Over the last few weeks, we've seen a lot of things occur in the WordPress ecosystem that has people tweeting, hashtagging, commenting, posting, and talking about the state of where things are at and where we're going.
What I find interesting, especially in an open-source world, is that the dialogue often sounds like there's some central cabal making decisions hidden away from everyone else. Whether Nacin, Helen, Matt, Mark, Jeff or tons of others are part of it isn't material – because what's certain is the assumption that it's happening. Deep under the commentary, it feels like there's another assumption that there's a master plan, a specific strategy, a grand orchestration of events that are leading somewhere.
Side note, if the names above aren't known to you, this post is likely insider baseball and you can likely await tomorrow's post on membership plugins.
Yes, it's true that Matt owns a company that hosts tons of WordPress sites, while also employing tons of folks who can contribute to WordPress. He also owns an investment company that employs contributors. And he owns a news blog that writes about WordPress. And he's in charge of the foundation that coordinates events and manages the brand equity for WordPress.
That is all true. And as I write it, as a storyteller, I know I have the makings of a ridiculously awesome story of intrigue, deception, and machiavellian planning to overtake the world, one free software package at a time.
And until you're in charge of a company of more than 50 people you likely imagine all the free time he has to run his hand thru his grey hair and scheme. But over the last fifteen years, I've been on the executive teams of companies from 20 to 200 and trust me when I tell you that no one has that kind of time.
We've seen people get sued. We've seen people win lawsuits. We've seen people suggest that screens would disappear. We've seen people mock the people that worried screens would disappear. We've seen people threaten others. We've seen people told to fork WordPress. We've seen resolution to conflict. We've seen posts written challenging us to communicate better. And we've seen posts remind us to look at the amazing parts of the community.
We've seen a lot in the last few weeks. I'll come back to that in a second.
Do you know what we see all the time? Not just in the last few weeks?
- People wear WordPress t-shirts.
- People make quilts out of WordPress t-shirts.
- People only own WordPress t-shirts and nothing else.
- People put WordPress tattoos on their bodies.
- People spend their own money to fly to see other WordPress people.
- People vacation with WordPress friends. More than family.
- People volunteer their time to teach, train, and help others with WordPress.
- People code WordPress.
- People fix WordPress bugs.
- People quit high paying jobs to join small startups to do WordPress full time.
Ok, maybe lots of people don't do that last one but I know at least one person who did. 🙂
Let me highlight something I bet you already know.
- It's not because of the software.
- It's not because of the core contributors.
- It's not even because of Automattic. Or WP Tavern. Or Audrey Capital.
- It's not because of Matt.
At the highest points of Apple, Google or Microsoft—with more than 24% of the planet using their stuff, people weren't volunteering or spending their own money to travel to go to their events. They weren't wearing only their clothes. They weren't vacationing with other Office users, or iPod owners.
See, when we talk about the last few weeks, it's easy to get into the mode of thinking that the Marks, Helens, Nacins, and other amazing contributors to WordPress make up some centralized planning group that controls a bunch. It's easy to think that Matt, or folks working for him, or with him, or whatever, have some grand plan.
That's Adobe, Apple and Google-type thinking.
But that's not what's going on. This is different. Because this isn't the creation of a few. It's not the development of something from the center.
WordPress is successful despite the center, if there is one.
WordPress is successful because of the global and local communities that allow for the creation of friendships that drive action. That drive behavior.
And when you realize that, you should also realize something else.
Those friends and relationships are all with people. And people make mistakes. And people are tired. And sometimes people get up on the wrong side of the bed and say or type the wrong thing. And you will too. And I do too. Pretty much daily.
When you're close enough to someone, you get to enjoy it. But you also likely step on their toes.
So here's my strategy when I navigate the WordPress ecosystem and it might help you to.
It's not my default behavior. I'm fast to write someone off. You could even say I got married to an amazing woman of grace just so I could learn to give people second and third chances. She gives me four or five. A day.
- People are people. They're messy. They have bad days. They overreact. They blame. They complain.
- But they also design. They make things. They collaborate. They speak. They sing. They help. They educate.
- And no one company owns that. No one organization owns that. No small group of volunteers controls that.
WordPress is people. You. Me. And all the famous names you know. And they're people. Real people who you would never be a jerk to when seeing them face to face.
So embrace grace.