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.
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:
- WordPress Security 1,697 Members
- WordPress Speed Up 576 Members
- WordPress Hosting 869 Members
- Intermediate WordPress 4,640 Members
- WordPress Business 202 Members
- WordPress Secure – Advanced WordPress Security Group 283 Members
- Advanced WooCommerce – 581 Members
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?