Bad Attitudes Are Not Welcome

Tom McFarlin of 8Bit has written a piece entitled The WordPress Community Needs an Attitude Adjustment and while I agree with the overall point of needing to just be nicer to each other, his post generates a lot of different thoughts and emotions inside of me.

On the one hand, I read Tom’s post and come away thinking that everyone should just shut up and stare at the sign that says Patches Welcome which at times, appears to be the answer to any form of criticism or discussion about WordPress. On the other, I see the point of being more civil towards one another when disagreements or engagement occurs. This thing we call the WordPress community does an excellent job of policing itself but a quick Google search shows that at times, we certainly eat our own for lunch. I can see how this public display of back and forth fighting could turn off a lot of people from contributing to WordPress much less be a part of that circle.

In Tom’s article, Jake Goldman of WordPress consulting firm 10up left this great comment:

Any large, enthusiastic community is going to have louder, more opinionated voices, and softer “never offend” voices. And even those of us that generally strive to be loud only when the subject seems in need of broader discussion, sometimes err in how we communicate (I know I regret the way I framed a point about business and WordCamps that was, ironically, sensationalized here).

Follow any large audience – Android fans, UX groups, Joomla communities – and you’ll find the same characteristics. It’s a sign that we’re passionate, diverse, and engaging. And human!

No one would argue that calmer, more professional dialog is a bad thing. IMHO, lets just remember its not uniquely endemic to WordPress, and try to embrace, not shun, the more opinionated among us.

WPTavern has played host to several important discussions surrounding WordPress over the years and I can’t count the number of times I saw core WordPress developers shrug people and their concerns off as ‘big deal‘. It’s infuriating to be passionate about WordPress, raise a valid concern and instead of those close to the heart of WordPress taking an active stance and being part of the conversation, they insist on shrugging people and the conversation off. I would like to formally recognize Mark Jaquith as NOT being one of those people. Mark has often participated in these discussions offering rational, level-headed approaches to our discussions and sometimes, validating our concerns while providing us direction on how to solve them. As far as I’m concerned, he’s a role model for those at the top on how to deal with issues that are raised by members of the community.

Ultimately, the WordPress eco-system is better off by eliminating unnecessary insults, threats, public displays of bashing, and being the crudest of human beings. There’s no room in the community for that crap. It doesn’t mean that we’re forced to sit around a campfire and be happy WordPress hippies signing kumbaya. It just means we can have meaningful dialogue among each other to generate forward progress without having to take part in all the above.

10 Comments


  1. Thanks for writing this up, Jeffro. Love hearing others’ thoughts on it :).

    WPTavern has played host to several important discussions surrounding WordPress over the years and I can’t count the number of times I saw core WordPress developers shrug people and their concerns off as ‘big deal‘. It’s infuriating to be passionate about WordPress, raise a valid concern and instead of those close to the heart of WordPress taking an active stance and being part of the conversation, they insist on shrugging people and the conversation off.

    As old as the Tavern is, I can only imagine how many discussions have happened here that have been motivated by a combination of passion and opinion.

    Obviously those two aren’t bad things – no one would say that – but how something is said as a result of those things ultimately determine if we “eat our own for lunch.”

    And yeah, I’ll go on record as saying that I don’t want to shrug off or ignore a significant, passionate conversation around WordPress nor do I want others, but I would like to see less cannibalism, if you will ;).

    Anyway, I mentioned this on a WP Daily comment, too: I’m also particular about the mediums through which the conversations occur, you know?

    Personally, I don’t think Twitter is all that great. Others do. And that’s fine. I’m a bigger fan of blog comments, emails, and longer forms of discussion. Again, that’s just me.

    Ultimately, I do wanna see people – myself included! – do a better job of bringing level-headedness (like Mark) to the discussion.

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  2. @Tom McFarlin – I’ve seen my fair share of Tavern brawls where everything in the Tavern gets broken :) However, you, Jake and others are on to something where 140 Characters is not enough to convey thoughts and opinions on WordPress topics that usually require some in-depth dialogue. Sometimes, there are full out Twitter conversations which would be better suited in comment forms, email, or other means of communication. Those 140 character tweets also lead to very abrupt arguments because words and thoughts get taken out of context.

