WordPress Fame

Ask anyone who’s involved in the WordPress community – and who has been for sometime – and you’re likely to hear that it’s a great experience not only because of the projects that are being built on and around WordPress, but because of all the people involved in the economy and in the community.

And it’s true: Being a part of the larger WordPress economy and community is exciting.

But, like with anything else, it’s challenging at times. I think that anyone who has stuck around long enough knows that as much we we all want the best for WordPress – I mean, we even enjoy hanging out with our competitors.

On the flip-side, we also get stuck in the typical Internet flame war arguing over what technology should be used for what all the while forgetting some of the larger problems at hand.

We’re only human, so it’s bound to happen, right?

It’s a weird thing, for sure, but it’s the nature of the community – at least for now (and probably for longer, if you’re a cynic) – but that doesn’t mean that you – or anyone else – should be dissuaded or discouraged from becoming a part of it.

But there is something that I’ve noticed in the community, or around the fringes if that’s what you’d like to call it, and sometimes I think people’s desire to be known – or wanting to achieve some type of WordPress fame or notability – outweighs the work, the contributions, and their input into the economy.

And though one could argue there are many problems with that, one of the largest is that the focus is being misplaced for the sake of the individual rather than improving the core product or products around WordPress.

Achieving WordPress Fame

When I was younger – and I’m sure this is true of anyone who grew up on the Internet looking up to fellow programmers, designers, and the like – one of the coolest things was to learn from them.

And you know what I mean: their websites, their books, their forums on AOL, chatting with fellow fans and programmers on IRC, etc.

But, at times, it was also hard not to envy the success they were having.

When I grow up, I want that! I want people to use my software and read my stuff, too!

Here’s the thing: What was the success you wanted to achieve?

Specifically, was it their readership, their following, their products, or what? I mean, did you qualify what you meant?

Admittedly, I think it varies from person to person, but regardless, the point remains.

It’s easy to envy the success that other people have, especially in our industry where we’re all seemingly connected in a common community – or subculture of a larger community – with a variety of blogs, products, meet ups, and so on being released or happening every week.

Everywhere we look, there are a lot of people doing a lot of cool things. They are getting noticed for it, people are talking about it (for good or for bad – it doesn’t really matter), and others are jumping in to help ’em.

Did You See Who’s Here?

I remember the first time that I met someone famous: I was at a concert with some friends festival where a lot of the bands were walking around the park when they weren’t playing. I – and those who I was with – had a chance to go up, talk to, hang out for a few minutes, and get autographs from those musicians who had impacted our life in way or another through their music.

Yeah, there’s a minor case of being starstruck, but no one was crying their eyes out.

Beatles Fan

Just your typical WordPress fanatic, right?

And no, the people to whom we look up to in our industry don’t hang out at festivals and they don’t sit on stage and, what, write code? They simply share their work online and try to put something good into the world with their talents.

Sure, it’s cool to go to conference or a meet up and see someone that you know, but they don’t know you (is that the definition of fame?), but it’s even cooler to sit down and meet others face-to-face who you’ve chatted with for years.

But the truth – and perhaps it’s the hard truth – of our industry is this: You’re never there – you’ve never arrived.

You’ve heard it before:

There’s always someone else who knows more than you, done more than you, and has had more success than you.

So where does that leave us? Are the rest of us the all singing, all dancing crap of the world?

Hardly.

The thing about that particular statement and/or idea is that sometimes you are the person who knows more – and in that, you can help others – and sometimes, you are the person who knows less – and in that, you can learn from others.

Permitting you maintain the right perspective, it’s a no lose situation.

It’s Not About Who Knows Who

WordPress and all things associated isn’t driven by just a handful of people. It’s driven by a massive community of people working together on the core application, plugins, themes, blogs, and other tangential things, as well.

And when a lot of people with differing views, backgrounds, opinions, and experiences get together to work on something, there are going to be challenges.

That’s life.

And no, this post wasn’t written because of some single event or one-off conversation that I’ve had, nor is it targeting any particular person or group. It’s simply stemming from something that I’ve noticed: There are people who want to be known in the WordPress community for something.

But if your goal is to be known, then I’d argue that that’s no goal.

I mean, if you’re goal is to be known, then you can go and do something and be known. Just go troll a few blogs or make enough noise until people begin responding to you.

Come on, though. People who really care – that’s not what they’re after.

