It’s Not a WordPress Problem, It’s a People Problem

Tom McFarlin published a thoughtful piece on what he perceives to be the sad state of the WordPress community. Too many people are participating in behavior that is embarrassing from the outside looking in. It’s a long read, but it highlights the need for members of the WordPress community to stop and reflect on our actions.

The WordPress community is described by many as being open, friendly, with a willingness to help. It’s all of those things but in the past few months, discussions on hotly debated topics such as the Customizer have brought the worst out of people.

Criticism is one thing, personal attacks are another and simply unnecessary. Unfortunately, text is a difficult medium to decipher context. Emoticons and emoji help, but it doesn’t solve the problem. We as a community need to approach discussions with open minds. We can have different perspectives and viewpoints but we need to clearly communicate them without tearing the opposition down in the process. We must also learn to agree to disagree.

McFarlin’s post is an inward facing moment for the WordPress community. Is this how we want people on the outside to portray us? WordPress is software created by passionate people who work tirelessly to improve the web. Let’s all take a deep breath, collect ourselves, and do more to listen and understand each other.

12 Comments


  1. Language is also an incredibly important consideration here, for many English is not their first language and interpreting said written text is even trickier, always assume the best of intentions by people, 99.9999% of the time their motivation and intention is for good not evil :)

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    1. Well said. This was mentioned in a previous article the Tavern published about the Japanese WordPress community. The Language barrier is tall.

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    2. > always assume the best of intentions by people, 99.9999% of the time their motivation and intention is for good not evil :)

      Totally! “Believe the best, don’t assume the worst.”

      This is something that I try to exercise daily. The challenge is that sometimes, it’s just really hard to do that when what you’re trying to evaluate is so clearly meant to be taken a certain way.

      Don’t get me wrong, the written word *is* hard to understand, but then some people make it very clear how they want their tone to be perceived.

      The burden of how something is received should not always be placed on the the people who are writing. It should be shared with those who are writing, too.

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    3. > interpreting said written text is even trickier, always assume the best of intentions by people, 99.9999%

      Absolutely! ‘Believe the best rather than assume the worst.’

      That’s something I try to exercise daily both online and offline. The challenge comes, though, when people write their content in such a way that’s it’s usually abundantly clear as to how they want their message to be taken.

      Placing the burden for how something should be received should not be placed only on those who are reading, but shared by those who are writing, too (not that you’re saying it’s one or the other, I’m just adding my two cents).

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  2. Tom and Jeff thanks thoughtful and needed. It is not always language barrier its the fine line between robust free and frank discussion and thinly disguised contempt, even arrogance, but its rarely that people don’t care. Sometimes I hate to raise it but just as much frankness but a kinder tone would be great. Everybody has to start somewhere and sometimes in discussions that seems to get forgotten. WordPress needs new blood and more Women, let’s not acare them off. Hate to say it but generally women in the community approach communications differently shall we say, but that is just my opinion. But thanks to you both for timely reminders on an important subject.

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    1. > It is not always language barrier its the fine line between robust free and frank discussion and thinly disguised contempt, even arrogance, but its rarely that people don’t care.

      Yeah. It’s a sad state of affairs when it comes to things like this :(.

      > Sometimes I hate to raise it but just as much frankness but a kinder tone would be great.

      We shouldn’t hate to raise the fact that we, as a group, should be more kind. I completely agree with what you’re saying.

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  3. Thanks for the write up, Jeff. As you mentioned on the podcast yesterday, I’m looking forward to talking more about this soon :).

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  4. You can, and often should, agree to disagree when another’s choices don’t negatively affect you or someone or something else you wish to protect. So, you know, in this scenario, that’d work in an “options, not decisions” environment, not the other way around.

    On the other hand, as somebody was telling me a while back, “people who care can never agree”. Those who are only looking for some personal gain will find some common ground, something for each to gain, and work together towards that, but those who truly care about the issue itself have too much invested in it, be it actual work or resources or reputation or “simple” hope, to feel that they can afford to accept anything but what they concluded is the best option. Hence the trouble.

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  5. what we write ; when I started my blog I went with the thought “once I post it , it’s open to anyone and everyone ” ,so , also any response is a response , some like/agree , some don’t , I accept it all .
    I’ve gotten tips , reminders of how bad my spelling has become{ouch} , help when things don’t work , and great advice from those that do know . I think of two words ; respect ; responsibility , we all need to do these .

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  6. I think situation is not so bad ;) if we take under consideration that communication is between 17 years old student from small country and 35 years old father of two kids and successful enterpriser from NY … different mentality, religion, culture, language, society, experience …
    What one can take as joke, another as attack.
    Many times I want to say something, but I wrote something else … I m not bad, but barriers ;)
    I still think that if consider this, WP is nice place with high level of communication at all.

    Funny is that just one day after Tom’s post is whole my Twitter poisoned with mentioned issue.

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  7. A few of years back, I had a chance to attend a session of the bob pike group on adult learning. We were Introduced to five laws (http://www.bobpikegroup.com/Resources/Beckys-Blog/78). All through these years I have come across scenarios where laws number 2 and 4 seem to be so valid. This recent pandemonium with wordpress is also no different.

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