Building the Community We Deserve

"2020" numbers laid over a wooden table with stars scattered around.

One of our internal discussions about the future of WP Tavern has stuck with me since it wrapped up. The discussion was centered on pushing comment threads in the right direction. We often receive comments that border on conspiracy-theory territory (and those that cross over head first). We also get comments that make statements of fact without backing up those claims with evidence.

Not all those who make such comments have ill intentions. The issue is often that the ideas presented in a comment are not fully-fleshed out. Often, the commentator had not taken the time to shape their words into something that births thoughtful responses. Such is the nature of comments on the web.

WP Tavern’s big goal for 2020 should be about shepherding our community. Going forward, we will take steps toward fostering better discussions.

Building Our Community in the New Year

Shepherding the community is about creating a welcoming environment for everyone. All of our readers should feel comfortable leaving their thoughts on a given topic.

As a new writer in a long-standing community, I sometimes receive uplifting private messages and emails from community members. They often have kind words or love the coverage of a specific topic. The trouble is getting some of those people to engage in the comments. As my grandma, who would welcome anyone into her home, would say, “Y’all stop by sometime and chat for a while.” Some people are timid about commenting publicly. Others feel like they will be attacked or their ideas will be dismissed offhand. Fostering a community they would feel comfortable participating in is the goal.

The first step toward this goal is an update to our comment policy.

The intention of our policy has remained the same. In general, be kind to people. The updated policy includes some new guidelines on what is unacceptable and some clearer language in some areas. It would be nice to eventually move back to the point where we no longer moderated every comment before publishing them on the site. We are not there yet, but I remain optimistic.

The other major plan is around integrating community elements into the site design. Rest assured that this is something being worked on. Better showcasing recent comments is high on the list. However, we can go beyond that by showcasing users with the most comments, top comments by the number of likes, and more. I have some ideas that I hope to implement this year to make our readers feel like they have more of a stake in the site. This place is as much about you all as it is about our team.

Ask the Bartender

We have quietly added an Ask the Bartender form on the site. This is our idea of an advice column that you might see in traditional journalism.

At this point, it is experimental. The plan is to publish a periodic article where one of our writers answers questions from our readers. This will give you all an opportunity to bring up the big questions that you want our community to discuss.

We do not have an official format for how this will work yet. It will largely depend on the questions that people submit. We are open to nearly any type of WordPress-related question right now.

What We All Can Do

The biggest thing I ask of the Tavern community that we make 2020 the year that we thoughtfully engage with one another.

More than that, when discussing topics with others online, there is no need to feel like you must win an argument. That usually leads to nowhere good. Present your ideas and let them stand on their own merit.

With that idea in mind, think about writing responses in the form of a blog post. Then, let us know about the post here at the Tavern. Taking the time to write a post allows your ideas to mature. Doing this lets you build a stronger argument if you rationally think it through. Also, WordPress is blogging software at heart. We should use it more often to blog about WordPress.

Happy New Year, everyone! Let’s make this a memorable one.


13 responses to “Building the Community We Deserve”

  1. I read a lot of these posts, have thoughts about them, and almost never comment (sorry for contributing to the problem). One of my goals for the year is to engage the community more and commenting on posts is a good start.

    So with all that in mind, thanks for all you and the others on WP Tavern do for our community. I look forward to good people in posts and conversations in 2020.

  2. I am resolved to make many, many comments in your excellent post Mr Justin. A very happy new year to you, the WordPress Tavern team and community!

  3. I’ve been a long time fan of the Tavern and think it has done a lot of good for our community. I applaud these updates to further foster a more positive and inclusive community. However, when thinking about this further I feel that the alcohol-centered branding is at odds with the mission of building a better community.

    My take on it is that lots of folks in our community don’t use alcohol for many reasons such as religion, country, age, personal preference, etc. When we have a tagline like “Free as in Beer” and pages named “Ask the Bartender” it glorifies alcohol which dissuades people from wanting to be part of arguably the most important WP news community.

