vilified and the insults start being thrown and attacks start being made because people don’t have the time to read entire posts anymore), the above points are not targeting any one person or any one site in particular. On the contrary, I’m just sharing some of what’s been reported and what exists online.

Communities don’t exist with people in silos, so it’s not possible for this to be a single person’s problem. This is a group effort.

Anyway, as mentioned, working within the WordPress economy presents an interesting dynamic because the software can be seen in two ways:

  1. Those who work on the software
  2. Those who use the software to work

That is, there are those who are active in building WordPress (and thanks to those who do!), and there are those who use WordPress as a means to an end such as in agency work, SaaS applications, and so on (and good on them for that!).

And sure, there are certainly those who also divide their time between both. I know I’ve tried and it seems that the more I do, the more I get pulled in one direction or the other the second camp – so I ultimately try to provide solutions for others where WordPress is the supporting software for said solutions.

As with any community, there are then subcultures within each community. For example:

  • There are those who primarily build WordPress who have a community unto themselves
  • There are those who use WordPress to build solutions for others
  • Then there are those who also follow what’s going on with the core software

I’ve probably missed at least one of the permutations of how people interact with WordPress as a whole, but you get the idea.

Speaking as someone who has flirted with the various niches that exist in WordPress, I can say that it’s far easier to be a developer who’s passionate about the software but refrain from leaving any type of comments about a specific article, feature, or what have you than to try to participate.

And I chalk this up to an issue of productivity. It’s a cliché, but we’ve all the same amount of hours and what we do with those hours matter regardless of your age, your stage of life, or whatever. Some are single are spend plenty of time at the computer, others are married with kids, and then there are those who fall in between.

No situation is any better than the other – it’s just different.

Given what I’ve witnessed and what’s been linked here, what incentive do I – let alone any one person – have to engage someone else in discussions around something when we disagree?

I’ve very little evidence over the past few months to say that anything productive would come of it other than having my integrity and personality called into question rather than the topic of the discussion itself.

Why Working Excludes the Community

When it comes to the hours that I have available to work, I want to be able to enjoy what I’m doing, and I want to be able to enjoy the tools that I opt to use in order to do it.

In neither of those situations does engaging people in the comments of a blog or in the comments of a ticket appeal to me.

Now, to be clear, this isn’t meant to be about me nor is it a critique on anyone else (because there are those who do truly look to be offended just so they can leave their mark on Twitter or in the comments for Internet Posterity Points).

Instead, I’m trying to state a use case of someone who’s plugged into WordPress, has contributed code to it, writes about it daily, shares code for things built on top of it, and makes a living off of it. But it’s meant to be about those who are involved and how we opt to spend our hours.

I understand that, ultimately, a lot of what’s being said, tossed around, and all that jazz comes down to the fact that we’re all passionate about a single piece of software and we want to see it succeed.

But the problem is that the way we actually go about wanting to see it succeed is completely counterproductive and the complete antithesis of how we should go about doing it.

  • Some reject any idea that does not fall in line with their own ideology, yet we work in open source.
  • Some claim to be open minded and welcome requests, features, discussions, etc., only to light it on fire and throw some additional fuel on to it whenever it happens, yet we work in open source.
  • Some want democracy that comes with open source but treat it more like an oligarchy than anything else, yet we work in open source.

We’ve got it backwards.

“It’s Time To Fork WordPress”

This is something that I’ve read over and over and over again and I’m sure that many people see this time and time again as years go by.

It’s not time to fork WordPress. Or maybe it is. That’s one great thing about open source, isn’t it? But above all else, I read these claims as idle threats.

Forking WordPress may be a good solution for you, but it’s not necessarily a solution to some of the complaints that you have. Or maybe it is. It doesn’t matter because WordPress will continue to move forward.

On top of that, I think it’s far easier to talk about doing it than actually doing it. We’re not only looking at software that’s a fork of another piece of software, but we’re talking about software that’s 10 years old.

You want to fork that and start something new? The source code is freely available and licensed as such. Why treat something that’s completely legal, available, and possible as a threat to something you don’t like?

For whatever it’s worth, I don’t really think it’s time to fork WordPress. I think it’s time to re-evaluate how we’re acting in terms of a community and work on that rather than just start something new. Talk about going 10 years worth of steps backwards.

WordPress is a Tale of Two Cities

The way this all plays out reminds me a lot of A Tale of Two Cities where – spoiler alert – the story talks about a single city seen through two completely different perspectives.

WordPress is a lot like that.

For everything that I’ve mentioned above, there’s a lot to love about certain things in WordPress and just how we have to choose how we spend our working hours, we have to choose the people to whom we pay attention and the people with which we interact.

As my friend Chris likes to say:

WordPress will change your life if you let it.

During my time with WordPress, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some incredibly smart people and I consider that to be a gift. I’ve learned a lot about what it means to run a business, about what it means to be a product developer and product owner, about what it means to write better code, and about what it means to be a part of team.

And all of this is still going.

Furthermore, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with other people who are interested in getting into the field but don’t know where to start, I’ve had opportunities to speak at meet-ups and WordCamps (and am hoping to do so again later this year), and I’ve had some pre-conceived notions challenged and changed by those who are active within the community.

I’ve read some incredibly insightful articles, some absolutely brilliant code, and heard talks that equipped me to be better at what I do. I’ve gotten to work for people who have had incredibly intelligent ideas for projects, and I’ve gotten to solve some challenging problems all using WordPress.

I couldn’t be more thankful for the software, the people, and what it offers us. It honestly can change your life if you let it (and it can change it for better or for worse).

But I love what I get to do and I love the tools with which I get to work.

Based on everything that’s come before, though, I’m absolutely embarrassed by what I’ve seen. Anyone who is passionate about something is bound to feel that way though, right? It’s natural.

I’m seeing things get worse rather than better, I find myself wanting to distance myself more and more from certain aspects – and, yes, even people – involved in WordPress rather than get more deeply involved, and I’m finding myself wanting to narrow my focus more than I ever have and cut off some of the things that inspired all of this.

I hate that feeling. It’s disappointing. It’s sad, even.

I don’t want to become the kind of person who’s gained so much from a community and who has attempted to give back to said community distance himself because of the way the general community has started to behave.

No, I’m not making a threat. I’m not that important. I’m not a beautiful, unique snowflake. No one is making me do anything. We can choose to be as close or as far as we’d like from what’s going on. If things weren’t as tense as they are right now, I probably wouldn’t have even taken the time to write this.

This isn’t a plea or a request for anything to change either. WordPress and all involved are going to continue to move forward in whatever way they want and I’m going to continue to try to do the best work I possibly can given the software that’s available and the tools that I have.

My opinion matters no more than the next person’s and I don’t think that it represents anyone else, but WordPress has changed.

The community, as a whole…

  • Has become extremely snarky, arrogant, and far too critical.
  • It’s unable to have respectful debates, it’s moving away from any type of democratization that it preaches (we’re in the open source world, even!).
  • It seems to be more concerned with throwing 140-character clever darts at other people all in the name of something that I do not understand.
  • It’s so wrapped up in itself that it’s turning people away who are on the periphery, and it’s turning people off who are on the inside.

No, WordPress isn’t going anywhere. No, WordPress is not crumbling. No, WordPress is not going to be anything other than WordPress.

It’d be nice if we could be a bit more mature about many of the things covered here, but I know that ultimately this is my perspective, my take on a situation, and that things are going to continue moving one way or the other.

I’m not threatening to fork WordPress, I’m not threatening to stop working with WordPress, and I’m not offering any other type of illogical responses to much of what’s happening right now.

All I’m saying is that it’s really disappointing – even sad – that it’s at the place that it is. Naturally, some will disagree and that’s cool. There’s no really good close to a set of thoughts on this kind of stuff so I’m leaving it here.

Ultimately, the WordPress community is going to flow in whatever direction in chooses. Right now, it seems to be in a state that’s of the lowest quality I’ve ever seen.

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Join the conversation! 136 Comments

  1. Tom, I can’t wait to download McFarlinPress. My first PR will be to add a Customizer Customizer!

    More seriously, I agree with you. I’m not as embedded in the WordPress community as you are, and something that has kept me only half-engaged in it is the snark, the elitism, and the echo chamber. I’ve greatly reduced my participation in the WordPress Twittersphere, because of the types of problems you describe. There seems to be a real tendency towards egotism and self-aggrandizing. Neither quality lends itself to community. It sometimes feels like the nerd equivalent of a bunch of jocks fighting over who is the alpha.

    I realized awhile back that I can’t grow my WordPress business the way I need to if I’m constantly filling my brain with the negativity and group think.

    This being said, I’m still going to show up at WordCamps, still interact with those who are trying to make things better, etc. I’m not writing off the WordPress community, I just don’t want to get bogged down in the negativity.

    I believe in WordPress’s future, and I will continue to invest my time to make it better.

    • something that has kept me only half-engaged in it is the snark, the elitism, and the echo chamber

      And that’s sad to hear, because I think having kind, respectful, and alternative perspectives are things that could really benefit us.

      Right now, that’s a big obstacle that we – as a group – have to overcome through.

      I realized awhile back that I can’t grow my WordPress business the way I need to if I’m constantly filling my brain with the negativity and group think.

      There’s a fine line to toe, isn’t there? I know the feeling. I want to be involved and to be helpful, but I’ve got to draw a line somewhere and I place the work I’m doing and the people with whom I’m working above the fray of some things that net unproductivity.

      This being said, I’m still going to show up at WordCamps, still interact with those who are trying to make things better, etc. I’m not writing off the WordPress community, I just don’t want to get bogged down in the negativity.

      I know that feel.

      I believe in WordPress’s future, and I will continue to invest my time to make it better.

      That’s what I want to hear :).

  2. The politics and personal jibes that seem to proliferate discussions within WordPress are (in my view) the single most damaging aspect of the WordPress community. It’s literally eating us from the inside out.

    I’ve spent the last 6-8 years of my life deeply involved in WordPress and loving (almost) every moment of it. Seeing how cliques within the community have evolved into cannibalistic parasites, however, makes me much less interested in sticking around for the long haul.

    I love working on the internet and I love WordPress, but damn the attitudes that are sadly so prevalent throughout the “community” make it tough to not become disenfranchised from it.

    My business is built upon WordPress and that will not change. I have no intention of leaving WordPress–I love the software and I love building upon it–but the time I personally spend participating in “conversations” (perhaps melees would be a better word) will continue to dwindle if the politics don’t move to the sidelines. Politics have no place in development discussions.

    • It’s literally eating us from the inside out.

      I agree – and I know a lot of people will say that it’s just a small percentage given how large WordPress is and how many people use the software, but I can’t get behind that perspective because I don’t like seeing people treat other people the way they do when it comes to something like this.

      It’s one thing to disagree, it’s another to completely vilify another person and then go after them for having a different opinion.

      Seeing how cliques within the community have evolved into cannibalistic parasites, however, makes me much less interested in sticking around for the long haul.

      It leaves me feeling a bit disoriented. I decided years ago to try to give a significant portion of my life to work with WordPress – for sure – and I really want that to continue, but sometimes I can’t help but feel disoriented.

      When I feel like that, I end up trying to remind myself that this community is not unique – that this happens in more than just in WordPress. Still, that doesn’t mean it should be acceptable.

      Why shouldn’t we aim for something better? The potential to truly be the most welcoming development community for an open source project is so high that I don’t think we even really get the true magnitude.

      But here we are.

      I love working on the internet and I love WordPress, but damn the attitudes that are sadly so prevalent throughout the “community” make it tough to not become disenfranchised from it.

      Yes. And this is why I spend so much time reading rather than commenting and just trying to stay heads-down on the work that I’m doing for other people.

      I can do my part and do good work while teetering on the edge of conversations that ultimately just make me sad (and embarrassed, if I’m being honest).

      My business is built upon WordPress and that will not change. I have no intention of leaving WordPress–I love the software and I love building upon it–but the time I personally spend participating in “conversations” (perhaps melees would be a better word) will continue to dwindle if the politics don’t move to the sidelines. Politics have no place in development discussions.

      Very, very well said. Couldn’t agree more.

  3. Tom thank you so much for taking the time to write out what I’ve been trying to verbalize in my own head for weeks now. Everything feels TMZ-like and it’s shedding bad light onto a community that for a long time has been a rare success story in so many ways.

    I too fully believe in WordPress’ future but the hackneyed, arm-flailing responses that we’ve seen over the past few weeks that otherwise could have been progressive/constructive conversations is super discouraging.

    Here’s to hoping the knee-jerk overly-aggressive responses to just about everything is just a passing phase, and we can get back on track contributing to the most popular publishing platform the Internet has ever seen.

    • Everything feels TMZ-like and it’s shedding bad light onto a community that for a long time has been a rare success story in so many ways.

      It does – but I believe that we’re capable of actually overcoming this and being a better community for it.

      But it’s going to take more than a couple of blog posts and comments in order to make it happen. The challenge is knowing how to actually being to steer the ship in the right direction (let alone figure out exactly what ‘right’ is).

      Regardless, the point that I’m trying to make is that we’re not too far gone and it can be resolved.

