Advanced WordPress Facebook Group Milestones in 2014

For the Advanced WordPress group on Facebook, 2014 was a great year. The group added key admins Joost de Valk and Danny van Kooten to cover the European time zone. It took two and a half years to reach 7,500 members, but after highlighting the group on the Tavern, membership skyrocketed from 7,500 members to more than 10,000.

Advanced WordPress Facebook Group Header
Advanced WordPress Facebook Group 11K Members Strong

Matt Cromwell, who administers the group, highlights notable threads throughout the year. My favorite item from the list is when Matt Mullenweg joined the group and participated in an unscheduled Q&A session. In the thread, Mullenweg answered every question, including my own; Do you ever eat food that doesn’t look like it belongs in an art gallery? Like a Big Mac or something. His response:

I had McDonald’s as recently as Sunday, just a few days ago. I just don’t usually post it to my blog. McDonald’s I’m a chicken McNugget guy, though I’m curious about their new jalapeño burger. Burger King it’s always a Whopper. Growing up in Texas I have a soft spot for Whataburger and Sonic, I think In-n-Out is overrated but usually tasty, and I’ve been really enjoying Five Guys when I come across one.

I will always be happy with fried chicken from Popeyes or KFC, though the former has better biscuits and I grew up just a few blocks away from one. When Automattic had an office in the Mission in SF there was a KFC on the opposite corner and I’d often sneak over there for lunch or a late snack when I was in the office till odd hours.

The group is an excellent place to have discussions, but the things that bothered me in 2014 still exist. It’s hard to find posts using Facebook’s search feature because it sucks. There are a lot of threads where people ask for general tech support either with a theme or plugin. Although the group’s title says it’s about Advanced WordPress, it really doesn’t have a central identity and according to Cromwell, it may never have one.

The name itself seems to cause confusion or lack clarity. Some are attracted to the group expecting seriously “Advanced” material. Others come to the group because they are learning and wanting to become advanced. Others see “Advanced” and think: “Perfect, I’ll go ask the experts how to fix all my problems.” With 11k+ members now, it’s hard to conceive of this group as having any kind of central identity.

With over 11K members, Advanced WordPress has splintered into several smaller groups. Doing a search for WordPress groups on Facebook shows the following results:

Each group on Facebook is like a silo with its own members and conversations. I can’t help but wonder how awesome it would be if a centralized discussion platform such as a forum, played host to all of these discussions. However, a Facebook group does have a few key benefits, such as focusing the topic of discussion and eliminating distractions from other groups. It’s also easy to pull people into a conversation by adding their name to a response.

I still don’t think Facebook is a great platform for conversations surrounding WordPress. It lacks the ability to style posts, browse archives, and easily browse topics. It’s also a walled garden and if Facebook decides to remove the feature or shuts down, a lot of great knowledge will be lost forever. However, with so many people on Facebook and the convenience of quickly participating in a conversation, I can see why a lot of people are happy to use it.

How many of you would like to see an open discussion platform dedicated to WordPress topics that everyone can participate in? Is there a WordPress sub-community or watering hole that doesn’t exist that you’d like to see created?

21 Comments


  1. Thanks for the write-up Jeff! You’re too right about the draw-backs of FB Groups. Particularly the Walled Garden issue. Man, that would suck if they just pulled the plug.

    What I didn’t mention in the article is that we do have plans for a AWP website. WPEngine has donated the hosting for it, Devin (of WordImpress) has designed it, we’re just a little stuck on building it out. I don’t think it would be a multi-forum platform like what you’re imagining, but I do hope (and intend) it would be a strong extension of the group so that knowledge is public and not walled off.

    Thanks for continuing to be invested in the group and an important advocate with valid criticism. Much appreciated!

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    1. Great news on the website front. I suppose you can have knowledge be public but also limit viewing of that information to registered users only. I think that mimics the groups current setup but I’m more happy about the fact that it would stand more of a chance of being archived properly. I think it would be interesting if you could somehow extract all of the data from the Group and run some comparison tests to view some of the most common threads. I don’t think a forum is the solution to every drawback I mentioned but it’s better than what Facebook offers.