    I’ve been a victim of framing things the wrong way when trying to engage in a discussion. This mistake has happened before, with other people and sometimes is the source between a lengthy discussion about nothing. Those situations suck because they eat up time, hurt peoples feelings and at the end of the day, there is nothing to show for it.

    I have to thank you for writing about the topic and reminding everyone that we need to mind our manners and to really THINK before we hit the send button.

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  3. An important step in refining the ‘modern military’, was acknowledging that members become too comfy, too entrench.

    So every 2-4 years, service members are snatched up from their current duty station, and sent to somewhere they have little to no input in picking, for the next 2-4 years.

    Otherwise, it gets to be, ‘This is my/our base/command’. And these are heavily armed, seriously able-bodied people.

    A parallel situation is the norm, in ‘online communities’. It’s an important factor, limiting the growth & evolution of the culture. The main difference from the military is, ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’, and they use their brain instead of their brawn.

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  4. The best brawl was the one between Matt Mullenweg and Chris Pearson from Thesis Themes. Now, that was legendary!!! Everything exploded until Chris realized which side his bread was buttered on.

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  5. “It doesn’t mean that we’re forced to sit around a campfire and be happy WordPress hippies signing kumbaya.”
    By “happy” do you mean “deaf” ?
    :)

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  6. So the idea is to just validate the “more opinionated among us” and let them have their passive-aggressive ways? I’ve participated in a number of forums where these people are allowed to get away with anything; by the very nature of their very well polished not-quite-out-of-bounds posturing approach. It’s aggravating at the very least and allowing it sours the whole environment. As far as I’m concerned, that is a far worse flavor of “bad attitude”, because it is insidious.

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  7. The challenge is that every “differing” opinion, is presuming to be from someone with a bad attitude. I can’t tell you how many time I’ve been told, “you’re either with us or against us”, like that’s the only 2 options.

    I am reminded of 2 quotes:

    ” Just because I’m a dick, doesn’t mean I’m wrong.
    Just because you’re outraged, doesn’t mean you’re right. “

    and

    ” I can’t hear your opinion over your lack of Trac Patches . “

    I am ok with being one of the people thats not loved unanimously across the WP community, but I’m also aware of which quotes above I want to live by.

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  8. @Kevinjohn Gallagher – Yo.

    If the community wants “diversity”, “openness”, “acceptance” and the list could go on at length, the thin-skinned, tender and gratuitously politically correct will have to don their armor or toughen-up.

    To move beyond the clique and the lounge-lizards, to make room for the greenhorns and whoevers, unavoidably means hosting specimens who are not smooth, oiled, honed, etc.

    It is not practical to educate & train such people in the manners you would rather see them express, and especially not as a precondition of entry or participation.

    There are the knowingly ornery, pugnacious, and congenitally Scottish. It’s legal, and in America their lip is protected under The First. Besides, they usually are in fact better than you, and right. Then there is a broad spectrum of crude types with relatively low awareness of their inappropriateness and a lack of skill or willingness to address or even acknowledge their deficiencies.

    You wanna open it up? I applaud … but brace yourselves.

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  9. @B.E.Johnson – I guess I wonder what you mean by “let them have their passive-aggressive ways”. Should we have “WordPress courtesy police” that escort them from our community? In the physical world, do you make it your mission to change the personality of strong willed and sharp-elbowed voices in meetings and office places?

    Just speaking for myself, I go into any community accepting that I’m not going to like everyone, and not everyone’s going to like me. I also try to give voices that might initially strike me as “rude” the benefit of the doubt, because I’m absolutely sure I’ve come off the same way at times.

    Really, it seems to me, most of us have enough real problems to worry about without stressing out about human nature.

    And I guess that’s my point – if you don’t think WordPress is really any worse or better (I think it’s better!) than any other place where passionate human beings gather, than maybe we’re really making much ado about not very much.

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  10. I do very much like this article :) and thanks also to @Tom McFarlin for his piece on it. It is great that there are movers/shakers in the community who are willing to fly the ‘self reflection’ community flag with an honorary mention for those who consistently set and meet the bar.

    p/s: I have, luckily, never been the direct recipient of ‘attitude’ and hope it will continue to be that way (and from myself as well)

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