Instead, work on a project, contribute to WordPress, contribute to someone else’s project, help organize a meet up, educate others through a blog (or guest posting on another site), or so on.

Seriously, though. Why not focus on good work?

Be kind to people, interact with ’em, try to share your thoughts respectfully – whether you agree or not – and you’ll likely be known because people will either want to know you for the work that you’re doing, the work that you’re contributing, or because of who you are as it relates to the rest of the community.

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Join the conversation! 11 Comments

  1. GREAT post! I love the last part:

    “Be kind to people, interact with ‘em, try to share your thoughts respectfully – whether you agree or not – and you’ll likely be known because people will either want to know you for the work that you’re doing, the work that you’re contributing, or because of who you are as it relates to the rest of the community.”

    THAT is what the WordPress community is completely about. Some people will quickly “scale” their careers and move themselves into a financially lucrative and/or socially powerful position (not always one in the same, not always admirable.) For a season in time, these successful peers will surf the waves that have been produced by the powerful community beneath them. And that’s where I always arrive when thinking about these issues – their success is not their own.

    Truly the only TRUE WordPress Superstars are Matt Mullenweg and the crew who created WP. Which, if you know your WP history – wasn’t even a completely original thought.

    Well, it would be nice to have the flexibility of MovableType, the parsing of TextPattern, the hackability of b2, and the ease of setup of Blogger. Someday, right? Update, 2003-12-26: This became WordPress.

    THAT is what has given all of us the opportunity to work in this vibrant, warm, inviting, encouraging and overwhelmingly supportive economy. And you know what? I was right there with Matt. I was using ALL those same blogging software platforms in the early 2000’s. I remember using every single one of them. I had no idea that in 2013 I’d find myself right back in the middle of it all.

    I can relate so much of what you’ve wrote to so many of the paths I’ve walked down in life. I’ve watched many friends succeed financially, in their careers, in politics, in whatever – and I also have watched just as many lose the core of who they are because they are so busy chasing the fame … they can’t see they are missing out on their own opportunity to sing, to dance, and to enjoy their own life’s journey.

    I don’t want that.

    I like singing and dancing.

    :)

    • Love the comment, Sarah!

      So funny that you were back using the old platforms that eventually became WordPress, and now here you (and the rest of us are) back at it again.

      And yeah, we live in a weird time in terms of people wanting to be known, or have others be aware of who they are, or whatever.

      But I’m more about putting (or trying to put!) good stuff into the world. More signal, less noise. All that jazz.

  2. This is an awesome post. I contribute to WordPress because I love what it is and what it can do, and if I ever become known for it, great. But if not, that’s great too.

  3. I love the sentiment behind this post, Tom. Definitely something I’m on board with.

    Let your actions speak for you.

    I’m happy to say I haven’t really witnessed the negative side of things that you allude to much within the WordPress community. Most people I notice are people doing amazing things, with amazing attitudes. There’s a lot of that in the WordPress community.

    If I may say, I think you’re a shining example of this actually.

    • I’m happy to say I haven’t really witnessed the negative side of things that you allude to much within the WordPress community.

      A little surprised since you’re related to some of the drama that pops up around ThemeForest every now and then, but I know that that’s mild compared to some of the other stuff that’s happened.

      Most people I notice are people doing amazing things, with amazing attitudes. There’s a lot of that in the WordPress community.

      Indeed. I couldn’t agree more.

      • A little surprised since you’re related to some of the drama that pops up around ThemeForest every now and then

        You know what, I think that’s another aspect to this: How you look at negativity.

        Most of the time I have to deal with “negativity”, it’s actually that someone has a problem and they want to be heard and have their problem fixed, or that they don’t completely understand a situation so it doesn’t make sense to them.

        Those situations can be resolved, and everybody is happy again. So I don’t really think of them as negativity. It’s just part of the path to finding solutions.

        People being deliberately negative, regardless of what you do or the information you provide, is a completely different thing. But I find these are the exceptions to the rule, and reflective of the individual, not the community.

        • You know what, I think that’s another aspect to this: How you look at negativity.

          This is true, and you do a really good job of handling some of the stuff that comes your way. Props on that.

          People being deliberately negative, regardless of what you do or the information you provide, is a completely different thing. But I find these are the exceptions to the rule, and reflective of the individual, not the community.

          I can agree with that – it’s just if a new person (or new people) end up being the first or an early experience with our community, then it can cause a bad experience.

          The whole “you only get once chance to make a good first impression.”

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