      I too fully believe in WordPress’ future but the hackneyed, arm-flailing responses that we’ve seen over the past few weeks that otherwise could have been progressive/constructive conversations is super discouraging.

      Yes. It’s just disappointing and sad.

      Here’s to hoping the knee-jerk overly-aggressive responses to just about everything is just a passing phase, and we can get back on track contributing to the most popular publishing platform the Internet has ever seen.

      We’ve got to get ourselves under control in order to make that happen. That means introducing more tact, respect, and so on rather than these short, clever darts that we’re trying to throw at each other.

      Other than that, I don’t really know what’s the best course of action. There are people far smarter who have chimed in on the comments and who will have more to say in their own way on other channels, too.

  4. Hi Tom:

    If WordPress is a large extended family, it shares the same level of dysfunction present in every family.

    As you pointed out, there are subcultures within any community of size. The people who communicate with each other identify with each other as a sub-tribe of that community.

    Core contributors relate to one another.

    People who attend more than four WordCamps each year identify with each other.

    The folks you see at your local WP Meetup identify with each other.

    WP people who follow each other on Twitter or Slack identify with each other.

    These smaller sub-communities are large enough on their own that thy often feel (partially) separated from one another. If there’s one thing consistent about human nature, it is the need to rage against the dying of the light about something…even if it is something near and dear.

    I’d like to think that some of the bad behavior is because each of us is incredibly passionate about WordPress the platform. We all are concerned about the direction it will take over the next few years.

    In all of this, I come back to the fact that 99% of the actual WordPress ecosystem is the silent majority that uses it to make a living. This 99% is the dark matter of WordPress.

    These people may be partially oblivious to the #wpdrama going around. I honestly believe most of the drama in the community revolves around the 1% feuding with each other. It’s just that this 1% is responsible for driving the direction of the software.

    I feel everything you’re saying here. It would be cool if we could all just get along. It’s important we learn how to have intelligent discussions without topic devolving into a Holy War.

    Peace.

    • These smaller sub-communities are large enough on their own that thy often feel (partially) separated from one another. If there’s one thing consistent about human nature, it is the need to rage against the dying of the light about something…even if it is something near and dear.

      I agree, for the most part. The thing is, not everyone who attends all of these WordCamps, meet-ups, blog posts, etc., are unique to each. There is overlap, and I’ve witnessed first hand how some people behave online versus how they do in person.

      It makes one suspect, doesn’t it?

      I’d like to think that some of the bad behavior is because each of us is incredibly passionate about WordPress the platform. We all are concerned about the direction it will take over the next few years.

      I absolutely think that this is something that true. But we need to do a better job of discussing and conducting ourselves as we work on the direction that it’s headed.

      I honestly believe most of the drama in the community revolves around the 1% feuding with each other. It’s just that this 1% is responsible for driving the direction of the software.

      For sure. But the 1% (or us 1% – I honestly don’t know where the line is drawn) have so much potential. We can do better and I want us or them or whoever to do better and I believe we absolutely can do it.

      It would be cool if we could all just get along.

      I’m with you, 100%. It sounds almost kind of hippie, but it’s the truth. At least from where I sit.

  5. While I’m not really thrilled with (and recently often argue about) certain changes within the community, I personally don’t think that things have got too far. The fact that a bunch of people are criticizing something is far from labeling the entire community, or just switching a nuance for the wide group of people being involved.

    I’m not going to mention specific arguments that cause the heated discussions, but I seem to notice how some of the latest change proposals aren’t widely accepted by the broad community which I personally see as a precedent. There have been a few more a while ago, but it’s been a serious of actions on top of each other that keep happening regardless of the very vocal community feedback.

    What you said earlier:

    For whatever it’s worth, I don’t really think it’s time to fork WordPress. I think it’s time to re-evaluate how we’re acting in terms of a community and work on that rather than just start something new.

    The way I see it, the community and the platform has been successful thanks to everyone – lead developers, translators, support team, theme reviewers, users, plugin developers etc etc etc. The project however is a meritocracy.

    Having said that, if decisions are not made democratically (I’m not saying they should), it’s possible that some decisions will be disagreed on. And when a series of those happen and continue to happen regardless of the open and apparent feedback, it’s normal that the broad community may feel ignored.

    Even if the project is built for the majority, a minority of 10% of the WordPress community actually accounts for 2.4% of the entire Internet, which is approximately the market share of Joomla. While there is no easy way out – without just postponing the ongoing development of the project or harming existing businesses and long-term goals – those “small” changes affect millions of people and shouldn’t be applied lightly.

    A civilized a mature discussion requires both parties to act accordingly. That requirement works both ways.

    • You hit one nail right on the head… The feature process for WordPress is controlled entirely by a very small group of people who, by appearance, do not value any outside opinions. There have been numerous features added to WordPress not embraced by the community has a whole. Some of it’s due to poor implementation, while others were only exciting to the developers themselves.

      There are thousands of tickets which get ignored because they have no advocates from within the Core community, only the thousands upon thousands of non-developers who push for them.

      Lets be honest, if you’re not a developer or you’re not in the “clique” of the Core developers, you have a snowball’s chance in hell of seeing the light of day. A major flaw in the system.

      I know that in this development cycle Helen has done an admirable job of trying to get more orphaned tickets examined than the past several development cycles combined, but in the end it all came back to the Core developers are only interested in writing code for what they want, not what the community as a whole needs. A major flaw in the system.

      • The good news is that other leads (and committers) follow the “Call for Bugs” process just like Jorbin did a month ago for 4.3 – https://make.wordpress.org/core/2015/05/27/call-for-bugs/ . That said, it’s great when people have a place to share their pain and ask for a review, since that’s one of the problems both for new contributors and non-technical people.

        The other moment though are product development decisions. There is a fine line between “I will defend that regardless of the future”, and “I would like it to go in the right direction, and with hundreds of other choices out there, I would have to switch if things keep taking those turn”.

        There are lots of political, sports and brand examples for both parties, it’s just worth mentioning that people are different and both groups have to be “respected” accordingly.

    • I think Mario has exposed the root cause of the increased temperature:

      it’s been a serious of actions on top of each other that keep happening regardless of the very vocal community feedback.

      Dave Navarro cuts even closer to the bone:

      if you’re not a developer or you’re not in the “clique” of the Core developers, you have a snowball’s chance in hell of seeing the light of day. A major flaw in the system.

      Those of us who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in development hours on freely available WordPress open source code (time which could have been spent on client projects) and out of pocket (open source donations, Wordcamp support) are quite angry to see the project to which we’ve contributed so much, hijacked by a narrow coterie of self-appointed pashas, basking in the radiance of their Sun King.

      WordPress is the development community and not core. The larger ecosystem built the success. Those in core seem to have forgotten that. In his favour, Matt Mullenweg, much less than most.

      How do developers and supporters become alienated? In Foliovision’s case, after sponsoring Wordcamp Slovakia at Gold or Silver level for 2013, 2014, 2015 (as well as contributing presentations every year and helping with PR), we’ve been banned from Wordcamp. Not for anything we did there (we had only positive feedback on our presentations), but due to a directive directly from Matt Mullenweg. Henceforth developers who do not license ALL of their code under GPL are barred from Wordcamp. We license 98% of our code under the GPL and maintain a very active Github of our public software. We didn’t suddenly change our licenses. I didn’t see my refund in the mail for our contributions to those Wordcamps (nor do I want it: we just want to be able to participate in our local WordPress community).

      I cite this only as a single example of the kind of experience which could alienate long term community members.

      Here’s another specific example of how core ignores those not in the clique. We have a plugin Thoughtful Comments which allows both front end comment editing and comment caching for the native commenting system (no new tables, existing data only). We proposed our features and our code which has been field tested for years on some of the world’s most active political sites to core (great initiative btw, to solicit applications to core). We have not heard a peep back from the core team. Instead core are destroying the menu system and adding amateur icon services. A more cycnical person might suggest that improving native commenting is a competing product to two of Automattic’s own showhorses, Intense Debate and Jetpack.

      In general the WordPress project is gradually becoming overbuilt. Perhaps the best example of a software project becoming overbuilt is Microsoft Word. The best version of Microsoft Word is either Mac version 4 or 5.1a, dating back to 1992. Every other version of Word became slower, spewing out much larger files and potentially even crippling your computer.

      It kills me to see this process happening to WordPress. WordPress is supposed to be an ultralean publishing tool, supported by third party developers. It’s not supposed to be a cash cow or a Trojan horse for a billion dollar VC vehicle’s data mining (Automattic). As a community we are slowly being betrayed.

      I think it is high time to fork WordPress. What disturbs me most about WordPress are four full updates per year, each of which may or may not take down businesses sites (businesses by and large do not need new features, especially not that often). I’d like to see a business version of WordPress which is focused on long term stability and security updates. There will be a single annual feature update version. I’m calling our fork BusinessPress. The goal is to maintain 100% compatibility but with a stable version and trailing security updates. WordPress will be our experimental version.

      • There is the tentatively named BackPress (name will be changed) project that is seeking developers who would like to experiment with the potential of what WordPress could become, if it was more modular. The stated goal is to be incorporated back into WordPress, but everyone is being honest, that is unlikely to ever happen.

        I also have my own project that is built off of WordPress using MIT license for new code. Might change the license to something different, but I think MIT is good enough. WordPress will always be GPL.

        Technically, I suppose I am providing some support for the new BackPress project, but I’m still going to maintain my own fork. Experimentation, I think is better since you can bring forth the best implementation into the project. Or in my case, bring WordPress into other projects, independent of WordPress the platform.

        Problem with a fork has always been, if you are one person, then you are facing a tsunami with as many contributors that work on WordPress. Some full time. The more people working on a single fork, the more successful that outcome will be.

      • At the end of the day, unkept software is a ticking time bomb. Whether Automattic has control or some other maintainer. And you’re always going to get disputes on what goes in and what stays out, that’s business as usual.

        Good luck on your fork. It’s not the core that’s really the problem when it comes to updates and stability. As someone who’s taken over a bunch of WP installs over the years, it’s always plugin related. Random HTML/CSS changes, shortcode breakages, etc. When you get beyond what WP has out of the box is where the problems start. WP is like an OS… and plugins are like Applications.

        If you’re going create a “stable” WP clone, you’d be much better off starting over with a fresh, modern MVC codebase, maybe something that “looks” like WP but not really—kind of like what Apple did with Mac OS X—and write some emulation layer for “existing” plugins to live in.

        WP is really a victim of its own success. It’s been twisted, pushed and pulled in all kinds of directions, ways it probably shouldn’t have gone. I would love to see a completely modern WP with built-in support for custom fields, decent asset handling, and post types based on fields. We have plugins for that, like Pods and AC, but then you might as well start using some other system like Craft that was built with those from the ground up.

        • Thanks for the encouragement Dave and for sharing your experience.

          What we’ve noticed (managing somewhere between thirty and one hundred very active and complex WP sites for the last nine years, some very heavy traffic) is that core changes affect plugins.

          There’s nothing wrong with taking people’s websites down for core changes. But this shouldn’t happen more than once per year. WordPress.org figures it should happen four times per year. I strongly disagree with that perspective (again I’m responsible to small business owners who are trying to run their businesses on WordPress).

          I don’t think it’s worth rewriting core (not at this point anyway) as that’s a massive undertaking.

          I’m aiming at something much similar. Stable long term versions with a life of ten to eighteen months (perhaps eventually a second trailing version) with a lot of the WordPress branding and nuisance-ware removed, suitable for immediate business use.

          One should be able to swap versions (BusinessPress for WordPress) just by changing the files. If WordPress.org goes too far off the beaten path, creating an alternative fork remains an option: it’s not our target.

          But I think by picking and choosing our Golden Master releases we can really improve the WordPress maintenance experience for businesses and commercial WordPress developers. Even normal end users might appreciate getting off the upgrade train.

          I agree with you though, WordPress.org would do everyone a favor if they would clean the whole code base for performance and simplicity. Older PHP applications have dated badly over the last five years so deep code renewal should probably be part of the normal update cycle.

    • While I’m not really thrilled with (and recently often argue about) certain changes within the community, I personally don’t think that things have got too far.

      You’re someone who I greatly respect in WordPress, so it’s refreshing to see someone say they think things haven’t gone too far. It makes me think maybe I should re-evaluate a number of the things I’m reading, etc.

      That said, that doesn’t mean that I don’t think there’s room for improvement — I do think, obviously via this post, that things have gotten a bit heated, but I don’t think we’re beyond the point of no return.

      That’d be hyperbole if I were to even write that.

      There have been a few more a while ago, but it’s been a serious of actions on top of each other that keep happening regardless of the very vocal community feedback.

      For sure. I don’t really know how to handle that kind of stuff, but watching it happening is concerning, if nothing else.

      Having said that, if decisions are not made democratically (I’m not saying they should), it’s possible that some decisions will be disagreed on. And when a series of those happen and continue to happen regardless of the open and apparent feedback, it’s normal that the broad community may feel ignored.

      So we begin to tread on the idea of a political movement (which I think someone brought up on Twitter yesterday) and which I kind of hinted at in the post.