      Also, kudos to you and the admins for running a somewhat tight ship. While your posts touches on the subject, can you tell me how you’ve personally seen the group evolve in the past 2-3 years? I know Advanced is a term that’s relative to one’s experience level but I see more general tech support queries on the group versus advanced discussion, I don’t think anyone can question that. How do you moderate and maintain a group that exists for a particular reason but yet, has no central identity?

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      1. Bastos or even Chris Lema might have more insight on the evolution over the whole history, but from my perspective the content has gone more “tech support” over the course of this year with the exponential growth. But some things have been relatively constant and I think that’s the way WordPress folks get to connect more personally and create a broader network of connections. I also really appreciate how new highly skilled devs like Carl Alexander and Bryce Adams have taken to the group and not only share their posts with us first, but also chime in with solutions to others’ issues and share things they are working on. I personally push the more advanced devs to contribute more, but I do think they get a lot of fatigue with answering questions that crop up over and over again that are very similar.

        In the end, I think it’s better to imagine the group like 24/7 online WordCamp. Because at WordCamp’s you get the same swath of beginners to intermediates to advanced users and they all mingle and chat and share knowledge and laugh and build relationships. It’s not an online PrestigeConf or LoopConf, nor is it a 24/7 WPWaterCooler, but right in the middle: 24/7 WordCamp.

        About moderating, the identity has always been about “Providing Value”. Just this week, Chris Lema put up a really good succinct description of the kind of posts we encourage and moderate for:
        1. Have you put effort into your quest before asking here?
        2. If you’ve tried things and learned things, are you sharing them here?
        3. Is your goal to learn rather than be directed to a link?
        4. When you share something, is it to teach rather than get clicks?

        I think that’s really been the Core of who we’ve been from the beginning and continues now.

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  2. The AWP group is a mishmash of talent. There are the pure theme designers (whose idea of fun are discussions on the best WordPress theme frameworks, et al); crazily technical people (who remind that I’m not as smart as I think–so I eats my humble pie quite often); new WordPress business startups looking for a competitive edge by catering to the more advanced WordPress user market; and a smattering of loitering web hosts hoping to score a client or two by presenting quality answers to vexing questions.

    All have a place in the Facebook AWP group. I suspect there are a subset AWP readers who just enjoy the commentary. I’ve eaten my share of popcorn during some of the more heated late night discussions. It’s all good.

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  3. As somebody who joined the AWP group this year, I just wanted to thank everybody who has posted informative, interesting content to the group. It has been a great resource, and I look forward to what I learn in 2015. =)
    As far as a dedicated website for the group goes, I would be sure to join. However, one of the benefits of a FB group is that honestly, you’re already logging into Facebook. =P It’s nice to catch up on WP topics and what your friends are doing all in one stop.

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  4. Thanks @Jeff Chandler for mentioning WordPress Business group.
    Advanced WordPress group is with no doubt the best group to hang out with WordPress folks.

    I’d like you to add another group I recently start contributing in named against WordPress Front End Developers (https://www.facebook.com/groups/wpfrontenddevs/).

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  5. Facebook, in my experience, is terrible platform for communities/groups as it’s not designed for any sort of in depth, ongoing discourse.

    Speaking of discourse, Jeff, I’m curious as to why you didn’t mention WP Chat here? ( http://wpchat.com/ )

    There’s also a lot of active WordPress related groups on Google+ As a platform, G+ lends itself much more to community than Facebook does, in my opinion.

    I nuked my Facebook account about 4 months ago and, for me, it was one of the best decisions I made in 2014. I may have to set one up again at some point for business purposes but I am putting that off for as long as possible!

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    1. @Jimmy – I think you are expecting orange juice from a cow here. If anything, social media has stratified the layers of discourse to the extent that if one’s needs fit within a relatively shallow level of discourse, Fb is “good enough”. I agree that it doesn’t facilitate in-depth discussion, but then it was never meant to be. On the other hand, it is incredibly good at facilitating ACCESS to individuals with whom you COULD have in-depth discourse through another (more appropriate) channel.

