All We Want To Know Is Why?

The hot topic in the community over the weekend was a post published by WPCandy.com that talks about the DevPress deal for WordCamp Organizers going down in flames thanks to the WordCamp Guidelines, specifically dealing with giveaways. Unfortunately, the way in which the WordCamp Central team went about correcting the issue blew up in a sea of heated controversy and discussion. This sort of thing has happened on different occasions over the past four years, where a specific guideline is created or changed or some other major change is noticed without a succinct explanation given as to WHY leading the community to discuss, argue, debate and rip things to shreds as we tried to figure out what exactly was going on. I’ve been thinking about all of this over the weekend and wanted to write a long post detailing my thoughts but I think the comment by Norcross sums up how I feel beautifully:

Norcross – Like most of the drama that has arisen lately in the WP scene, the reactions have far exceeded the issue. Amanda makes good points (and knowing what she’s done to plan camps, I respect her point of view). But it’s always the cover up, isn’t it? Instead of the foundation coming out, in the open, and saying “hey, we didn’t think about [insert issue here] because it never came up before. So going forward, we have to handle it this way, and here is why”, they attempt to influence back channels and conveniently change policy without mention. If a rule needs to be changed / enacted, so be it. But doing so without transparency and open lines of communication will only cause more problems.

It’s that simple. The way in which this should have been handled is the WordCamp Central folks or the foundation should have published a post which succinctly explained why the guidelines were violated with regards to the offer by DevPress to WordCamp Organizers. The guideline could have been highlighted, explained, and changed if necessary while leaving a note stating that since things were already under way with WordCamp Philly and the DevPress offer, it would be allowed but not allowed for future WordCamps. Then we as a community could have had a mildly moderated discussion on that post discussing our disagreements or follow up questions concerning the guideline. At least we would know where the Foundation or WordCamp Central is coming from with their line of reasoning without having to guess or debate out in the open. This would have also provided their side of the story since for the most part, we read and reacted to what was published on WPCandy. I think the WordPress Foundation or WordCamp Central owes it to all WordCamp organizers present and future to publish that information on the WordCamp Planner’s blog.

I don’t understand why some things are not brought out into the open such as guideline additions or changes. It’s as if they (whoever they are) are afraid of communicating with the community or don’t feel the need to do so. History as I remember it has shown the same communication problem occurring time and time again. We as a community notice a change that we don’t agree with that is not communicated very well leaving us to discuss, debate, make things up, assume and get so upset until we run out of energy to the point where we just don’t care about it anymore. Pretty unhealthy if you ask me.

Here is another comment that makes the same points.

Amanda – I think a major issue (though lord knows there’d always continue to be issues, just not these issues) is that the foundation/camp thing needs to work more like core does. Transparency, meritocracy, traceable explanation of the WHY. Frankly, the why is often so simple that if explained succinctly there’d be far less of THIS going on. Its not present because of a conspiracy, its not present because of a lack of manpower and hours in the day. That’ll be remedied in the near future from what I understand.

Transparency, meritocracy, traceable explanation of the WHY. Is this too much to ask? Can we at least have that as a starting point before we dive into head splitting next time?

7 Comments


  1. It would be nice if the community – and WordCamp organizers – knew who were making decisions on their behalf about what they can, and can’t do.

    Obviously it’s the WordPress Foundation – does anyone know who makes the decisions for the Foundation?

    Are any of them not Automattic employees?

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  2. Can’t agree with you anymore Jeff. If the folks over at the WP Foundation just come out and explain things themselves, then it would prevent issues like these…

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  3. I see a lack of Transparency in a lot of groups and companies nowadays. Just pushing your way through is not the way to go and there will be flared tempers.

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  4. Ultimately WordCamp Central falls under the umbrella of the WordPress Foundation, not Automattic. The Foundation is run by Matt. Just like with everything involving WordPress the buck stops with him. So any rules being implemented are being done so with his blessing.

    What i’d like to know is how can a group of people that are supposedly so intelligent constantly make the same mistake in how they handle things?

    Do they honestly not realize when they implement a rule that restricts what others can do or changes how things have been done up til now in the community that it’s going to bring with it some sort of negative reaction?

    I see people that are mentioned frequently by name due to the fact they were involved in the decision complaining about the drama and the personal attacks. I’m sorry, but when you implement a controversial decision A) don’t be surprised that people are going to react negatively and B) don’t be surprised when they mention you by name considering you are the one involved in the decision making process.

    What i’d like to know is why aren’t they expecting negative reactions to these types of decisions and taking steps to limit these type of reactions by being more transparent AND official in how they announce rules for both WordCamp Central and WordPress.org?

    Instead of complaining about personal attacks on certain individuals, maybe the leader of the WordPress Foundation should step up and deliver any news they think may be controversial or bring about a negative reaction himself. That is what a leader does. A leader doesn’t put those that he leads in this position.

    They bring this on themselves. The solution is pretty simple. You outline a big part of it in your post. The other part of it is Matt himself should step up, be a leader and deliver any news that could potentially be controversial himself rather than using his underlings as a shield for the negative reaction.

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  5. I don’t see any problem with companies making an offer to attendees. If it’s a “legalistic” sticking point then a group such as DevPress could simply say “send us a copy of your registration receipt” or similar and be done with it – no official endorsement required.

    Aside from that, someone at the Foundation could realize “Oh wow, this might help stimulate attendence”

    Problem is, there are younger minds over there will little if any substantial business experience.

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  6. Did someone remove WPCandy from Planet WordPress over this or were they removed sometime long ago? I thought they were added just back in May..

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  7. @Scott Kingsley Clark – I don’t think they were removed explicitly because of their post. From my understanding, they were removed from the feed once but they were supposed to be re-added. Either that hasn’t happened yet or they were added, then taken down again.

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