Is WordPress Information Too Fragmented?

themeplaygroundlogoRyan Imel who runs the WordPress blog got in touch with me the other night and we had a very interesting discussion about a topic I’ve thought about since the days before I launched and that is the possibility that there are too many people writing about WordPress in too many places. What initially sparked the conversation is a forum thread that Ryan created on his forum asking his audience if they would be interested in a printed WordPress publication.

There is a surplus of less-than-quality blogging about WordPress going on. Hopefully I’m not contributing too much to that pile. So this idea really began as a single realization: we (WordPress bloggers) are all fragmenting ourselves and diluting the potency of our blogs, I think, in the process.

There are just too many people writing about WordPress in too many places.

Of course I would never think of asking any WordPress bloggers to join me at the Playground and leave their blog behind, as I wouldn’t leave my own blog for anyone else. So instead my thoughts drifted toward a larger, more concentrated effort, that those interested in writing about WordPress and open source software could contribute to and get excited about.

For this concentrated effort: why not a printed publication?

When I came up with the idea to start, I wondered how well it would do considering the large amount of blogs about WordPress already in existence. In fact, I didn’t think I had any chance at making a splash in this niche area of writing. So far, thanks to a loyal fanbase and an awesome community of people surrounding the Tavern, the site has done well to rise slightly above the noise. (Thanks a ton :)

I had quite a few ideas actually. The first was to create an email newsletter called Pressed For Words which would be a monthly newsletter with the focus on WordPress news, plugin and theme releases and an article or two with featured tips and tricks. I passed this idea up because of Lorelle’s awesome WordPress Wednesday posts on the BlogHerald which accomplished the same thing I was going to do but for a price.

The second idea was to gather up a list of WordPress bloggers that I knew created great content and pool them together to create a content network on Lijit. This way, they could maintain their own blogs and not have to do anything different while their content was aggregated to the Network Page which would have advertising on it. The revenue would then be split up between members of the content network. However, I wasn’t in the position to manage such a project at the time so I passed on that idea.

The third idea was to create a WordPress specific blog network and send out invitations to specific WordPress bloggers to be part of the network and then combining our traffic for bigger advertising dollars. However, when you look at most of the WordPress centric sites out there that write about the software, most have their own individual advertising system meaning they don’t need to join a blog network for ad dollars. So that idea was canned.

What To Do:

In our conversation, we mentioned that there are bloggers such as Kyle Eslick with which is a great site for premium theme news and code snippets, WPCandy is also a great site covering the realm of WordPress, WPEngineer with code snippets and the same with WP Recipe. All of these guys seem to be doing great on their own but the thought of bringing all of that talent under one roof is mouth watering. However, there are quite a few issues regarding bringing the talent under one roof, most of which I covered in my previous ideas.

My thoughts are, if someone could start up a monster WordPress site where you could dedicate people to their own specialty and cover the project from head to toe, such as themes, plugins, news, code snippets, general news, community happenings, etc, you would have one awesome WordPress site. But to get people to collaborate on a site like this, especially when money is involved would be a tough thing to do in my opinion, especially when they are pulling in money just fine on their own. So then the next question is, what if the site was a non profit? Well, although I’m sure most of us wouldn’t mind sharing great information and insight from the realm of WordPress, I think most of us are trying to make a living or at least a side income from creating this type of content. So a non profit wouldn’t fly.

With the ability to subscribe to blogs and read their content via RSS, I’m not sure if WordPress information fragmentation is really a problem. I do know one thing though, the WordPress Codex would be a much better place if it contained half of what the WordPress Rockstars put out on a regular basis. But putting awesome content on the Codex doesn’t provide the same benefits and rewards than publishing it on a blog. You might get a warm fuzzy feeling inside when you publish to the Codex but on a blog, you get comments, search engine traffic, and the ability to monetize your sharing of information. I remember in an interview with Matt when I mentioned this topic and he said something to the effect of their needing to be some sort of way to plug the gap between the great informational posts in the community and the Codex. I know of a possible way this could be done but I won’t dive into that just yet.

Wrap Up:

In the end, do you think that there are just too many people writing about WordPress in too many places? Or does it not make a difference to you thanks to RSS? The more the merrier? Or please stop?


28 responses to “Is WordPress Information Too Fragmented?”

  1. Reading your post I reflected a bit on our conversation the other night. (By the way, you’re welcome for the blogging fodder ;) .) One things sticks out to me now: your statement about everyone who’s blogging about WordPress making money that’s good enough for them in their individual efforts.

    I just don’t think that’s the case.

    Until advertising reaches a larger magnitude, one that has critical mass, I don’t think $50, $100, $200 ads here and there are really enough for most of us, which is why this blogging thing is an “also I” kind of project, instead of something we can really spend a good deal of our time on.

