Software, Development, and WordPress

The WordPress Way (We’re Doing It Wrong)

For years, the whole “doing_it_wrong” meme has permeated the WordPress development community. Generally speaking, I think that it’s been toned down quite a bit in the last year or two and I consider that a good thing, but recently I’ve begun to see people say they are being chastised for not doing things “the WordPress way.”

You're Doing It Wrong

Granted, this may be something that’s been going on for far longer than I’m aware, but the fact that it’s beginning to reach a point at which we’re seeing a number of different people share this feeling in blog comments is, at the very least, interesting (if not a bit disconcerting).

Honestly, I’m of two minds about it: Telling someone they are “doing_it_wrong” is negative – it’s condescending. And perhaps telling people they aren’t doing it “the WordPress way” is just a flip side of the same coin, but I also think that it just has a more positive, approachable spin to it (depending on how it’s shared, I guess).

Whenever anyone starts off a discussion with a negative then proceeds to tell you why you’re wrong, you can’t help but feel a bit defensive and possibly even offended.

Using a more positive approach yields better conversation, doesn’t it?

And I think there’s something about “the WordPress way” that is more accessible and approachable. Though it still indicates that something isn’t being done correctly, it does come with the implication of “this isn’t the WordPress way, here’s how you should be doing it, and here’s why you should be doing it this way.”

And in that respect, it does matter whether or not we’re doing something correctly within the context of our software.

We Can All Stop Doing It Wrong

To be clear, this is not me saying that I think it’s accessible to go around and simply point at other people’s code and say “this isn’t the WordPress way.” Instead, I think that it’s more of a “this isn’t how we do it in WordPress, here’s why we normally do it this way.”

We acknowledge that the code someone else is written isn’t necessarily wrong (and it may even be clear, clever PHP), but it doesn’t follow the conventions set forth in the coding standards nor do it leverage many of the APIs that are made available to us via WordPress.

For The Offended

In my experience (which is admittedly limited), people will go on the defense if regardless of if they are told that they are doing something incorrectly have a completely natural tendency to feel the way that they do.

After all, something they’ve worked hours, day, weeks, or even months on is being told it’s incorrect – and that can really suck.

But if you find yourself in this camp, consider for a moment that those who are trying to help you (at least, those in a respectful manner), are doing so in order to help improve the work that you’re doing and help improve the quality of what your code. It’s aiming to make you a better WordPress developer.

I offended you ?

This isn’t to say that people don’t approach us incorrectly or don’t give advice in a positive way, but the potential that the criticism has can go a long way in helping us get better at what we’re doing.

And that’s something that should be appreciated.

For The Offenders

Whatever the case, remember that the point at which you’ve reached your level experience has come through years (if not decades) of working with the code and with building things for fun, for yourself, or for others. Not everyone can say that.

Nothing rhymes with orange.

But, in no uncertain terms, is it a a pass to be pretentious, condescending, or unhelpful to a fellow developer.

Instead, it should be the opposite: It should make you a reputable source of information that others can come to with their questions or their points of discussion that may need clarification.

I’ll even go as far as to say that no, you don’t have to make yourself available. If you’re afraid you’re someone who ends up offending others, then you may be right. The entire WordPress economy is built around both the technologies being open and the community being active and helpful.

Why operate outside of that mentality?

Were it not for that, I don’t think WordPress – or all tangentially involved projects – would be in a place that it is today (which raises the question as to if you’d be where you are today).

Don’t be that guy or that girl who gives the rest of the community a bad reputation. If you’d rather not help, then simply stay away from arguments or discussions; otherwise, come at them with respect and with the intent to help. Otherwise, you end up being the one who’s failing to be exactly that.

And, ironically, I think a case can be made that that’s doing it wrong.


  1. Richard Buff

    Even if your articles weren’t thoughtful and well written (which they are) I’d still click on them for the funny pictures

  2. Topher

    I think there’s a lot of value in the phrase “the WordPress way” and I’d like to not lose it to negativity. I came to the WordPress community with 10 years of PHP behind me, and I very much wanted to know “the WordPress way” to do things. At the time I had a hard time getting people to understand what I wanted. I had to find wpdb and WP_Query by myself, and wrap my head around them. I would have loved to have a seasoned dev come alongside and say “Here, let me show you how we do that in WordPress”.

    As someone who did it wrong, I keep my eyes open for people in similar situations, and try to assist, rather than point and laugh. It’s good for MY soul to help out.

  3. MisterBooth

    We are ALL forever learning in this organic media be it front end or server side, the methods of approach are always changing and in most cases for the better so what we do right today maybe wrong tomorrow. When we become perplexed with a problem and we seek others in the community for help and guidance, the last thing we need is some self-important know-it-all person mouthing off in an non constructive manner.

  4. Julien Maury

    The more I read your posts the more I feel really close to that point of view. I think it’s a waste of time. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I’ll make others. The most important thing an I agree with you on this point is to avoid making the same mistakes again and again.

    But I’m not afraid being part of the discussion even if I’m not the one guy that is prefectly right and shining among his equals. Sometimes you’re convinced that this method is really good and somebody just proves you it’s not. That’s pretty much the way I learned code :) even if of course RTFM.

  5. Tim Brand

    I think we can all be helpful without being rude. However, no matter what we do we can’t control how someone else reacts. I think if we approach the situation with sincerity and kindness because we actually want to help, things will be fine.

    Thanks for the good read :)

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