      When it comes to democratically handling something, it operates under the assumption that the majority is right more often than they are wrong. This doesn’t mean they aren’t wrong, but that they aren’t as wrong as often.

      I know you know all of this, so hopefully you’re not reading this as me talking down to you – I’m really just sharing my oversimplification of things :).

      I don’t know if decisions should be made democratically or if a meritocracy is the right way to go (and I do think that when the broader community feels ignored, it feels more like an oligarchy but I digress on that), but one thing that I think is observable is that the spoils system is at work and it does result in a lot of friction that I don’t think is necessary.

      those “small” changes affect millions of people and shouldn’t be applied lightly.

      This. All day.

      A civilized a mature discussion requires both parties to act accordingly. That requirement works both ways.

      It absolutely does. I shared this in a short comment on WP Tavern a few minutes ago, but the burden of how something is read should not be placed solely on those who read the comments, but it’s a burden that should be shared between those who write and those who read.

      • Thanks for the reply Tom – yes, I understand what you’re saying, and I’m sure that we’re on the same boat trying to make sure that we’ll have a joyful trip with great cocktails, nice weather and all. Not a Titanic kind of trip.

        All I’m saying re: political stuff is to refer to the fact that the community consists of a lot of people who contribute in their own way. That said, if everyone abandons the project over night, nothing else matters. This is why more people should have a say in important product development and planning decisions, and those should be considered accordingly.

        After all, there are only three things that we could do if things don’t go the way we like:

        1) Shut up and be “sheep”

        2) Make our case and explain why it affects our use cases

        3) Leave and go somewhere else

        Which is why I believe that the most rational thing here is go for 2) and expect some decent feedback from the people in charge. When that’s not the case, I think that we have a serious problem, and given the alternatives, I think that time is too valuable to fight windmills. :) So let’s hope for mature discussions and decent feedback from both parties, in order to get things back to normal.

        • Expecting decent feedback has always been a coin toss. I have seen great core team members who I respect greatly, because they value the same things I do.

          If a lead doesn’t value the same thing you do, then you are going to have a conversation with a wall. I’ve learned, it is better to just walk away.

          I have spent too much energy fighting tooth and nail to get my patches into core, when I could have been spending more energy writing patches.

          The answer is always the same, “Your ticket is low priority, work on something higher priority.” I have to think that inline documentation (docblocks) has some value. Those never would have been in WordPress, if that battle was fought today. Sure you have someone with core commit access doing inline documentation, but would that person exist if not for the hardships fought so long ago? I doubt it.

          That is what I believe. So many tickets were rejected based solely on the grounds that the core team didn’t see any value in the proposal. The saddest thing for me has always been seeing tickets with patches that were never discussed or committed and went completely ignored.

          I believe there has been an effort to correct that behavior. That doesn’t correct the original. I don’t work for WordPress. I’m not going to pick a bug and write a patch for it. I’m not going to support the mess that is currently in WordPress.

          If WordPress is a garden with plants and flowers, then most of the garden is poorly planted with either no planning or planted with inaccurate information or lacks experience from a more seasoned veteran. You have tools available that your great-great-great grandparents passed down and you can’t buy new ones, because it is traditional to always use those broken, rusted, flawed tools.

          You do what you can, as well as you can, but you know that everything is tainted. There are things you can do to fix the problems, but the current landowner denies any suggestion and suggests you get back to pulling the weeds. After you’ve pulled enough weeds, you might be given the privilege of a plot of the garden left untouched and might be able to seed your own plants. By this time, you are so encompassed with the way the current landowners interact that any new gardener that comes that tells you that it would be better with change is shot down.

          You’ve had to pay the piper and any new upstart has to pay the piper too. Doesn’t matter if the new gardeners idea is a good one or one you had previously. If you put your head down and continue to work for the landowners, there is a chance you’ll become a landowner yourself and your investment will pay off. By that time, you’ve forgotten the right way and know only the WordPress way.

          Reasoning in programming is difficult, because you can justify any decision or proposal or counter decision and counter proposal. Who can say whether final should be added to a class, why or what circumstance? Granted, there are books, people who have experience that would tell you. For every person that tell you one thing, there is yet another that will tell you another.

          The core team can justify their decision, because they are the gatekeepers protecting the users. Everyone that is not them needs to stick to patching bugs, bugs they created adding new code that any contributor is unlikely to be able to add, because they aren’t part of the core team or not trusted.

          WordPress states repeatedly that it is a meritocracy, which I always laughed at. Yeah, I’m an asshole, yeah, I had a feature added once upon a time. Yeah, I spent most of my time working on patches that I still have no idea were of any use and wasn’t code. All I have to show for it is that I gave two presentations once upon a time, was part of GSOC one time and recognition from some old members. I’m just one of a couple hundred people that worked on WordPress once upon a time.

          I talked to someone on the core time about changing the Docblock standard and I was told that since they decided on the standard that I had as much chance changing it as beating a dead horse would make it walk again. I am the person that wrote the initial Docblock standard! You mean to tell me that my experience and my (forceful) suggestion at improving the standard is ignored, because some people after I came along and bootstrapped a lot of the inline documentation, decided to settle on a given standard. That my opinion does not matter, because who am I anyway?

          If this is what you have to deal with, then I’m glad I stayed out of WordPress core development.

          I’m actually unsure what point your post was attempting to make. However, as someone who has seen this before and probably will see it again. I do say that a fork is needed. If only to scare the core team into thinking that maybe change is required to prevent the fire from getting out of control and having a fork gain too much traction.

          I can’t say for sure what the core team is thinking, but as much as I try not to attack them, it is hard, because it is them who prevents possible progress. Prevents experimentation. Prevents ideas from taking off and capping discussion.

          Hey, I’m probably wrong. They just want to prune toxic individuals to prevent them from entering the fray and infecting the community. I’m sure there are many ideas they listen to that I just haven’t seen.

          “How many of the 1000+ tickets will this close?” What an arrogant question.

  6. I wonder how much of this is due to WordPress becoming more popular, and more money being generated in some form or fashion through the software. There also seems to be a bit of friction between the “old” and the “new” users of the software.

    It’s an unfortunate fact that the people that got businesses to run, families to take care of, and a life away from the keyboard to live get burned out by this drama. They may chime in initially because they feel part of the community, but when they see things spiral out of control, they will just leave the discussion.

    The unfortunate part is that this leaves us with those that got nothing better to do, have malicious intents to misrepresent facts, or that are simply a bit crazy shouting at each other in the comments.

    Still I wonder how much of this is WordPress only. From my anecdotal experience, the Linux project is a bit weird as well, and the Javascript community seems divided looking from the outside.

    I think in the end we got to trust into the project leads to take the right decisions, and do our best to keep the project running.

    If you don’t like the direction, stop whining, and start forking. :)

    • I wonder how much of this is due to WordPress becoming more popular, and more money being generated in some form or fashion through the software.

      This is a great question.

      There also seems to be a bit of friction between the “old” and the “new” users of the software.

      I think that there’s some merit to this, for sure. But I don’t think that we should discount the ‘old’ people from the software as they’re the ones who have been building tools and businesses on top of it for years.

      Granted, I know that’s not what you’re saying, but I also know that some believe we should go forth and tend to leave some in the dust.

      I don’t think that’s the responsible thing to do. Then again, I don’t know if what I think is even in the right way of thinking. I just know if I was asked for my thoughts on the matter, it’s what I’d say.

      And I’m speaking from the perspective of someone who’s running a business that’s working with a variety of versions of WordPress.

      It’s an unfortunate fact that the people that got businesses to run, families to take care of, and a life away from the keyboard to live get burned out by this drama.

      Yes it is.

      They may chime in initially because they feel part of the community, but when they see things spiral out of control, they will just leave the discussion.

      Yes, again. Because priorities. You’re nailing it.

      Still I wonder how much of this is WordPress only. From my anecdotal experience, the Linux project is a bit weird as well, and the Javascript community seems divided looking from the outside.

      I tend to agree. This is not unique to us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t unique position ourselves so that we behave in a much better manner than communities who are subjecting themselves to the same pain.

      It’s like we’re all aware we’re punching ourselves in the face and we’re all hurting but no one wants to stop throwing fists.

      What gives?

      I think in the end we got to trust into the project leads to take the right decisions, and do our best to keep the project running.

      In some respects, maybe. But I also think the project leads have a responsibility to listen to those who are actively involved with the software as well.

      They aren’t a group of people who voice their concerns without some kind of evidence to support their issues (well, some aren’t, at least :).

  7. “…I tend to hang out in the gray…”

    Your pragmatism over the years has become a voice with which I deeply resonate.

    Barely a week passes in which skype, slack, hipchat, email, various comment threads, and twitter explode with bipartisan rhetoric about WordPress.

    There are countless late-night conference conversations I’ve simply had to walk away from to avoid avalanches of ego and arrogance, or heated debates that seem to exist for no other reason than to satisfy an appetite for dissent and emotion, regarding a topic that needs nothing more than logic and empathy.

    I typically don’t engage in one way or another (unless it’s to provide a non-sequitur or similarly useless diversion).

    Conversely, I am extremely grateful to work with the people I do today.

    • Your pragmatism over the years has become a voice with which I deeply resonate.

      Wow. Thanks for that. I really do appreciate that (and it goes both ways, FWIW).

      Barely a week passes in which skype, slack, hipchat, email, various comment threads, and twitter explode with bipartisan rhetoric about WordPress.

      Yeah – what’s the phrase? “WordPress is the new black” or something like that. I dunno. Never that good at being clever :).

      I typically don’t engage in one way or another (unless it’s to provide a non-sequitur or similarly useless diversion).

      I toe the line – I’m more of a passive consumer than anything, but every now and then things get so heated that I feel like I at least want to share my thoughts so I do in a post like this rather than in comments on various blog properties.

  8. I am looking from another side. A community that old (11 years now), and this big, bunch of things is bound to happen.

    Just to give a simple idea, for a guy who is in this community for say for 6 years, he always thinks in himself, he knows this community, he fell very close to it, and eventually that started him give a kind superior (maybe wrong word, can’t find the better one ATM) attitude. He started to think he owns something, he has to have a say in everything about this community under his radar. And that goes same for a guy who is in community for 2 or even for entire 11 years.

    So, maybe for others like you and me, he does not mean much, or maybe to him, we don’t mean much. But we all have a say, we all have got an attitude, we all think we know this better, and we are the ultimate bricks that makes this community.

    You see, thats where democratization should take effect. It always should be beyond us. There is always a greater rest. When you build something that big, defining, even its beyond the founder, beyond the core people behind. Yes, its all important. Some stuff are the key to the project, some are the souls, but end of the day its about people. This #Drama is what we create, we, the so called *Expert.

    And yes, please criticize me as I call myself *(WordPress Enthusiast)!

    • I am looking from another side. A community that old (11 years now), and this big, bunch of things is bound to happen.

      Absolutely – it’s a sign of growth, if nothing else.

      So, maybe for others like you and me, he does not mean much, or maybe to him, we don’t mean much. But we all have a say, we all have got an attitude, we all think we know this better, and we are the ultimate bricks that makes this community.

      I don’t know if it’s so much of a matter that we think we know ‘better’ as it is that we want to bring alternative ideas for consideration to the table.

      Sometimes ‘alternative’ is better, sometimes not.

      Yes, its all important. Some stuff are the key to the project, some are the souls, but end of the day its about people.

      And this is exactly why we have to do a better job of talking amongst ourselves.

      And yes, please criticize me

      No way! Thanks for your comment – it’s appreciated :).

  9. I’ve essentially just stepped back from the whole thing. Who wants to get involved with discussions when there’s been so many personal attacks thrown around? I’d rather spend my time building cool stuff and teaching others how to build cool stuff.

    • AMEN to that :)

      Back to building cool things!

      • I think a lot of important voices are stepping back. I do hope it’s only to stop wasting time bickering and instead investing time writing code.

        • I think a lot of important voices are stepping back. I do hope it’s only to stop wasting time bickering and instead investing time writing code.

          I tend to think that that’s exactly what’s happening.

          But I’d like us to speak up at least sometimes :).

    • That’s exactly what I did too :)

    • Make WordPress, not war.

    • I’ve essentially just stepped back from the whole thing. Who wants to get involved with discussions when there’s been so many personal attacks thrown around?

      I know, right?

      I tend to be more of a passive consumer of content right now, but that doesn’t mean that there are times – clearly – where I opt to voice my opinions on the matter.

      And you’re someone who I think would have a valuable voice in certain discussions. Nonetheless, you and Emil are up to good work with theme auditing (and other things, as well).

      I’d rather spend my time building cool stuff and teaching others how to build cool stuff.

      I know. It really does generate such a higher level of happiness than dealing with the bickering, doesn’t it?

    • Pretty much what I think I did. I think we should really focus on what matters here instead of pointing fingers we should be building cool stuff, as in that’s what we do best.

    • Yep, best to step out of the arguments, but always good to step into a good conversation. That’s where the participation needs to focus. Conversations where different viewpoints are welcome, but mud-throwing is reserved for the kids playing in the mud puddles.