    For now I’m still sitting on my conclusion: the best thing for all of us is to combine forces. Suck it up, take the dive, and trust in the collective effort.

    Any takers?

  2. By the time a printed publication reached my hands, a large part of it’s contents would likely be out of date. For that reason, I canceled my local newspaper and numerous magazine subscriptions this past year. Something in the form of a PDF that I could optionally print may be useful.

    The more WordPress websites the merrier in my opinion although I do wish some of the well known developers would produce more in depth content that has longer shelf life. For example, Small Potato’s “So you want to create WordPress themes huh?” is still a very valuable resource.

    BTW, does a great job of getting quality WordPress tutorials in one place.

  3. Interesting article! I completely agree with you on this matter, there are really a lot of WordPress blogs around (mine included!). However I think you also underestimate the power of the WordPress community:
    Among these websites, some of them have raised to select the information and give out only the best of it.
    That is, I think, one of the best ways to go through WordPress news and info today without feeling overwhelmed. and are two of them. I myself try to do the same, without much success I must admit, but It is due to the fact I dont present the info in a correct way (within categories and with an except showing you what it is all about.

    But I believe that’s a good alternative! Maybe we should just use these tools a bit more!

  4. @Brad: I’m far more interested in the possibilities and implications of collab at this point, moreso than when I started the discussion about a printed publication.

    And I think the lack of more in depth, timeless materials is due to the lack of time that some WordPress bloggers can devote to the craft. After all, we have to pay the bills.

    @Ozh: I agree with you about the different voices. Absolutely. But are the two ideas (having a more central place for all of these bloggers, and having more unique voices) mutually exclusive? Could there be a stronger central location where these different editorial and creative voices could exist?

  5. @Ryan I just mentioned to Nathan Rice today that if he were to write a book on WordPress Development 101, I would buy it in a heartbeat. That would hold true even if it was a PDF version only.

    I think there is money to be made in the support/knowledgebase subscription model. If I had access to well written documentation AND code examples, I would likely pay for that. Stuff like that is priceless for people like myself who are trying to learn WP as fast as possible.

  6. I was going to say the same as Ryan – that anyone pulling in ad money now isn’t pulling in enough (in most cases).

    But it’s clear from reading down in the comments that people ARE willing to pay for solid, timeless resources.

    So maybe if we had some sort of collective of writers under one roof pumping out really good PDFs for sale. Not news (becasue that gets repeated ad nauseum) but tutorials, how-tos, tricks, cool stuff.

  7. It’s definitely encouraging to me that there are people willing to pay for quality resources.

    Blog-wise, unfortunately the more I think about it the more I think bloggers coming together on this topic is not very possible. Too many interests, too much pride over individual blogs. And rightly so, on both counts.

  8. The primary problem at this point is, as Jeff pointed out, that the various WordPress voices are too disparate.

    I love Ozh’s planet feed. It serves the fill the immediate need of aggregating a lot of great WordPress-related content.

    I wish I could say the same for the official WordPress planet feed; alas, it doesn’t seem to know its purpose. (As one who appreciates photography, I enjoy seeing Matt’s photographic work; however, as a WordPress user, I really couldn’t care less – and the latter role is the one in which I am reading WordPress planet.)

    So, what I think the community needs:

    1) Even more aggregation of quality WP-related blog content

    2) A transfer of that content from the various blogs to the WP Codex, as appropriate

    Oh, and go ahead and add my name to the list of those who would support (purchase) a published WP work, too.

  9. Great writeup (as usual) Jeff!

    In my personal opinion, the WordPress community as a whole is not like other communities in that when someone does good work, others will promote it. I’ve never really looked at the other blogs in our niche as competition, and so I’ve always tried to either feature good work others do, or at least work a link into a post to help them out. Others have done the same for WPHacks and it has really helped the site grow. In most niches, people act like their competition doesn’t even exist!

    The one area where you’d think the community thing wouldn’t apply is with the premium theme designers, but they even help each other out and run ideas off each others (at least the top few do). That is the great thing about the WordPress community and I think Matt is a big reason why. He’s very passionate and his mindset has rubbed off on the community.

    On a side note, it is funny you mention WPCandy and WPHacks working together, as I remember Michael and I once discussed collaborating on a WordPress ebook. I honestly don’t remember why it never happened, but I remember discussing it a few years ago. I ended up writing and releasing one on my own a couple months later.

  10. Think about this:

    I’m a little guy … I pull in 100 unique visitors a day to my blog that occasionally writes a good article on WordPress. I make $50 every now and then when someone buys an ad on my blog (probably a premium theme vendor’s ad). For me, it makes perfect sense to join a “network” or split profits with other WP bloggers. It’s a promotion for me.