    Imagine you’re a recovering alcoholic and trying to get your career on track by learning WordPress. Would you want a reminder of your past demons when trying to stay up on the news? There are many scenarios I can think of where a more positive brand would just “fit” better… for instance, WP Candy ;)

    I understand it would be a big shift to go away from the “WP Tavern” branding because it’s so widely known, but I just wanted to provide my perspective and some food for thought and discussion. To be clear, I do drink and am personally not put off by the branding but I do have friends who are recovering alcoholics that avoid all alcohol places/references like the plague.

    Has this come up before as a discussion? What are your thoughts?

    • First, I want to note that there are better names the site could have to have a more community-and-news feel. That’s outside of my control though, so I cannot really say if that’s even in the realm of possibility.

      With that said, “WP Tavern” is far more friendly and inviting than “WP Bar” or “WP Nightclub,” for example. A tavern is a place you kick your heels back and chat with friends over food and drinks.

      What I do take slight issue with is the notion that the terms used around the site “glorify” alcohol. That’s a bit of an exaggeration. Simply being related to a tavern or alcohol is not the same thing as glorifying it. As far as I know, nothing in the site’s history has really pushed that theme too far.

      Alcohol also has deeply cultural, spiritual, and even religious significance for many people around the world. From personal experience, I’ve also seen it work as a bridge between different cultures. One day, I may even share my story of a karaoke bar, Beatles cover band, Japanese businessman, and bottle of sake.

      I share this just to offer an opposing perspective and not necessarily as a disagreement.

      I’ve seen the other side as well, some of it some pretty nasty stuff. I have many alcoholics and those who are recovering in my family. I’m not unsympathetic to the issue, and think it’s worth discussing. I would definitely welcome some more viewpoints on this.

      The one thing I learned from the recent redesign is that many of our readers want to see the return of more Tavern/alcohol-related elements to the site. As we continue iterating on the design, I will certainly keep your thoughts in mind and hope to find balance.

      • I think Devin has a really valid point.

        I’m not sure I’d necessarily say that the branding glorifies alcohol, but it definitely conveys an affinity for alcohol.

        If this was just a tiny blog, that wouldn’t be such a big deal, but since this is one of the top news sites for WordPress (and given its backing by Matt), the alcohol-related branding suggests that alcohol is a part of the broader WordPress culture.

      • Thanks for the responses. I agree my word usage of “glorify” is probably not the right way to describe how the site uses alcohol in its branding. It’s more subtle than that for sure.

        I can also see your perspective that the branding can also act to bring people together. Shoot, I’ve met many friends in taverns. :) However like you said, there’s a very ugly side to booze that ruins lives, families, and more.

        Thank you for listening to my perspective and being open to both sides of the argument.

      • Just wanted to mention that I agree with this. “Tavern” isn’t necessarily alcohol related, though you might find alcohol there.

        That said, there’s opportunity to refine the “free as in beer” and “bartender” monikers.

    • Maybe I might be in the minority here. I have known this site for about two years. I am a teetotaller. However, when I first encountered it, I never assigned the meaning of alcohol to it. But this is also because I am very good at recognising metaphors and rarely take the meaning of things literary. I saw ‘WP Tavern’ as a ‘tavern’ to come and drink the wealth of knowledge that is WordPress and WordPress news. I never really assigned any alcoholic meaning to it. But on the ‘Ask the Bartender’ thing, I’d rather it changes to something like ‘Ask the Tavern’ because it goes beyond the metaphorical meaning of WP Tavern to the literal meaning.

  4. What I understand from your post is that you don’t want simply comments but rather “fully-fleshed out” ideas or actual blog posts instead. This makes me less likely to comment in the future since my comment would probably be just a comment.

  5. If your recovery is SO fragile that “tavern,” “free as in beer,” or “bartender” are troubling phrases you’ve got some big problems that can’t be fixed by changing phrases .

    “(Adopts Kenobi voice) This is not the safe space you are looking for.”


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