Software, Development, and WordPress

The Nature of WordPress Debates

Last week, I talked about when people claim that they are Getting Out of the WordPress Bubble and some of the perspectives others have when reading things like this.

The flip side of this is that there are some people who are deeply ingrained within WordPress and who pour their day in and day out into the software and into the economy around it.

I’m not one to say if either one is better than the other because I think they both offer their own set of advantages and disadvantages though, at this point in my career, I tend to be deeply immersed in WordPress – and I am by choice.

One of the challenges that comes with being ingrained in a culture is that you’re exposed to both the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of all of it. And, to be clear, it’s not just WordPress – all software communities, online communities, offline communities, etc. – all have this behavior, but when it’s what you do every day, I think it can leave you with a bit of a distorted perspective.

The TL;DR to all of this is simply that when entering the foray of WordPress debates, it’s important to remember that not everything you read reflects the perspective of all involved.

WordPress Debates

Case in point: Over the last couple of weeks, there have been some intense (and perhaps that’s an understatement) discussion around what features are in the pipeline for WordPress, trademark law, and more.

And if you’re familiar with these topics, then you’re likely someone who’s deeply ingrained within the WordPress community, and you’re someone who has at least passively read the comments if not actively engaged.

The Vocal Majority?

When thinking about this, one thought did cross my mind and that’s this:

Oftentimes, I think those who are most vocal are the ones who end up representing the rest of those of us who are involved and perhaps more than they should.

First, I don’t know if it’s the vocal majority or the vocal minority. If you were to ask me how I’d personally classify it, I tend to view them as the usual suspects. That is, these are the ones who are most often going to comment, tweet, blog, and so on about any of the issues going on.

The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects

I’m not negatively criticizing this either – we need people having discussions about many of these topics. Sure, they get heated and they often times devolve into personal attacks by the time the thread is done, but this doesn’t mean that the comment threads are all for not.

It’s Important To Discuss

Secondly, if we didn’t have people talking about this kind of stuff so fervently, I don’t know where we’d actually be with a number of key issues. To that end, I’d never discourage people from talking about whatever issue it is that ends up stirring them to add their voice into the mix of commentary.



For me, though, this is where we – as a group of people passionate about a piece of software – are at a critical juncture:

If we let our heated feels get the best of us in the middle of a discussion, we’re going to negatively influence those who are on the periphery of the community.

Is that how we want to represent ourselves to those who are silently watching and trying to make an informed decision about how we govern ourselves?

The Silent Majority?

And finally, as I said earlier, I think it’s important to remember that not everyone who chimes in on a debate or an argument is representative of the community at large. Furthermore, there are a lot of people who may read and stay up to date on what’s going on with the software and all things involved with it, but opt not to chime in for whatever reason.

So as you sit to read through the next set of articles for WordPress, read through the comments, and are trying to draw some type of conclusion based on what the general consensus is about a given feature, situation, or whatever it is that you may be reading about, perhaps it’s not so much about trying to take a stance on an issue and it’s just about being aware of the various perspectives that a vocal group of people offer and bring to the table.

It’s not always about what’s the right way to go about doing something or the wrong way to go about doing something. It’s about weighing the pros and cons of each and then just evaluating your own position from there.

I’d never dissuade anyone from talking about key issues. All I’m saying is that sometimes there isn’t a conclusion to be drawn other than “So this is how people feel about this.”

Sometimes it stronger than that, sometimes it’s not. Adding voices to the mix is never a bad thing. Not all of us opt to do that, though and that’s okay.


  1. Mike

    ‘The Silent Majority’ is especially true of WordPress. WordPress represents, what, some 20% or more of web pages across the known internet? This is hundreds of millions of users, a solid percentage of which might even consider or call themselves WordPress Experts or Developer, or what have you.

    107 comments is a hot conversation on WP Tavern, but when you put it into the perspective that this CMS has hundreds of millions of users, it’s really not as out of control as it seems when you’re embedded into the debates.