  10. Well written (as always) … and something that needed to be written; I imagine as much for yourself as for the community as a whole, too.

    Thanks!

  11. I’ve left my WordPress business to you in my will.

  12. I’ll put it like this… I’m a WordPress user and I do some development with WordPress. That will continue to be the case until I personally decide that I don’t want to do it anymore. Plain and simple.

    As for the WordPress community, well, that’s just another way of referring to the people most of us interact with every day, if you ask me. And when it comes to people, every individual has the freedom to be as civil or as destructive as he or she would like within the community.

    That said, I’m looking at every person for who they choose to be regardless of their status or depth of involvement in the WordPress space. There are some really cool people in this industry that get no love and quite a few punks that get praise anyway because of their development skills. I’m not subscribing to that. I don’t know about everyone else, but WordPress isn’t life and it’s certainly not justification for taking part in a toxic environment on a daily basis.

    For all of these folks who think it’s okay to be flat out disrespectful to other human beings, directly or indirectly, the problem starts before WordPress enters the picture and its solution will be found outside of the #wpdrama hashtag. Though there’s been a lot of bickering, it’s going to remain that way until people start addressing other people when necessary. No level of WP involvement should get you a pass for being disrespectful.

    I don’t like the drama. But I like human beings being set straight when necessary. Thank goodness some of the recent changes are controversial enough force certain individuals to show their true colors. Maybe that’ll remind the majority of us that we’re people first and not figures in the community.

    I GUARANTEE you, the folks causing issues here are also doing the same in other areas of their lives. Not recognizing that is the real problem. I’m all for watching that get fixed and I’ll gladly participate.

    • I’ll put it like this… I’m a WordPress user and I do some development with WordPress. That will continue to be the case until I personally decide that I don’t want to do it anymore. Plain and simple

      A good stance, to be sure. Personally, I consider you more than a ‘WordPress user,’ but that’s just because I know of your involvement in your own projects as well as with EDD and so on.

      And when it comes to people, every individual has the freedom to be as civil or as destructive as he or she would like within the community.

      Absolutely! I’d never want to come off an enforce something that would take away a person’s freedom to be that way, but this comic does come to mind and I think it’s something that’s relevant to all of us.

      I don’t know about everyone else, but WordPress isn’t life and it’s certainly not justification for taking part in a toxic environment on a daily basis.

      You’re right. It’s not life. For many of us, it’s how we make a living, but there are things far more important than the software itself. We (that is, you, me, and the rest of us) want to see it succeed and go in the right direction.

      But even for the purposes of this post, I’m trying to talk past that and into how we talk to each other. Not to go off on a tangent, but when you look around at the state of things across the board, we’re not doing so well at getting along with one another and it’s causing some serious problems.

      It’s happening at the micro-level as something as small as a piece of WordPress and as large as an entire county. Sure, I guess you could argue it’s par for the course (look at history, right?), but does that mean we shouldn’t aspire to do something better in the areas in which we’re involved like WordPress?

      I’d rather leave a positive mark where I go than anything else. Of course, to be clear, I’m not saying you’re stating anything other than that. I’m just ranting a little at this point :).

      No level of WP involvement should get you a pass for being disrespectful.

      This.

      I don’t like the drama. But I like human beings being set straight when necessary.

      And this.

      I GUARANTEE you, the folks causing issues here are also doing the same in other areas of their lives. Not recognizing that is the real problem. I’m all for watching that get fixed and I’ll gladly participate.

      I think you’re absolutely right – it’s not as if we’re one type of personality to our offline peers and family members and then just opt to flip a switch and become someone completely different and destructive or disrespectful online.

  13. “Disenfranchised” is I think the word that sums it up. While I still love working with the software (when I don’t hate it :p) and the friends& relationships that were born and nurtured through meetups, WordCamps, and Twitter/Slack are invaluable, I find more often than not that I am less enthusiastic about trying to attend anything or engage anyone about anything related to WordPress. Kind of an “ehhh…” feeling. Maybe a bit of social burnout, since there always seems to be a fire.

    It is human nature to classify things, divide things, take sides, and form groups, and there isn’t anything wrong with that in and of itself. And though I don’t like drama in any realm, it happens everywhere, and so it’s unsurprising. Let’s just not pretend we’re above it when we gleefully participate in it… either don’t, and try to make it better, or admit that you do, and the consequences that come with it. (That’s “you” in the “general you” sense, by the way, including myself).

    • “Disenfranchised” is I think the word that sums it up. While I still love working with the software (when I don’t hate it :p) and the friends& relationships that were born and nurtured through meetups, WordCamps, and Twitter/Slack are invaluable, I find more often than not that I am less enthusiastic about trying to attend anything or engage anyone about anything related to WordPress. Kind of an “ehhh…” feeling. Maybe a bit of social burnout, since there always seems to be a fire.

      I wanted to quote individual parts of this paragraph, but the whole thing is great and I agree with pretty much all of it.

      As I said in the post, I’ve been exposed to a lot of fantastic ideas and met some really, really great people because of WordPress. And I think that’s why – after a certain point – things begin to feel so frustrating.

      Something that’s resulted in so much good is also generating so much negatively and that’s a bummer, you know?

      It is human nature to classify things, divide things, take sides, and form groups, and there isn’t anything wrong with that in and of itself.

      Completely agree. We’re also capable of seeing the problems that we create an try to fix them as well (I mean, I know you know this, I’m just adding to your statement) and, in my case, this is one area in which I see a problem and in which I really want to see some improvement.

      It’s because I care about WordPress, have experienced the good side, and want to see some of the negativity subside.

      And though I don’t like drama in any realm, it happens everywhere, and so it’s unsurprising.

      Yep.

      Let’s just not pretend we’re above it when we gleefully participate in it… either don’t, and try to make it better, or admit that you do, and the consequences that come with it. (That’s “you” in the “general you” sense, by the way, including myself).

      Exactly. And I hope that much of what’s been shared here is clearly an attempt to at least raise concerns in an attempt to make it better over anything else.

      I don’t want to add to the negativity. Absolutely not.

  14. Tom – Thanks for voicing this so well.

    I think there is a skill we all (or we many) need to learn which is how to express our opinions in a way that we feel our passionate opinions have been heard but which doesn’t attack and devalue others or the work they’ve done.

    I personally dislike the customizer and particularly putting content (menus/widgets) in it, but I really truly appreciate the immense effort Nick and others have put into it.

    Now I can say that as “OMG I hate the customizer we need to kill it before it because a multi headed hydra of destruction”. I’m prone to that because well, I’ve noticed hyperbole gets some attention on the internets.

    Far better would be “I love that we’re getting better front end previewing of changes. I’m not loving putting content editing (widgets/menus) into the customizer though as it seems cumbersome and already over-loaded it. The customizer works great for design, but less so as content gets complicated. What kind of road map can we lay out now to make this even better in the future?”

    Side note: I think WordCamps might need to solicit a couple talks around “constructive communication in open source projects”. We’ve had lots of “contributor talks” that talk about the nut and bolts of contributing, but very little if anything on edict, politeness, interpersonal communication skills, etc..

    • I have seriously been considering pitching a “nonviolent communication” talk for WordCamps.

    • Thanks for voicing this so well.

      Thanks! I’m glad it came off in a positive way versus anything else.

      Side note: I think WordCamps might need to solicit a couple talks around “constructive communication in open source projects”. We’ve had lots of “contributor talks” that talk about the nut and bolts of contributing, but very little if anything on edict, politeness, interpersonal communication skills, etc..

      I was just talking with my wife about this last night, but I wonder if those who would attend would even be those who would benefit from it?

      I also wonder who would look at it and think “What is this doing at WordCamp?” :)

      • When I gave a spiel about kinder communication at WC Austin during my contribution keynote, I was teated to half a dozen snarky tweets making fun of the idea that we as adults can choose to use language to be more welcoming rather than to show how clever and sarcastic we can be. I’ve been around for 7 years. I can’t even imagine how devastating that kind of response would be to a new contributor. Oh wait, except I can, because they tell me about it as they leave.

        • When I gave a spiel about kinder communication at WC Austin during my contribution keynote, I was teated to half a dozen snarky tweets making fun of the idea that we as adults can choose to use language to be more welcoming rather than to show how clever and sarcastic we can be.

          I think there’s actually benefit in having these kind of talks at WordCamps (aside from the snarky tweets that you experienced – which is a bummer, because I know how that feels), how did it go generally speaking?

          I can’t even imagine how devastating that kind of response would be to a new contributor. Oh wait, except I can, because they tell me about it as they leave.

          Right?

          I’ve been around about as long as you have, but in more of a varying degree and there are times where I still deeply question and reflect on how involved do I want to be in this?

          Granted, I clearly love WordPress and I want the best for us. I also enjoy building things for others using WordPress, but it’s rough at times.

          Thanks for your comment, Jen – though the nature of the comment is sad, I’m happy to see you chime in with experience on this exact idea.

  15. Arguably, many of the snarky remarks seem as much due to fatigue, after working 12+ hour days for weeks on end, then reading some irritatingly off topic post–the reptilian brain creeps in and stupid stuff is sometimes said. Geez, been there done that more times than I like to admit.

    The reptilian brain posts aren’t too hard to spot. I generally find them more humorous than harmful; forthwith the popcorn goes into the microwave, I sit back and have some fun with it. Having the best time of my life personally.

    The WordPress community is about as close to a Shakespearian play as I’ve seen in my 50 years, 20 of which doing this biz.

    I say keep the peanuts flying–there’s a place for the peanut gallery. And sometimes you get hit by peanuts. Wipe ’em off and get back to work. It’s all good.

    • Arguably, many of the snarky remarks seem as much due to fatigue

      This is another problem unto itself, in my opinion. Why should we be doing this to ourselves?

      And this is coming from someone who used to do that kind of work. But I don’t have different responsibilities, priorities, and more limited time now, so I can’t.

      To that end, I think I’m in a better place because of it.

      Geez, been there done that more times than I like to admit.

      Haven’t we all, at some point or another? :) I smile, but I also regret it, too.

      I generally find them more humorous than harmful; forthwith the popcorn goes into the microwave, I sit back and have some fun with it. Having the best time of my life personally.

      I guess it’s good that you’re in that position. Not all of us are, or we just feel differently. And it’s not that I’m saying one is better than the other – but I’m obviously not at a place where I feel like doing that.

      Not right now, at least.

      I want better for the things I’m working on and the software that I use.

      The WordPress community is about as close to a Shakespearian play as I’ve seen in my 50 years, 20 of which doing this biz.

      That’s a bummer to me.

      I say keep the peanuts flying–there’s a place for the peanut gallery. And sometimes you get hit by peanuts. Wipe ’em off and get back to work. It’s all good.

      But it’s not “all good.”

      I mean, don’t get me wrong, I generally have the mindset of dismissing certain things and getting on with my work, but there are times where certain things have escalated to a point where I feel like something needs to be said or shared and in those moments, I end up with posts like this.

      All it amounts to is wanting better for the community and software that’s given me so much and that I try to give back to, as well.

      If we don’t reign some of this in, it’s not going to be worth my time to participate in it and I really don’t want that to happen (for reasons that would be better left for a future blog post :).

      • If there was a like button on your reply I would tap it like it twice. :)

        WordPress brings out the scientist in all of us. And with that excitement comes sleepless nights, falling asleep at the cappuccino machine, and forgetting to call Mom more often than not…

  16. As someone who tries to look at things from all points of view, recent events concern me deeply for multiple reasons. As someone who is totally blind, WordPress is the first platform allowing us to create quality websites. Therefore, I support all changes to enhance accessibility, while being mindful of those who need to take time to make changes to their code to comply with the customizer and other mandates, especially when volunteering their time, and feeling their views weren’t even given consideration. I see the same thing happening with WordPress that happened in the blindness community in 1960. Differing viewpoints caused a group of people to break away from the National Federation of the Blind to create the American Council of the blind. While we have benefited in some ways by having differing viewpoints represented on national, state and local levels, we have experienced reduced effectiveness compared with other disability groups who are completely united. Perhaps a much better example are the two U.S. political parties, and how the constant fighting among them impedes forward progression. Any successful business experiences growing pains. I guess we should not expect WordPress to be any different. and as with any business, no one entity can be all things to all people. We have a saying in the Access Technology Industry, “don’t litigate, innovate!” So if there is a group of people who are united in their beliefs that there is a better way, then by all means stick a fork in it, and let the innovations begin!

    • Therefore, I support all changes to enhance accessibility

      Absolutely. I love all of the effort around this and am doing what I can to try to educate myself on the topic so that I can do a better job with the work that I do.

      While we have benefited in some ways by having differing viewpoints represented on national, state and local levels, we have experienced reduced effectiveness compared with other disability groups who are completely united

      I’m not blind, so this is all very interesting (and new) to me. This is sad to hear, for what it’s worth.

      Any successful business experiences growing pains. I guess we should not expect WordPress to be any different.

      This is absolutely true. Though I believe we are at a place where we’re growing in terms of a platform, we’re also garnering a lot of negative discussion around things that could be handled in a far better way.