    I’m a big guy … I pull in 1000-5000 unique visitors a day to my blog that writes DAILY articles on WordPress. I make $500-$3000 per month from advertising, affiliate marketing, or selling my own products. For me, it makes absolutely no sense to join a network, share my traffic, expertise, and income with a bunch of little guys.

    A network or central blog might work. But it’ll be comprised of little, mostly unsuccessful, small time bloggers looking to boost their profile, influence, or income, and it’s probably something that nobody will ever read.

    On the topic of the Codex:

    Yes, the Codex is incomplete. Yes, we bloggers write a lot of content that could go on the codex. But, as someone mentioned, if we put it on our blog, we get the traffic, the recognition, and the income. Why would we ever give that up?

    Generally, though, a lot of WordPress content published on blogs wouldn’t go well on the Codex. It’s personal writing. It’s not a technical paper, it’s a How-To article. The Codex is made up of function/template tag references with bare-bones explanations and examples. And that’s probably how it should be.

    Final thoughts:
    If a WP user wants to learn about WordPress, you won’t do well just studying the Codex. It probably won’t work for you. You need to be proactive. Follow WP developers on Twitter. Subscribe to their blogs. Buy their products. Study their code. That’s how I learned.

  11. Some interesting points there. I certainly wouldn’t contribute to the codex myself any more for the reasons given. I might not be making any money off of my blog but that doesn’t mean I want to give my efforts away to someone else. I am not just that community oriented, and don’t feel part of the inner-circle community.

    Personally I think there is something fundamentally wrong with using a written publication to discuss a blog. That is backwards.

    Now, a blog network of sorts does sound very interesting. Consider how the online newspapers work now. They have columnists who write opinion and are prominently featured as the authors of that opinion. They also have reviews where the author is credited but the prominent thing is that it is a reviews page.

    I would certainly take part in a collective where I could be featured as a commenter, plugin reviewer, and theme reviewer.

    Get enough of us there, even if people still maintain their own blogs, and the revenue could be far higher.

  12. @Andrew,
    The question bloggers will always ask themselves is, “does this help me?”

    If the blog network or central aggregator blog can make us richer, more popular, or more respected, then people might join. That’s a hard sell for a site/network that currently doesn’t even exist.

    The proverbial stars would need to align in order for something like this to work. There are just too many egos to deal with, among other challenges.

    However, if this were an official thing (say, and only the crem-della-crem were initially invited to have their sites officially aggregated, it might actually work. Sort of like, but instead of videos, it would be a WordPress tutorials aggregator. Authors get to maintain their own blogs, and the community gets a central resource to find both good tutorials to read, and good tutorial writers to follow.

    Pie in the Sky.

  13. To tell you the truth, the idea woudn’t work.

    Egos, not the pancakes…There are so many WordPress “gurus”/”experts” out there.
    Also I am not going to pay for support where I can get free support somewhere else.

    If I like your plugin or theme, I will click the donation on your site and donate what I deem appropriate.

    When you have these “experts” setting a price…let’s say $60 is the price (I have $60 in my pocket right now), how do I know I will get quality for that $60?

    If you were to do this, you should make sure you get GOOD bloggers, Plugin authors, Coders, etc…I hate the ones who think that because their product (theme/plugin) is free that they shouldn’t offer support.

    So many WordPress sites make me think: What the f*ck where you thinking when you click that PUBLISH button?

  14. @Nathan Rice

    Guess I started off the right way then because as a fairly new WordPress user I’m doing exactly what you say. Initially I found the codex very disjointed. Buying the book “WordPress Theme Design” by Tessa Blakeley Silver was a huge help as it steps a person through the process of building a theme from idea to finished product. Twitter and various blogs (yours included) have been extremely valuable for continued learning.

    I’m thinking of using one of my better WP domains strictly for linking to great WP resources mainly to benefit myself and if others find it useful so be it.

    Nathan said
    “If a WP user wants to learn about WordPress, you won’t do well just studying the Codex. It probably won’t work for you. You need to be proactive. Follow WP developers on Twitter. Subscribe to their blogs. Buy their products. Study their code. That’s how I learned.”

  15. Jeff, as I mentioned to both you and Ryan, I would be totally up for writing for some type of publication on WordPress, whether this be in print form or just an online magazine.

    If money is even an issue here (outside of paying for the site’s hosting), I’d be less inclined to do it. I’d rather something like this be a completely free resource for bloggers. This is what I was thinking it’d be, but the conversation seems to be all over the place here.

  16. @Ian Stewart is a great resource too, don’t shortsell that puppy. Lots of good links to useful resources. But I’m with you. Google is the first place I go when I want to find something. The creme always rises to the top (of the SERPs).