      As an example, my wife is a fine artists who does abstract oil painting. She has upwards of 800 friends in her Fb community, mostly comprised of other artists, gallery owners, curators, and critics. The threads extend much as they do in AWP, and – as you say – the level of discourse is somewhat shallow. However, whenever she goes to a gallery opening, art show, or other event, she instantly connects with her Fb friends in-person. Fb gives her a significant head start on making more stronger connections.

      AWP’s move to a another venue might offer improvements in some ways, but perhaps might lose out on the factors that make Fb incredibly efficient in maintaining member participation.

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      1. @Steve Covello – All good points, and I agree completely.

        tl;dr I guess I’m just a forum guy.

        I left Facebook for personal reasons. It’s not relevant to this discussion but, FWIW, I’m not a fan of the company, and there was this realization that, for me, Facebook was adding very little of value to my life despite the time spent.

        With regards to community, I do have a bit of bias and personal expectations that were not satisfied on FB. I used to love forums, and used to be a member on a really active and vibrant design forum. It was a fantastic community where I built a lot of friendships and relationships that I still have today.

        Eventually the forum fell apart – not due to lack of participation – it fell apart due to the owning organizations lack of interest in maintaining the community. Over the course of about 2 years it started to get over run with ads and spammers and finally the owning company just shut it down.

        The community moved over to Facebook and set up a private group that’s still chugging along today but, for all the reasons you can imagine, it wasn’t nearly the same. The platform just isn’t up to facilitating the same sort of interaction that a dedicated message board can.

        I definitely get what you’re saying about the networking opportunities – my wife is a photographer and FB is an essential part of her business for a lot of the same reasons you mentioned. She books a ton of assisting & second shooter jobs there and, she really gets a lot of mileage out of the platform.

        Like I said, it’s just not for me – though I am probably going to have to set up another account soon. I suppose what I get from it really is going to be about managing my own expectations. Thanks for the insightful post.

        :)

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      2. @Jimmy – I am right there with you. I’ve also been lucky to be part of excellent online discussion communities in the past, which led to friendships I still have today. Any FB group just pales in comparison, in terms of the ease of holding in-depth conversations with lots of people. A good forum or message board allows for just as good networking as FB. And I also feel that Facebook is an environment *and* a company I don’t like and don’t want to be more involved with. I definitely don’t want to use the same Facebook account where my family and friend contacts are for business. So it’s a little disapointing to me that so much FB activity goes on there. But it must be working for a lot of people, if those 10,000 actually use it regularly.

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      3. @Steve – But then I agree with him that “orange juice” is important and that there are a lot of us who would really like a place for these discussions that *is* conducive to more in-depth discussions, like platforms we’ve used in the past.

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  6. I find that wpchat.com is a good alternative even if it not as active as the Facebook group.

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  7. In-depth discussions require more reading and more thinking, besides patience, which we are gradually losing in the fast-paced society. Look around yourself, you see more and more people are loaded with mobile stuff, and connected with several social networks. They post a short message, no matter how meaningful, on a social media, then move onto another and probably will forget what they posted five minutes ago. All current social media do a good job at modeling our current fast-paced and impatient lifestyle, but they also make it more difficult to create an environment in which people can have meaningful conversations.

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  8. Hi guys and gals. I joined several WP Facebook groups mentioned above and AWP is the one I am learning from literally it seems on an hourly basis. The firehose of talent is absolutely tremendous. I have used various tech over the years and I can honestly say I have never seen the amount of enthusiasm and support that WordPress has garnered over the past 5 years or so.

    I think Facebook has an innate mobile sensibility, and I think that’s what makes FB groups so compelling. Even though the UI stinks, the fact that people can join/approve with 1 click, from any device and then also ready, catchup and view deep profiles (nothing like a Facebook profile) really creates a facet of community like no website can simulate. The notification feature that so many people are used to introduces the ideas of adding “following” to a group discussion simply to get notified of new posts.

    It’s truly a firehose though, and I wonder how much it can grow until the sheer weight of members overwhelms the most addicted Facebooker. I must admit getting 10-20 notifications from 2-3 WP groups has turned Facebook into something very different for me.