  17. In any online community of any size things wax and wane.

    Its not like government at all. We have a two party system rather than a three party system because R. Perot showed three’s a crowd. The goals in government are globalization and equalization. The only difference in the parties is how to achieve this. The Internet does enter into that, its why its being handed to corporations and money in that respect is not an object. They need create, actually already well underway the technology to regulate the web. Simply put cannot have one world with one people without it. Many argue that it cannot happen, but it will. It must. Question is when. I am well politically connected. There was brain session live on TV many years back, 90’s, about the future and its been pretty on target. Was brainiacs, all very noted from economists to news people, professors and the like. Even events such as 9/11 were predicted as old culture and new clash.

    Was pretty complex, four hours as I recall. But they spoke to economics being catalyst of the full beginning of change. Equalization occurs to a certain level then the plug is pulled. In the US, Marshall law ensues and results in localized militia. What emerges in time is a completely different landscape.

    Was fascinating but perhaps more of concern but everything I recall discussed has been happening.

    In WP, its a community. Joomla has similar. Things wax and wane.

    @michael, I am working on a pro-Bono site for people with MS. I took it on because several handful’s of people turned it down. I never considered the customiser being a problem. Its an immense project. I have over 180 hours into it already. Would I not have taken it on knowing that?

    I’d still do it. The work came from God. I am well connected in the Catholic Church as well. Thats how it came my way. In fact, the good lord just worked a miracle on it today and yesterday.

  18. “Now, one of the services you provide is giving them something to talk about. Let ’em talk. It makes ’em happy, it makes ’em feel good. They don’t believe half the shit they say. People wanna talk. Yeah, it’s fun to talk.”

    Jerry Seinfeld

  19. You’re correct in all that you’ve stated, but for the tl;dr folks it boils down to two issues (for me)

    1. people need to grow the fuck up. period.
    2. not enough people are willing to concede that they may be wrong about something. regardless of which side of the fence they’re on.

    the first thing takes time, but I believe the community will filter those folks out.

    I hope it does. for everyone’s sake.

    • (Side Note: Mark down is doing something bogus with the numbering. Sorry about that.)

      the first thing takes time, but I believe the community will filter those folks out.

      I hope it does — I think it will, but I think it’s going to get worse before better. Maybe that’s my pessimism talking.

  20. I think the simple answer in the short and long term are key WordPress corporate leaders hiring more women and people of color, but mostly women, to eningeering roles. When we increase the diversity of companies, we increase the quality of their conversations.

    This requires all sorts of tiny and large aspects on a regular basis, like helping to engender a STEM focus for the young ladies in your life in addition to actually making WordPress a welcoming place for current female computer engineers that would otherwise avoid it as a framework.

    • The lack of women in the industry is partly down to all of the above.

      Make the industry more appealing to women and we not only make it better for men, the women will come naturally. But it could be a generation before it balances itself out. Simply hiring more women won’t, in and of itself, make the community better because currently they’re expected to ‘act like men’. I call it the Margaret Thatcher problem. She succeeded not because of her femininity but because she pushed it to one side.

    • so you never tried to convince [name-redacted] that she is wrong and you are right? That is a pointless waste of time for probably anyone outside of the group of core participants. It is not the fact that she does it but the way it is done (your idea is worthless IMO, go write a plugin and if it will be popular we can revisit it) which is cool as it is her that needs to make a decision and the important thing in her “job” is to actually make decisions, not making people happy.

      So from a small sample it seems like having a vagina do not make you a better communicator. What makes you think that black people are communicating better then whites?

      What the community really needs is someone like linus that will have the boobs to not try to be nice to everybody all the time and cut the BS before it spreads.

      • I and others understand the point you are trying to make but the choice of words really removes from the message. A lot of people will dislike you for writing the way you did and some will feel hurt.

      • Mark,

        I debated whether or not to approve your comment because it is so incredibly insensitive that I didn’t know if I wanted it associated with anything on this site.

        Obviously, I did approve it and it’s because I’m all for people having their right to free speech and for voicing their thoughts, their opinions, and their take on a given issue.

        I opted to remove the name from your comment because what you’re saying is part of the exact problem that I’m talking about in the post above. You’re singling someone out and then you’re attacking personal characteristics not only about that person but attributes that are common to part of an entire group.

        So from a small sample it seems like having a vagina do not make you a better communicator.

        Why would you bother to even phrase something like this? It’s crude, it’s rude, and in what way is this productive?

        What makes you think that black people are communicating better then whites?

        Why not ask for evidence that proves than rather than asking a question like this? There are far better ways to approach this kind of stuff.

        And this isn’t about political correctness (because that card gets played often enough as it is), but this is about respect which is core to everything that’s been written up to this point.

        I’ll admit that part of me wants to believe that the problems that exist in STEM regarding men, women, and so on aren’t as severe as they seem (and that’s just wishful thinking on my part, I know), but then I see you making comments like this and it completely demonstrates that there are significant challenges that they have to overcome.

        What the community really needs is someone like linus that will have the boobs to not try to be nice to everybody all the time and cut the BS before it spreads.

        So you state that “having a vagina do not [sic] make you a better communicator” but then you refer to Linus Torvalds and say that people need to “have the boobs” to “cut the BS.”

        You first make a statement against women, then you say someone with the attributes of a woman are necessary to cut through all of the crap that exists within the technology field.

        This entire comment is so frustratingly disgusting. Yet, you’ve the right to say it so here it is. But, if nothing else – I don’t know if you’re going to read the rest of this or not – please read this.

        Finally, and the issue that hits closest to home for me, is that I’m currently raising two girls who I want to be able to grow up in a world in which they can go after whatever careers they choose.

        I’ve been involved in technology since I was very young, and I know that men have it easier in this field than women. That doesn’t mean that we need to leave it that way. We have our work cut out for us in terms of making it more welcoming for women, minorities, and so on.

        I want to be a part of that and I’m trying to do what I can both as someone involved in software and as a father to make sure that my girls – if they so choose – have everything they need to enter into this field.

        But to think that there are people like you leaving comments like this on a blog that’s talking about respect and civility in our industry is working against that.

        It’s absurd.

        Knowing that there are people like you who hold this perspective and conduct themselves this way in a setting where others can read it (teenagers and so on, included) is sad to me.

        I’ve been at WordCamps where not only women, but young kids – that is, those that aren’t even teenagers yet – are sitting in on development talks with their laptops asking questions in order to learn as much as they can about WordPress, building software, and so on and it’s so encouraging to see that.

        But then ideas and thoughts like this show up and it goes to show just how bad it really can be especially for women.

        What gives? I’m completely and seriously asking here because I don’t get it.

        Women who are already into the field of technology working as programmers, engineers, scientists, running successful businesses, and so on have to deal with attitudes like this is gross enough, but knowing that people such as yourself hold and voice this view within our field to those of us who are working to raise strong, independent women who – if interested in technology – have the ability to go into the field may encounter this type of attitude is sickening.

        Whether or not you opt to change your mind based on any of this is up to you – no one’s going to make that happen – but at least try to voice your thoughts more respectfully.

        • Thank you for such a wonderful response, Tom. (As well as the article itself, and all of your other responses) But this particular response really shows who you are…and that is all sorts of goodness wrapped up in a human being. :thumbsup:

    • If you look at the research men and women have different interests really. Regardless of culture what men and women want to do if they are given a choice differs. Being female, male, north european decent, being of subsaharan african decent etc, is not a merit in and of it self. That is just genetics. We as a modern society need to move away from the idea that genetics is a merit.

      Also hiring more women, or ethnic minorities etc will not change anything, culture or community culture is not based on genetic heritage. Diversity of opinions, ideas, thought patterns is what is important, fostering a culture where you are not belittled, ridiculed or talked at for suggesting or commenting on various topics. That is what is important, that is what should be the focus, not what you have or do not have between you legs or the colour of your skin.

      • If you look at the research men and women have different interests really.

        You’re generalizing. If this were completely true, no women would ever be in technology and no men would ever be in a field that’s predominately female.

        Regardless of culture what men and women want to do if they are given a choice differs. Being female, male, north european decent, being of subsaharan african decent etc, is not a merit in and of it self.

        Maybe I’m off base, but I don’t think that’s what Lara was suggesting. That is, it’s not so much that gender or ethnicity is a merit, but it’s that the STEM field is often as accepting of diversification as was just demonstrated.

        Diversity of opinions, ideas, thought patterns is what is important, fostering a culture where you are not belittled, ridiculed or talked at for suggesting or commenting on various topics.

        This is exactly right. It’s not about gender, skin color, or any of that. It’s about the things you’ve mentioned. Those are the merits.

        Yet we have people ridiculing others for exactly what you’re sharing.

        • You’re generalizing. If this were completely true, no women would ever be in technology and no men would ever be in a field that’s predominately female.

          I was talking on a general level, the group women compared to the group men. There is a (much) higher percentage of men that is interested in stem stuff, computers etc than the percentage of women that are.

          “We show that men and women differ systematically in their interests, and that these differences can account for an economically and statistically large fraction of the occupational gender gap.”

          http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167487007000839

          Maybe I’m off base, but I don’t think that’s what Lara was suggesting. That is, it’s not so much that gender or ethnicity is a merit, but it’s that the STEM field is often as accepting of diversification as was just demonstrated.

          In STEM they are bending over backwards to please women, there is 2:1 preference of highering women in STEM fields. Women are more likely to get highered, they get promoted faster and so forth.

          “We hope the discovery of an overall 2:1 preference for hiring women over otherwise identical men will help counter self-handicapping and opting-out by talented women at the point of entry to the STEM professoriate”

          http://www.pnas.org/content/112/17/5360.full.pdf

          Yet we have people ridiculing others for exactly what you’re sharing.

          I was ridiculed for writing what I did. =).

      • This makes absolutely no sense.

        • Could you elaborate?

          • Why are women in STEM continually expected to put up the brunt of the intellectual fight to prove that diversity should be a primary goal for all software companies?

            Why am I asked for “articles” to support what is a widely accepted Western philosophy, called feminism? Don’t you think that some of the onus should fall on white men to do some of the Google-ing and safer space building themselves?

            Really disheartened by this conversation.

            • While Mark K.’s comment is totally out of line in its vulgarity and viciousness (enough to make me wonder if it’s genuine), I don’t understand why you think women should get special conditions for work in IT or anywhere else.

              Women must compete in a meritocracy too. In my company we have many women working in tech and there are no barriers to their entry. The biggest barrier to women in tech is biology. I have three of my best women out on maternity leave and in no rush to come back. Note: we have much better maternity rules in Europe so women are not salary whipped to be back at their desks in two weeks as in the US.

              Anyway women in tech is a real red herring when talking about issues with the direction of the WordPress community. WordPress, made up of pansy PHP developers (according to the bare metal/C++ crowd), is one of the most female friendly environments in the world.

              • Cry us a river Lara.

                Please be more civil to your fellow commenters, Alec.

                • Hi Tom,

                  Feel free to remove the phrase George objects to. I stand by the rest of the comment.

                  George, actions speak louder than words.

                  • One of the things that I’ve tried to throughout the course of the comments on this blog is allow everyone to have their say – be it good or bad.

                    This hasn’t been a popular choice with some, but for others it seems to be okay.

                    Ultimately, my goal is to display a clear picture of all sides – however many there are – to this issue and those raised in the comments.

                    This means that I’m practically approving everything.

                    But, to that end, I want to thank you for re-considering that phrase. I’ll be removing it as per your request (and I appreciate the respect shown both in George’s request and yours, as well).

                    • Thanks Tom. I do treat issues of equality with great seriousness. Women will always enjoy equal opportunity and equal pay in any company where I have a role as a manager or owner.

                      PS. I don’t envy you on the moderation of this post. Thanks for providing a civil forum for the discussion.

            • Why are women in STEM continually expected to put up the brunt of the intellectual fight to prove that diversity should be a primary goal for all software companies?

              I honestly wasn’t trying to ask you to put up a fight or to defend the stance. I am genuinely sorry if I came off that way! I can Google just as much as the next person (and I have) – when I come across someone who probably has more experience or knowledge than me on a subject, I’m just asking for that person to share their knowledge.

              That’s all. I didn’t mean to offend. I clearly did, so I apologize for that.

              Why am I asked for “articles” to support what is a widely accepted Western philosophy, called feminism?

              Again, this is just to add to the collection of stuff I’ve read – nothing else. No ulterior motive.

              Don’t you think that some of the onus should fall on white men to do some of the Google-ing and safer space building themselves?

              Absolutely. And I’ve done that. Again, this was just meant for me to try to learn more about a topic from someone who knows more than me. I wasn’t trying to be disheartening.

              Never meant for it to come off like that.

              • I understand that, but I think that some of the politeness around online exchanges makes this issue less serious than it should be. This is a very serious topic, there are mountains of evidence to demonstrate that the world has failed massively at attracting women to STEM, and we need to be more aggressive about how we fix it. ESPECIALLY in an open source community like WordPress. The misogyny expressed in these comments is just one small piece.

                Thank you for your kind replies, Tom.