    • Tom

      Really good perspective, Mike – thanks for chiming in and sharing that.

    • Dan

      I’ve argued here and there — with data and anecdotes — that this “silent majority” is not an undifferentiated mob of noobs, frauds, hucksters, and mooches. That unfortunately seems to be a common assumption.

      • Tom

        It’s easier to simplify, I think, for us to group people into an easier group (which is basically stereotyping, I suppose) but you’re right, nonetheless.

  2. Jeff Yablon

    Hey Tom:

    So lookit that … 107 comments about … ME.

    Your piece is right on point, albeit with the point being that we ultimately don’t really know what the point “is”.

    The vast majority of the early commenters in that conversation at WPTavern were vocally against my baby. For the most part, they were against it (me; this keeps getting personal) in a predictable manner; the criticism was vitriolic and reactive, rather than thought out.

    The next wave were people saying (essentially) either “the dude’s trying to contribute, even if in a way that I may not agree with”, or “have you actually read his position? he’s right”. Or both. Obviously I preferred that group.

    Then it fell into a weird combination of sniping that mixed the two, after a few hours of which the comments got shut down entirely (all of three days in!), when Jeff Chandler actually said it was making him crazy.

    Moral of the story? There IS NO moral of the story. This community, like most, is comprised of people with differing opinions, and while it might not run 50/50 on any given issue you’ll see that it ultimately won’t stray far from 60/40 one way or the other.

    Once people engage. Which is the real point.

    • Dan

      Most of the comments on Jeff Yablon’s case at the Tavern are not about Jeff or even his case. Most of them are from a few developers who have a certain history with WordPress that makes them very critical of Automattic. This seems to be the way the Tavern’s comment culture has developed for some reason. Apart from George Stephanis it is surprisingly one sided, but neither side is being as civil or as thoughtful as they could be. Each tends to argue that the other is entirely wrong point by point.

      In the rather differently composed and moderated Advanced WP Facebook group and WPchat forum, things went rather differently. At the point I checked in at AWP I saw an overall insightful and civil discussion where only a minority saw some merit to Jeff’s position — or a chance of success — but there was very little axe-grinding or rooting for winners and losers. It actually became more of a friendly process of mutual inquiry and education with debate taking a mediated rather than personal form — e.g., “this is the right way to understand this point of law” versus “so and so is wrong and deserves to lose.” Eventually discussion of the actual law in play led to a more neutral and rational consideration where some credible people think Jeff might have a winnable case. There is also something of a consensus that Jeff is not endearing himself to his target market and peers. Same results on WPchat but way less volume and even more civil.

      Perhaps these discussions (and maybe the lawsuit itself) are not really about Jeff or his case. They are means of expressing and negotiating the different ways different members of the WP community mis/understand it in relation to themselves. If it was not this Jeff it would be someone else who becomes the focal point.

      • Jeff Yablon

        Thanks, Dan. And of course you’re correct that the big conversation isn’t about me or my project; I just happen to be this week’s cause célèbre.

        I’d missed the two other conversations you pointed out, by the way. ().

        Thanks for the thoughtful response.

        • Jeff Yablon

          argggh. in between the seemingly blank parenthesis I’d put the word “embarrassed” in brackets to indicate emotion. MailPost seems to have stripped that assuming I’d tried to seed a link.

          (sorry if it looked silly).

          • Dan

            It’s Postmatic, and it’s mostly super awesome. :-)

            • Jeff Yablon

              Thanks Dan. My bad on the mis-name, and I’m —embarrassed—again,, since I used it in beta and also think it’s great.

        • Dan

          You’re welcome. :-)

          I meant to reply to the original post, not your comment, but I screwed that up. I apologize for creating the impression of speaking about you rather than to you in a reply to your comment as if you were not “in the room” at all. One of the worst traits in opinion blogs is the tendency to do. It’s kind of a famous red flag to ethicists, and I think everyone knows it’s impolite at best.

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