    And of course, the community would not be the same without the people that are present. I don’t know most (if any) of you, but I can honestly say I am in the presence of people who care. It’s not about the platform in the end, but about the people that regularly provide advice — thoughtful, guiding, relevant and accurate advice. And that I cherish greatly.

    I thank you. My customers thank you.

    ps. I could see myself paying an entry fee to the type of service the AWP/IWP/BWP/Security/Performance groups provide. I really can.

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  9. “How many of you would like to see an open discussion platform dedicated to WordPress topics that everyone can participate in?” – isn’t that what WPChat aims to be? Thing is, it’s as dead as a door knob over there… a great forum for sure, but it’s just not got the ‘Facebook’ audience/convenience… Can an independent WordPress-focused discussion platform (that isn’t Facebook) ever take over from AWP Facebook? I’d like to think it can, but my head says ‘no it likely can’t’…

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    1. Only sort of platform that could replace it in my mind is one that is linked with WP.com so if you have a wp.com account you can be found and sent a message or start a discussion easily. But that is just an out there idea and would take a lot of work to implement in such a way that it doesn’t annoy a lot of people but in my head would be a great way to bring the community together just a lot of work and having to be very careful not to open up itself to be something that is just misused and annoying to many.

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    2. Yes it can if the right person is energetic, outgoing, and works hard everyday to bring people into the discussion. They have to spend at least a year of working double-time to craft the community and lead by example. This is based on experience. I wish I had more energy and time to devote to WPChat, but I don’t. Also, the platform used for the discussions and community is pretty important as well. Discourse is pretty rad on this front with the ability to send an invite to someone where they get access for just that thread. And similar to Facebook, you can at mention someone and bring people in the discussion that way as well. There’s a lot to like with Discourse.

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      1. “Yes it can if the right person is energetic, outgoing, and works hard everyday to bring people into the discussion.” – I would love for this to be the case… but Facebook is already so well understood and accepted by everyone (people are already so familiar with it and know how to use it etc) — heck it’s even already installed on everybody’s mobile phones and has a specific app that has a ‘good’ interface etc — people can set up alerts etc and are already generally so tuned in with it all it’s like second nature to many, plus people all already having profiles there and login details etc etc. In short: Facebook has all sorts of advantages that will (and have) helped groups thrive. A standalone website like WPChat just isn’t nearly as smooth or easy to access. I’m no expert though, and I’d love to see some other WP-focused community come to life somewhere else. Another huge difference between a forum like WPChat and the AWP Facebook group is one is a forum has many threads and the AWP is just one thread… this is a totally different dynamic — one that almost invalidates any kind of direct comparison perhaps.

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  10. Search function in Facebook is not doing good job, so why not to use “hashtag” in Facebook. We might filter the posts with “WPA” + some keywords / tags. Later can find easily.

    When we finish defining those keywords, make some “sticky post” with those standard.

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  11. I didn’t know these groups existed on FB until recently when they got notice in the upper echelons of WP blogs and newsletters. All the complaints in blog posts and comments about FB’s suitability are right, from their perspective, but I’m impressed with how well these groups work. It’s like trying to drink from a firehose if you try to “keep up” with them, but the sheer volume of their posts and comments seems to be a kind of strength — individual personalities can’t dominate them. The big ones are a low friction, low barrier way for anyone to join in a reasonably healthy, helpful, practical and social dialogue that’s not clogged up by either the 1337s or the n00bs. This is the living image of the “Army” that is WordPress, as Brian Krogsgard put it recently.

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  12. Thx @Jeff Chandler for including Speed Up group on this list!

    As for the following I agree with you:
    “I can’t help but wonder how awesome it would be if a centralized discussion platform such as a forum, played host to all of these discussions.”
    However, today I got idea on one of the AWP post, to create unique centralized place for all of these great WP resources/groups on Facebook, so after a few hours of data inputting here is the result – Quality WP Groups on FB:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/qualitywpgroups/

    Collection of 40+ quality WP Groups on one place. :-)

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