            • Hey Lara,

              I can appreciate your frustration. The purpose of my question “Could you elaborate” had nothing to do with lack of knowledge or an attack on gender. I would have said that were you a male. It did have to do with you making a statement (“This makes absolutely no sense”) and not qualifying it or pointing out how the commenter you’re replying to can adjust their perspective. Why are you being “asked for ‘articles’ to support what is a widely accepted Western philosophy?” Because this is a public forum and any idea being presented is to be qualified with facts.

              — Sent from Mailbox

              • I will reply “this makes no sense” to any comment that expresses misogyny or racism.

                • Except that what he expressed was neither misogynist nor racist? He didn’t say that any gender or race was incapable of doing something, nor did he say that one should or shouldn’t. He said that some people are interested in some things while others aren’t and that there’s a strong correlation to genetics.

                  He nails it on the head here:

                  “Diversity of opinions, ideas, thought patterns is what is important, fostering a culture where you are not belittled, ridiculed or talked at for suggesting or commenting on various topics.”

                  — Sent from Mailbox

            • You can see this comment I just wrote for some relevant research regarding STEM and society. https://tommcfarlin.com/the-wordpress-community-a-comedy-of-drama-ego-oligarchies-and-more/#comment-837194

              PS

              Not to make any authoritive claims just letting people now about my interests and background.

              And about feminism, that is probably because feminism and related research seldom has anything to do with the actual society.

              From the research Ive read there is a lot of selection bias and other issues that corrupts the results. Yes I have read research, even taken a semester of gender studies. I’m also part of a group that writes about and discusses research related to the sexes, equality and so forth. Been part of the “equality movement” for more than 10 years now. Just so you know a little about me and where Im writing from. I don’t mean to offend or anything just want to make things clear that if you want to talk about research and so forth I’m all for it.

      • I have been avoiding this thread completely because the chances of a positive outcome are about .01%. However, I cannot let this slide.

        Andreas, you say that genetics are not a merit, yet that men and women are inherently different. Which one is it? Are genetics a factor in who somebody becomes or not?

        The only person here I see arguing FOR genetics as an innate merit is you. What Lara and so many other people are saying and have been saying (including me) is that your genetics influence who you are, particularly in the way that it shapes other people’s expectations of who you should be and the way you are then socialized. Because of this socialization, the evaluation of somebody’s capabilities is far more complicated than what you’ll get out of raw output.

        If a little girl is never told that computers are a potential career for her because of adult beliefs that “girls just aren’t made for this”, how would she ever get to the point where you’re evaluating her technical merit? If a person of color in a majority-white country internalizes a belief that they will never be in a position of power, because every real AND hypothetical example available illustrates people of power as being white, will they ever think to make it a goal? That doesn’t make that person at fault, nor does it make any individual person in their life at fault. It is the end result of a combination of a society that continues to reward cultural norms and punish anybody outside of them, and people who are threatened by any possible shift in their status quo.

        In order to even approach having a full picture, we need to accept our own biases and be open about them. I am a very biased person, including in the ways women are socialized to see other women as their competition (which in turn reinforces that men should only have to compete with other men – it’s a socialization based on male dominance). Because I can see my own biases, I can see that we live in a system that has flaws that we need to correct for. So, yes, purposeful attention needs to be paid to diversity efforts right now. A tech company may need to take extra effort to make sure the applicant pool is diverse – this does NOT mean that the technical evaluation past that point is in any relaxed, contrary to your fears. It does mean that we need to ensure that the majority of our evaluation methods are objective, though, because subjective methods could lead us right back to subconsciously being more critical of one group over another for no other reason than their gender or race or age or whatever else. Maybe someday we won’t have to put effort into this area, but since that means a greater societal change, I’m not just going to sit around and wait for that.

        • This.

          Society and the environment has a huge impact in shaping you and your interests from the day your are born until the day you die.

          From tots, media, television, movies, and the internet. Then of course the parents and family environment.

          I’m the parent of a 7 year old boy, not a girl. Even I see how society guides girls down a certain path from seeing the difference in how girls and boys are marketed to right from birth and how certain things are geared differently towards them on a daily basis almost everywhere you go.

          Does the environment and society shape everything? No. Of course genetics have a big impact also. But society and the environment still play a major role.

        • Clearly I know too many gifted female programmers and technical design experts, Helen. No shortage of gifted, capable and confident young women prepared to enter science or technology where I am.

          • This kind of backhanded “retort” is exactly what pushes them and many others right back out. It is ugly and unhelpful. Your singular experience does not change what statistics tell us about representation of groups within this industry and the representation of groups within those who leave it, just like my experience as a woman who was encouraged to enter tech does not change that many women are both passively and actively discouraged from pursuing it as an option. Obviously women exist in tech – I am right here in front of you. There’s also more than just gender representation imbalance. Who might we be missing just because they were never told this was an option for them?

            • Wow. Just wow. I approve. To think you are a core lead that brings forth the community in a positive, forward thinking direction.

              What does the statistics say? They tell you there is a gender imbalance, they don’t tell you why.

              The biggest problem out of all of this is that the gender imbalance is perceived as a problem at all. I mean, what? Are you going to force all women to be in STEM until there is a gender balance? I don’t even understand that. What other solution is there?

              1) Remote work, if a woman doesn’t need to be in the office, they are less likely to be abused.

              2) Do people even need college to gain a career in tech? I know they probably do in other STEM fields, because they are more rigid study. People can study online to gain knowledge.

              3) People can work on open source projects or mobile apps to gain experience and prove they know programming.

              If a company is going to turn down a qualified applicant simply because they are female, then that company deserves to fail.

            • I completely agree and thank you so much Helen for your incredibly written comment right above it, too.

        • Science strongly suggests that genetics plays no part in defining a person, other than the physical characteristics and initial personality of a person. What they will be is almost entirely defined by family, culture and environment.

          How are you going to impact change in society?

          Also, what is your definition of a positive outcome? You seem to have a low opinion of anyone discussing this subject. Why do you have that opinion?

          I am also curious as to why you replied as you did? Why did you interpret it as the most negative way possible? Why did you not give it the benefit of the doubt and go with the positive interpretation, asking for further clarification?

          I mean, in our interactions, you did the same with me. Left me quite confused as I had the best of intentions at the time. I will say that the best book I read, gave this advice and I’ve tried to use it whenever I remember and try to remind myself often, so I don’t forget.

          1) Assume what someone says is true for them.

          2) Attempt to figure out how it is true for them.

          You don’t have to believe it is true. Just that the other person believes it to be true. After acknowledging that, attempt to figure out why it is true for them. If you can’t come to a firm conclusion, then the book suggests asking for clarification. I understand that some people will take asking for clarification as a weakness. If they do, then that is on them. I have little patience for those that tell me that asking for further information is a weakness. While I wouldn’t go as far as my friend and mock them to the point where they would never, ever consider it a weakness, because frankly I am not that intelligent and I don’t care enough to mock someone relentlessly to the point of tears.

          (As an aside, I realized recently that the statement is made ever more ironic, because it is a woman who reads and wrote the advice. She pauses and rereads that statement. Initially, I had thought that she was emphasizing the importance of the advice and I do still believe that to be the case. I also believe that if someone was more disingenuous, they might interpret it as a woman attempting to tell people to listen to women when they speak. It gave me a chuckle, so I hope others are equally amused.)

          I read the original reply and thought, “Yes, that makes sense from what I’ve read and from the research I’ve seen.”

          You start your comment off based on an incorrect premise and conclude with an emotional argument. I’m not sure where you were heading and I’m asking for clarification. You don’t have to give it, but please be aware that until you do, I’m going to ignore pretty much everything you have said. I realize that emotional arguments are useful, because people don’t understand logic, but they have little value to me personally.

          It occurred to me that some might interpret the emotional argument as a female thing. If you are one of those people, then I think that says more about you, than it does me. You should evaluate why you think women are associated with emotional arguments and then get back to yourself on the conclusion.

          Emotional arguments are useful for weak people with no alternative of properly formalizing a strong argument using evidence and facts. Useful, because people are emotional creatures and have little need for evidence or facts. I suppose you might suggest that I think you are feeble minded again. It would be more accurate to say that I would say you are human.

          That you are female has zero relevance as to how I would treat you or view you as a person. Given previous interactions with you, I doubt you have read this far or you may have just skipped to the last paragraph.

          I do not value labels for the sole reason that once you label yourself as something, people associate all of the things with that label to you. I do not label myself as a man or male, because it has such little value of who I am. Someone who labels themselves woman or mother, or female is associated with all of the things that go along with that label.

          If someone wants to view me a man and address me as a man, then who am I to suggest otherwise. I am a programmer and if I talk about programming enough, then either they will see me as a programmer or they will continue to see me as a man. If someone suggests that I am X, because I am a man, then I would disillusioned them quickly of that and call them a fool.

          I don’t know what it is like to be a woman and honestly, I don’t care. If that offends anyone, then I’m not sorry. Honestly, empathy is not something I have much of. I have tried to empathize, but it was an exercise in futility and I gave up. I suppose I could fake it well enough, but why bother?

          (As a further aside, here is a tidbit as to why certain men see women as competition in the workforce. With obvious exceptions, women choose their mates. Women generally choose mates that are higher in status than they are. If a man wants a highly desirable woman, he has to gain enough status that the woman will choose him over the other males.

          The exception is notable, because women who say that they choose mates at their current or lower status are usually females that higher status males would reject for various reasons.

          You may also object to the biology explanation, but it is often the most reasonable one. People forget that people are animals and their desires are biological ones.

          The point is, if a woman whom a man might see as a potential mate enters in the same workforce, then that woman may reject the advances of the male given that they have the same status. Women also object to the advances of men, but I think they forget that for the most part men go to the women and not often the other way around. If a man wants to find a mate, he has to ask the woman. This therefore gives the woman all of the power to either accept or deny the man. It could also be annoying given that many men will propose relationship with the woman, depending on how attractive or desperate the man is, until she is in a relationship with another person.

          Some men suggest that women are only upset when undesirable men court women. I’m not sure if that is true. Anecdotally, I will say that women seem to object to me even looking at them and are offended when I even attempt to ask them a question in public. I suppose they believe that I’m interested in courting them and that is what gave them offense.)

        • I have been avoiding this thread completely because the chances of a positive outcome are about .01%. However, I cannot let this slide.

          Ok

          Andreas, you say that genetics are not a merit, yet that men and women are inherently different. Which one is it?

          The answer is that it is both. Men and women differ on a group level. About merit. Being a man or a woman is not merit. See the definition of merit:

          ”merit: the quality of being particularly good or worthy, especially so as to deserve praise or reward.”

          Are genetics a factor in who somebody becomes or not?

          Never wrote they didn’t. Wasn’t part of the argument at all. They play a large part but does not explain everything.

          The only person here I see arguing FOR genetics as an innate merit is you.

          Please exemplify what part of my argument said that genetic is a merit?

          What Lara and so many other people are saying and have been saying (including me) is that your genetics influence who you are, particularly in the way that it shapes other people’s expectations of who you should be and the way you are then socialized. Because of this socialization, the evaluation of somebody’s capabilities is far more complicated than what you’ll get out of raw output.

          Yes?

          If a little girl is never told that computers are a potential career for her because of adult beliefs that “girls just aren’t made for this”, how would she ever get to the point where you’re evaluating her technical merit?

          Girls have to be told what they can do? That is a very limiting belief in human potential. I would say stuff that like that is what hampers your potential. The world is full of people that did what they wanted.

          If a person of color in a majority-white country internalizes a belief that they will never be in a position of power, because every real AND hypothetical example available illustrates people of power as being white, will they ever think to make it a goal?

          If they internalize a belief that they suck, its their own fault. No one but your self are responsible for your life choices for the most part. Of course there are exceptions.

          That doesn’t make that person at fault, nor does it make any individual person in their life at fault. I

          Of course its their own fault. Who else prevents them from doing anything your self wrote that they had “internalized” it. Playing the victim is failure to take responsibility for your own life.

          It is the end result of a combination of a society that continues to reward cultural norms and punish anybody outside of them, and people who are threatened by any possible shift in their status quo.

          Are we talking about society or WP Core and trac now ;).

          In order to even approach having a full picture, we need to accept our own biases and be open about them. I am a very biased person, including in the ways women are socialized to see other women as their competition

          Good that you recognize that you are bias, but don’t include the rest of us in that.

          (which in turn reinforces that men should only have to compete with other men – it’s a socialization based on male dominance).

          Which in turn reinforces nothing.

          Because I can see my own biases, I can see that we live in a system that has flaws that we need to correct for.

          Nah it doesn’t work that way. You need to validate if your hypotheses is correct, it could be that you are suffering from confirmation bias. You look at society in such a way that it conforms to your prejudice views.

          So, yes, purposeful attention needs to be paid to diversity efforts right now.

          Nope. If you cannot show that it is a certain way no efforts are required.

          A tech company may need to take extra effort to make sure the applicant pool is diverse

          No it does not. I argue that diverse pool of ideas and thoughts etc is more useful than for example ethnic diversity. Being white or black doesn’t mean you think any different than someone of another ethnicity.

          – this does NOT mean that the technical evaluation past that point is in any relaxed, contrary to your fears.