    @Justin Tadlock
    I’m fairly certain that you and Matt were cut from the same cloth. :-)

  17. I sure could have used a centralized place to find info. I got inspired by what you wrote and been thinking on how to get something similar to that working. Perhaps will be the project in my series on automatic blogging. The original idea was boring.

    When it comes to learning how to develop plugins for WordPress I think most of the resources are not that good. The codex is a little confusing, its hard to find step-by-step tutorials beyond the basics. Often the blogs keep it at a very simple level at least for me. And most plugins are very badly written. (not that my newly released beta plugin is a masterpiece, will probably be refactored a little for next version)

    Got some ideas on the teaching department also in my notes. Don’t know if there is much need for it though. From what I understand people find the admin menu hard and also the TinyMCE interface. Made some codegenerators for my personal C# and .Net stuff might do some similar stuff for WordPress.
    Anyone that might be interested in codegeneration for wordpress and in that case what should be generated?

    Andreas Nurbo’s last blog post..GWO plugin for WordPress: beta version released

  18. Its one of those great ideas that probably wouldn’t work unless it came from the top (ie from Automattic).

    If they arranged some kind of site, portal, or newsletter and invited the top WP experts and bloggers to contribute in return for backlinks that would probably work. Maybe you “pay” your way in to get something published by contributing to the Codex documentation as well. All pie in the sky of course, hard to work out how it would get off the ground.

    Any third party iniative would probably fail for most of the reasons people already listed. Its hard to launch such a site and keep good content coming in without monetization causing disputes, and if you do it purely for free people will not give it a high priority and it will just die from lack of content.

    I’m in the “would love to get involved but don’t see how it would work” camp myself.

  19. My only request is that people stop posting the same inane crud that everyone else is posting. If it isn’t original, I’m not interested in it.

    I don’t need to be alerted via 30 different blogs that WP 2.8 has been released. I’ll get that from the blog itself. However if you want to write a blog post talking ABOUT the new release, then that’s sweet as by me. Or even if you add a little snippet of info. about the release which wouldn’t have been in the 30 other blog posts which arrive in my feed reader I’d be happy with that too. But a single paragraph outlining the fact that WP 2.8 is released and a summarising the 30 other blog posts is simply annoying, particularly since they all arrive at the same time. All those posts do is to add to the noise IMO.

  20. Great discussion taking place here. Didn’t realize this would be heartily discussed. I’ll be responding to most of the comments later on today.

    @Ryan – I agree. In fact, most times I don’t bother writing about anything that shows up in the dashboard because too many people will know about that information and anything else is just an echo. However, I think my recent post dealing with WordPress 2.8 and the release date is an example of something you are talking about where I added some more unique information to the post. In fact, I received a comment from someone when BuddyPress 1.0 was released that my post covering the event was a breath of fresh air because I wrote about it differently than most other people.

    However, it’s pretty easy to succumb to the notion of spreading the news even if it’s published on a big publication. For example, while the WordPress Dev blog was the first to publish the info regarding the release of WordPress 2.8, I published the same information and a few people treated my post as if it’s the first time they heard about the news.

  21. Great post and interesting discussion.

    I don’t think there are too many people writing about WordPress for the reasons stated above. Most people who write about WP are writing about specific functionality, themes, plugins, or hacks, that they have used or have some kind of opinion on.

    I started writing about WordPress because I was a huge fan and was impressed by all the helpful people in the community. In the WP world, I don’t consider my blog to be all that well known. I don’t create themes regularly, I don’t write plugins, I just write about the WP topics that matter to me and that I think may help others with WP as I have been helped by many of you above. However, the people that contact me to ask for help with WP related tasks consider me a WP expert. My WP expertise lies in teaching people what it is, how to apply it to the site they would like to build, and how to put the pieces together from existing themes, plugins, code hacks, etc.

    I rely on the many people developing and writing about WP topics in order to help those that read my site and rely on me. I think we all have our place in the WP food chain, from the top, all the way down to the one sentence blog scapers (bottom feeders).

    I think a WordPress portal built by the WordPress fanboys and fangirls is an idea that has merit, and I think would be a success, but I certainly wouldn’t want it to compete with any of the official WordPress resources, but rather be an extension of those resources.

    I would jump at the opportunity to be involved and to put my specific WP expertise in a place where the highest number of current and future users could benefit.

  22. […] Is WordPress Information Too Fragmented? Ryan Imel who runs the WordPress blog got in touch with me the other night and we had a very interesting discussion about a topic I’ve thought about since the days before I launched and that is the possibility that there are too many people writing about WordPress in too many places. – By WP Tavern […]

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