          I don’t fear diversity of sex or ethnicity. I fear that focusing on that breeds just such issues that you claim exists in society. The focus on sex and ethnicity creates bias etc.

          It does mean that we need to ensure that the majority of our evaluation methods are objective, though, because subjective methods could lead us right back to subconsciously being more critical of one group over another for no other reason than their gender or race or age or whatever else.

          I agree. However striving to increase ratios of gender race etc does itself create the issue of putting one group above another when you do not fill your “quota”. Thinking you need someone that represents some group is itself a form of sexism and racism. It devalues the person to just be a representative of a group, it devalues the competence of the person. Hiring, promoting etc in this way is for me very wrong.

          Maybe someday we won’t have to put effort into this area, but since that means a greater societal change, I’m not just going to sit around and wait for that.

          If you look at the research and so forth its pretty good to be woman today. Sucks a bit for the men though according to statistics. We are starting to tipping over the other way and its celebrated.

          http://www.ted.com/talks/hanna_rosin_new_data_on_the_rise_of_women

          • Andreas, thanks for providing some balance to the conversation. Unlike in the 17th century and earlier where physical force and agility with an epee usually carried the day, there is little advantage to men these days.

            What these feminist extremists (no, feminists don’t necessarily support quotas throughout society nor see everything through the eyes of gender) don’t seem to get is the argument is economic. If you come from a poor background, now more than ever, your chances of fighting your way out are awfully low unless you have some very special ability. This could be height and agility which takes a man to the NBA, this could be exceptional beauty combined with at least a modicum of wit and charm which could elevate a woman at work or on television, this could be mathematical acuity which puts a boy or girl on an academic fast track, this could be musical genius which takes a man or a woman a long way in a musical career (combine with at least comely appearance).

            To suggest that women as a group are disadvantaged now is to rage in the face of objective evidence (some of which was linked by Andreas). But hey, the theologians were able to maintain that the earth was flat for at least a few hundred years, burning some scientists alive for contradicting the evidence.

            As Jacob Santos and others have noted, there’s such a shortage of good talent in tech that any company who shortchanges talented women is putting itself at a competitive disadvantage. Not letting in a gender-counting radical, on the other hand, makes sense. Just as it doesn’t make sense to hire a committed socialist-anarchist coder (in most cases such a person cannot bring him or herself to execute commercial projects for profit-seeking entities properly). Companies have to WORK. This kind of conversation in a company is likely to put all but the richest companies out of business (no more pieces of pie to share to anyone) in six months.

            I’m not quite sure what the fuss is about tech anyway. It’s hardly like staring into a computer monitor for eight to sixteen hours a day for one’s entire adult life is a particularly sexy or healthy way to live. If women shun tech as a group, perhaps it’s because most women are too smart to be drawn into such a limited and emotionally austere life.

    • I think the simple answer in the short and long term are key WordPress corporate leaders hiring more women and people of color, but mostly women, to eningeering roles.

      I hear exactly what you’re saying (and I’m actually working on a small side project that’s aiming to at least raise awareness of the gender gap in technology and some initiatives that exist to try to close it).

      To what you’ve said, I add that I don’t think it’s a “simple” answer. I think it might be partially an answer, but I think it’s more complex than that for if it were really a “simple” answer, then I think it would have already been done and debating the topic wouldn’t be as heated as it is.

      Hopefully this makes sense. To be concise, I’m not saying the idea is wrong, I’m just saying I don’t think it’s as simple as that (though it’d be nice if it were!)

      When we increase the diversity of companies, we increase the quality of their conversations.

      I like this idea and would honestly love to read more about it. Do you have articles about this to which you can refer? I know this reads like I’m trying to play up to the comment, but I’m not – I’m genuinely interested in it (see my notes about a side project above :).

      This requires all sorts of tiny and large aspects on a regular basis.

      Agreed. Completely agree with this.

  21. Guilty in some respects. I got beef with a few folks.

    Though what killed the WordPress “community” thing for me was the Thesis (let’s put Chris’s head on a stake) debacle many moons ago. That was a train-wreck in HD.

    Same shit diff day. Just focus on you, ignore everything else as best you can.

    • Guilty in some respects. I got beef with a few folks.

      I think we all are at times, but as long as you keep whatever issues you have with others between you and those parties, then that’s different than getting into a comment field and just spitting personal attacks that don’t do anything to further the actual cause of software.

      Though what killed the WordPress “community” thing for me was the Thesis (let’s put Chris’s head on a stake) debacle many moons ago. That was a train-wreck in HD.

      I remember that so vividly. It didn’t really kill anything for me, it was just tough to watch.

      Plus, you’re contributing to the community and to WordPress through things like Pressnomics so I wouldn’t even say that it’s killed things completely for you :). But that’s just how I see it.

      ignore everything else as best you can.

      Trying! But what’s a post once a year on a topic that you care about, you know?

      • Well, if you really think about it; PressNomics was an unsanctioned fork of a WordCamp. We get to support/interact with the community ‘on our terms’ vs under some official dogma. There are some lessons there. ;)

  22. I thought about this long and hard and came to a strategic decision.

    Ignore them.

    Your pal,

    Terence.

    • Thanks Terence — in most cases I do, but sometimes things hit so close to home that I think we have to speak up a little bit.

      • That’s my point Tom.

        Flappin’ your gums because your panties are in a bunch generally leads to noise, not signal.

        The only way to make it different is to do it differently.

        M10cYMMV.

        • Going to be responding to this in reverse order. Hopefully that’s okay ;).

          The only way to make it different is to do it differently.

          Indeed – I don’t disagree with this in most cases, but with WordPress being a community-driven effort (for now, at least), I think that we need to balance how things have been done and how they need to be done.

          I could be wrong, for sure. This will play out in time, but I’m just voicing M10c :).

          Flappin’ your gums because your panties are in a bunch generally leads to noise, not signal.

          I hate to come off like I’ve been adding more noise to signal. That was never my intent. I rarely like posts like this and, when I do, I try to be as thoughtful about it as possible.

          Sometimes it resonates with people, sometimes not. The nature of the beast, I suppose.

          But you’re right YMMV (or, in my case I guess, MMMV).

          Even still, thanks for following up with your original comment. I definitely appreciate your 10 cents :).

  23. That was a good article…

    Makes me think about how I conduct myself online.

    • Thanks!

      Makes me think about how I conduct myself online.

      It’s one of those things we gotta fight daily, you know? Always be getting better, imho.

  24. Well-put, Tom, and I agree with a lot of the comments here. I agree that wpdrama has a lot of causes, one of which is that the community has some growing up to do, and among others are overwork and conflicts with what our users expect and what we kow as developers might not be such a good idea. Hopefuly we can nip this in the bud or at least contain it, before the WordPress community becomes just like the blind community or the accessibility community. While wpdrama is bad and wearisome, the drama that gets generated by the other two communities I’ve mentioned I think is exponentially worse, each one taken by itself. When you put the two together it becomes a complete CF, and I don’t ever want to see the WordPress community sink to those depths.

    • Very good point, Amanda. It could be much worse. The Mambo/Joomla dustups make our differences seem insignificant. On the other hand, the Drupal world has always seemed fairly civilised though.

      As Tom says, hopefully, going off a bit off course is not a problem if we right the course of the ship in time.

    • I wanted to respond to several of your sentences independently, but they’re all so inter-related that it makes it hard — and that’s a good thing :).

      You bring up a lot of great points and I think that taking them all together paints a really good picture of the potential dangers that exist.

      But you sum it up nicely:

      I don’t ever want to see the WordPress community sink to those depths.

      • Thinking maybe I should actually write a post on this. (1) I haven’t written in a while, and (2) I’ve made it a point over the last ten years to stay out of WPDrama, but this round really pains me for several reasons.

  25. All this talk about democracy and open source. In a democracy, if 51% of the people want one thing, then 49% get left out. But as Tom puts it, it’s an oligarchy run by the Golden boys (as Nikole Gipps puts it) the boys club in general (that they claimed didn’t exist).

    If WordPress wants to continue and evolve it should follow the pattern of a true Open Source community. And where is an example of that? Linux is the best example. I stomp on Mac and spit on Microsoft. (Oh sorry… I forgot to be nice).

    Linux literally has a thousand permutations. There’s Ubuntu, Mint, Arch, Slaxware, Debian, Bodhi, Fedora, Open Suse, Red Hat and Cent OS. And of course I could go on. Yet they are all based on the linux kernel which is overseen by one person at the top and a committee who work closely with him. Yes they have the same type of squabbles, but the point is that Linux is an overwhelming Open Source success example.

    Somehow what Linus Torvalds has done is magic. It works so well beyond the norm that Linux runs 75% of the internet (which everyone on this group should know very well) plus it runs a very, very large percentage of corporate and non corporate networks and databases.

    So what can we learn from Linux? THEY FORKED IT!!! Change a couple letter and it will be, but as it stands FORK is not a curse word. The Linux core stuck to being core and the multiple distros did the job of catering to niche requirements. You can’t possibly have such a large community where one size fits all.

    So what is the crux of the problem? THE CORE (THE GOLDEN BOYS) ARE DEVELOPING WITH AUTOMATIC’S INTEREST IN MIND. They could care less about their vast community’s opinion. In their feeble minds they have surmised that the best way to run a democracy is through tyrany. And what is the crux of the solution? WPers need to get off their lazy loyalty butts and start forking wordpress. It’s not a threat. It’s not a bad thing. Look at what it did for Linux.

    By creating the wordpress customizer WP core is catering to Automatics vision of where they will be able to compete with Squarespace. They could care less how it impacts the rest of the community. Let automatic have their customizer, but don’t force it on everyone. The core should stick to core (as has been demonstrated by linux) and leave the niche demands to be produced by the different distributions. That is if they want to have the kind of success that linux has had.

    It’s time for WPers to put away their Squabbles, get off their lazy loyalty butts and start forking.

    • To Me:

      This comment makes more analytical sense than any other comment attached to the post (it reverts back to WHY all of the opposing comments were created) !

    • AND,

      It offers a solution !

    • Hear Hear! Finally someone stating the obvious about the King’s lack of clothing!

      Seriously though, I think that sometimes there is a lack of connection between the core developers and the people actually using the product. This is even more notable as WP becomes more and more of a commercial use product, and not just an easy and simple way for people to post up their personal blog comments. As WP becomes more popular, it’s usage base spreads, it’s usage methods expand, and finally it becomes almost impossible to be all things for everyone.

      WordPress is also incredibly complicated to fork in part because of it’s ever creeping development, rather than milestone advancements. So instead of version 4 being a certain set of features and functionality refined to perfection, we instead are faced with 11 major / minor revision sets since version 4 has come out, and there is no real stable “version 4” that people can work to. Rather than a stair step of improvements and feature additions, WP development is more of a smooth ramp, and it’s very hard to pick a spot to stop on such an incline.

      I have said before that it would be really to WP’s benefit (IMHO) to wrap up version 4 with the current feature set, and move on to create the “all new” version 5. If you want to have customizer everything, if you want to have this, or that, or something else, then make a fully new version. For those people who do not like the new version, they can roost on version 4 comfortably – and plugins, themes, and the like can roost there too. Right now, plug in and theme creators are basically dragged along down the path of constant upgrades, such that many of them are unlikely to be completely 100% compatible with older versions of WP. Because there is no stable stop point, no common ground, and no support for such a common ground in the WP universe, it’s almost impossible to stop being forced forward. When you are more or less forced forward into updates and revisions that you don’t like, don’t need, or don’t want to implement, it turns WP from the most useful tool to one that is needy and requires constant care and feeding.

      It should be pointed out that many business in the world use older, more stable versions of software and OSes. I was in an Ikea store recently, and all of their workstations run on Windows XP… many companies use variations of Windows NT, many of which are much older – but stable and “common”, it’s easy to maintain when the target isn’t moving all the time!

      These are interesting times for WP. The developers face a nasty combination of their own desires to make things “better”, their own personal desires for the outcome, the demands and desires of Automattic (including, I feel, not addressing the spam issues on a fundamental level, as it’s the money maker), and the community as a whole – a really big diverse whole. It’s not surprising to see that it’s almost impossible to make all of those things fall into place and work right together.

      • Alex, your analysis is spot on. There is no reason business people or writers should be using experimental software.

        Your wish has come true. With BusinessPress, that’s exactly what we are aiming for. We’d like to freeze version 4 before the new menu technology hits, along with the expanded Customizer. Those features are experimental and like the questionable admin interface changes which came between version 1.5 and version 2.7, there’s a good chance WordPress will struggle to get it right. Why should publishers have to live through that struggle?

        Our goal is to provide at first single year security updates on our frozen WordPress 4.2. At the end of about a year there will be a single update to a stable future version of WordPress (the exact date for. After update, there will be another three months of security updates to BusinessPress 4.2 to allow business site owners a large window during which to update their site stress free. Feature updates will not be more often than once a year.

        Right now I am actively looking for fellow travellers to help with those security updates. Just as WordPress.org is made up of a mix of part time contributors and paid staff, BusinessPress will follow the same model. We will seek to be more responsive to our community (business publishers and commercial web developers rather than hackers) than Automattic has been of late.

        While we’ll have our own repository for BusinessPress core, we plan to use the WordPress plugin repository, taking into account which versions are compatible with which version of WordPress. New code which we will definitely be writing will warn users of incompatibility of BusinessPress with new versions of plugins. This should be rare (we will be 100% compatible with WordPress to start and plan to stay that way). Most reputable plugin authors try to ensure reasonable version compatibility and don’t go out of their way to break legacy sites.

        One goal will be to support free standing plugins as a priority over plugins dependent on a third party service. There will be a recommended plugins directory with suggestions for field tested plugins to solve each major direction, such as SEO, ecommerce, membership, video or social. While we have different ideas on some issues than current WordPress.org, we share many values. For instance, we are dedicated to theme portability. You should not have to rewrite your site to be able to change your theme.

        Anyone who would like to take part in BusinessPress or would just like to keep up with the latest news on BusinessPress should just drop me a line.

  26. Tom this is by far the most balanced and selfless article I have read this month after reading (without participating in) what’s going around for couple of months here. I don’t really have a solution in mind.

    But as someone who cares a lot about WordPress and who gives back by contributing in the core of this awesome piece of software, I really wish that we should get past personal attacks. WordPress community is better than that.

    • Thanks Ahmad – I know it didn’t (or doesn’t) resonate with everyone as that’s a hard thing to achieve, but I’m glad you found it as good read!

      WordPress community is better than that.

      We are, and we’ll get past this, for sure, but it’s just going to take time. I think it’s some form of growing pains, if nothing else.

  27. One thing that has stood out to me is how much we need better communication. Thank you for the article. It has prompted some good discussion that needs to take place.

    I think it is important that sites have a good use policy and enforce it. StackExchange, for example, has the policy of “Be Nice”:

    https://wordpress.stackexchange.com/help/be-nice

    That will not solve everything, but it is a tool that we sometimes forget we have and it can help open a space where communication can take place.

    Something I like abut the StackExchange policy is the suggestion that we should “assume good intentions”. If we don’t do that we put people into a defensive posture and fail to appreciate their contributions, which in most cases are well intentioned.

    I think WordCamp sessions on how to foster better communication and promote diversity are an excellent idea.

    • One thing that has stood out to me is how much we need better communication. Thank you for the article. It has prompted some good discussion that needs to take place.

      Thank you for the comment. And you’re right, it boils down to more mature communication.

      How we go about addressing this is something that I don’t yet have an answer to, but I know that many people do want to have this fixed, so I think it’s something that’s going to take time and that’s going to be interesting to watch as why try to figure this all out.

      I think it is important that sites have a good use policy and enforce it. StackExchange, for example, has the policy of “Be Nice”:

      +1

      And, honestly, I’m torn — there are clear examples of being doing the exact opposite even in the comment thread of this post. I know people disagree with me on what I’m about to say, and that’s okay, but I stay conflicted between having a form of regulation around tempering what people can say and what they can’t.

      The thing is, I think it’s a Good Thing for people to see both sides – the Good and the Bad – of how people react to a certain issue. Otherwise, you get an unclear picture of the reality of the response.

      Then again, this is still something I’m thinking through. Anyway.

      Stack Exchange’s down voting system is great. I don’t think it’s applicable to WordPress, of course, because it’s a different medium, but maybe something in the form of comments (and I’m not talking about third-party systems).

      I think WordCamp sessions on how to foster better communication and promote diversity are an excellent idea.

      +1

  28. I’m someone on the absolute periphery of the community, slowly trying to move towards a more active role. As organisers of the local meetup group and the WordCamp that’s coming up in a few months in Pune, my friends and I have been incessantly trying to drive more people to get involved with the project.

    We try to focus on the non-code ways of contributing, as well since Pune is filled with developers. We have more than a dozen who’ve contributed to the code. The glamour is enough for people to get motivated to contribute to the software, at times.

    The point I’m trying to make here is that a small group of us in India is trying really hard to reach out to those who use or develop with WordPress the software but have no inkling or are intimidated by WordPress the project.

    We have been singing songs about the beautiful, awesome, helpful, open community filled with people hopping around with unicorns and rainbows in the sky. How it is a welcome, friendly and happy place and they don’t know what they’re missing or how awesome can they get by contributing. Our work is doubled because we also have to propagate the concept of open source first to be able to do all this. For the majority out here, computer = windows, programming = .net. They work with WordPress everyday, building websites for clients in small agencies, never knowing what GPL or open source truly is.

    We’ve been doing this for three years now with some amount of success. The sheer number of WordPress people we have in India can revolutionise the amount of skill and manpower that can be made available to the community. We’re the kings of outsourcing and I guess if commercial enterprises can benefit from it, why not open-source.

    We’ve been trying to organise Contributors’ days, hackathons, translation marathons, workshops and sessions explaining every sub-head on make.wordpress.org with little or no success, but finally since a year or so, we have started making inroads.

    And then suddenly, these thoughtless acts of arrogance and condescending attitude are all over the place. How will I explain this to anyone who points it out when I gloat about the community?

    The recent incidents just say that we’ve been lying to people for three years now and I think it is simply unfair to millions like me working at the periphery around the world.

    • I’m someone on the absolute periphery of the community, slowly trying to move towards a more active role. As organisers of the local meetup group and the WordCamp that’s coming up in a few months in Pune, my friends and I have been incessantly trying to drive more people to get involved with the project.

      That’s awesome! We need good people that are moving inwards and doing what they can to improve the people involved and the project :).

      The point I’m trying to make here is that a small group of us in India is trying really hard to reach out to those who use or develop with WordPress the software but have no inkling or are intimidated by WordPress the project.

      The intimidation is normal — it’s a large project with a large group of people a small percentage of which represent a negative attitude that many of us don’t hold.

      We’ve been trying to organise Contributors’ days, hackathons, translation marathons, workshops and sessions explaining every sub-head on make.wordpress.org with little or no success, but finally since a year or so, we have started making inroads.

      Fantastic!

      The recent incidents just say that we’ve been lying to people for three years now and I think it is simply unfair to millions like me working at the periphery around the world.

      Remember that you’re not lying, though! It’s a super small percentage of vocal people who are not representative of the rest of us at large. There is a silent majority and there are those who aren’t speaking up at all.

    • You might end up with much better arguments for contributing when this “incident” is part of history.

      This post and other posts already raised awareness with a positive effect.

      I guess the best way to find out how mature or immature a community is, is to look at the way such conflicts are handled..do people keep communicating, do they run away, is there social control etc…

      Bad things always stick out and the good things are taken for granted, we should fix that.

      So you might explain them that wordpress is not the happy-party-people-community, but serious software development with all bad and good side-effects (and a legacy codebase..but that is a different story :) )

    • @Saurabh Thank you for sharing your feelings. I have been feeling a lot like you lately. Reading through the recent discussions here and on Twitter basically leaves me at loss of words.

      All I’m trying to focus on now is rainbows and unicorns aside, there still are good, open-source-minded people in this community. Those are the ones I’ll be working with.

  29. I’m someone on the absolute periphery of the community, slowly trying to move towards a more active role. As organisers of the local meetup group and the WordCamp that’s coming up in a few months in Pune, my friends and I have been incessantly trying to drive more people to get involved with the project.

    That’s awesome! We need good people that are moving inwards and doing what they can to improve the people involved and the project :).

    The point I’m trying to make here is that a small group of us in India is trying really hard to reach out to those who use or develop with WordPress the software but have no inkling or are intimidated by WordPress the project.

    The intimidation is normal — it’s a large project with a large group of people a small percentage of which represent a negative attitude that many of us don’t hold.

    We’ve been trying to organise Contributors’ days, hackathons, translation marathons, workshops and sessions explaining every sub-head on make.wordpress.org with little or no success, but finally since a year or so, we have started making inroads.

    Fantastic!

    The recent incidents just say that we’ve been lying to people for three years now and I think it is simply unfair to millions like me working at the periphery around the world.

    Remember that you’re not lying, though! It’s a super small percentage of vocal people who are not representative of the rest of us at large. There is a silent majority and there are those who aren’t speaking up at all.

  30. As a woman who’s spent 20 years managing business operations and dev teams “in the enterprise”, these issues are not exactly about gender.

    Poor team member behavior and poor team leadership behavior occurs in both sexes, although it looks different. The male dominance on teams leads us to cast this as a gender issue.

    It is really an issue of establishing acceptable community norms and behaviors in a strong way. What type of behaviors are tolerated? How are conflicts addressed? All communities – whatever the mix of employees, contractors, and volunteers – either explicitly or implicitly make clear what is acceptable.

    Right now, the behaviors of the WordPress community are acceptable, because no one is making clear that they are not. There is a difference between “Dude, that’s not cool” and “We do not tolerate this approach”.

    The community will either mature or break down. Personally, I’d like to see leadership roles emerge that complement the strong technical skillset in core.

  31. Tom – thanks for sharing your insight and feelings. Great writing as always. Don’t be afraid to stay in the grey; that’s where the complexity lives and that’s the hardest place to find comfort.

    Pragmatism ftw.

    One of my takeaways from WCEU is a feeling of commercial maturity in the WP community. Another is the potential for spillover from WP into the world at large. Open source. Agile manifestos. Disruption. Remote. Decentralised.

    Both of those takeaways speak to power in many forms. As soon as power becomes apparent you gotta expect these negative aspects of humanity to rear their heads. The stakes are so high now, not least because the potential is so great.

    I do what I do because I believe it matters. Thanks for doing what you do.

    • Thanks for the comment, David! It’s been an interesting read for me to go through all of these. Some mostly positive, some, well, you know.

      Pragmatism ftw.

      That’s where I try very hard to reside. It doesn’t always go over well as I think you need to have strong convictions about somethings (and I do), but I’m also trying to remain open minded enough to change my mind as more information comes to light, you know?

      Maybe that’s pragmatic in itself.

      Both of those takeaways speak to power in many forms.

      Thank you for sharing those takeaways. I wasn’t at WCEU (though I’ve read some great stuff about it), but it’s neat to see how some of it is applicable to what’s going on right now.

      As soon as power becomes apparent you gotta expect these negative aspects of humanity to rear their heads. The stakes are so high now, not least because the potential is so great.

      I think that’s an astute observation. I’d have to give it some more thought, but I think that we’re at a point where things are early enough that we can make it work. And I think enough people want to make it work, too.

      I do what I do because I believe it matters. Thanks for doing what you do.

      Thank you, and thank you, David :).

  32. Tom, I get your disappointment with the way the community reactions have evolved. To me, it’s inevitable in any organization or group, over time, that has human beings involved. The more people spend time with something, the more they identify with it, be that work, family, relationships or a hobby. The more they identify, the more they project themselves into it and onto it. And people’s projections are usually filled with ego fears. Their reaction is to try to grab for power in order to feel safe and feel like their needs will get met. Those power grabs take many forms but boil down to trying to dominate or avoid being dominated.

    The WordPress community has attracted a lot of smart minds. Unfortunately, they are no more psychologically or emotionally healthy than the rest of humanity.

    That’s not to say that it HAS to devolve into chaos, infighting and name calling. The question is, what is the best way to guide a group towards a shared goal in the most productive fashion? Various political ideologies, business leadership theorists and religions have tried to answer this question, some with more success than others.

    I don’t think there is a perfect answer but I do know that it takes inspired leadership and a plan that takes into account more than open source optimism and a bug-tracking mechanism.

    • Very wise observations, Masen. The problem to my mind is that WordPress.org has become an advertising and sales platform for Automattic. I.e. Automattic has outgrown its community roots. Instead of engaging us, we’ve become a herd to be milked.

      For a long time it wasn’t like this. There was a real synergy within the community, Automattic and the third party developers. Situations evolve slowly. We are still a fair way away from the final precipice but Matt Mullenweg and the other leaders at Automattic (Toni Schneider was CEO but isn’t now) and WordPress.org have some thinking to do if they’d like to recuperate that early community spirit.

      Less exploitation and less exceptionalism (backing off on Jetpack borg plugin with forced install, freeing the hijacked dashboard, reducing the excessive branding throughout WordPress, cutting back on WordCamp bans, consulting community on new features, i.e. Customizer and Menu Customizer) would go a long way to improving the atmosphere.

      It’s up to Automattic. In any case, stability focused BusinessPress without all the branding and forced links to WordPress.com will arrive soon. If nothing else, hopefully BusinessPress will help keep Automattic honest.

      • Alec, yes, once a company takes venture money, it seems they have essentially accepted the capitalist way. Not that I’m against capitalism, but our interpretation of it seems to have a way of taking even the most idealistic companies and bending them to a profit-first mentality. We’ve seen it happen with google, though sometimes it’s hard to tell with google whether it’s greed or just arrogance. Hopefully Matt and the Automattic leadership will be able to walk that line better than those who have come before.

        • I’m not sure it’s possible to do better once you have the VC’s in the house. A VC’s only motivations are growth, revenue growth and then successful divestment (IPO or private sale). Automattic has to answer an important philosophical question: do they wish to be a sustainable business or a growth driven pump and dump which eats its children?

          Lately, Automattic has been gnawing on our legs.

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