Jane Wells Is Not So Bad

Jayvie Canono who operates the blog OneFineJay.com has published his personal encounter with Jane Wells during WordCamp Raleigh. Upon the announcement of the revised WordCamp Guidelines, Jay was one of the vocal opponents with a number of good questions. Jane responded to those questions in a comment which is all Jay needed.

I’ve got to hand it to Jane. Not only is she in a position where she has the impossible job of pleasing the community and trying to make sense of it all, but she is a woman operating in a male dominated open-source project. I’ve spoken with Jane on a few occasions and she admits that it was tough going when she first started to get involved with the WordPress project but since then, she has done a good job of not taking BS from anyone. There are a lot of people that get very emotional about certain aspects of WordPress whether it be decisions relating to code, guideline changes, etc and those emotions sometimes make people say things they really shouldn’t. The thing I like about Jane most is that she will go face to face with her critics to figure out why those people feel the way they do. Instead of combating people, she’ll have a chat with them and just might even buy them a drink. It’s funny in a way because while certain people will publicly denounce her and call for her to be fired, those same people sing a different tune when they are speaking face to face with her.

I hope that many in the WordPress community, especially the inner circle of developers will read the following from Jay’s post and perhaps reflect upon his words to see if they can take a similar path towards conflict resolution.

I’m moving on from the matters of GPL debates, and the conflicts between the “WordPress leadership” and other developers. I still commit to serve the truth, but the truth in this matter is that even my most fair and intellectually honest analyses will always be used as ammo by smaller minds.

No idea exists in a vacuum, and at this point, it’s better for me to channel my energy and ideas to other matters. I’ve asked Jane how I can help, and I’ve signed on to helping out with the UI/Design team. I requested no special treatment, and I fully intend to earn my keep.

This doesn’t mean I’ll be some shill with non-stop rah-rah “Automattic/WordPress/Matt/Jane/name-your-developer can do no wrong” cheerleading. Everyone makes mistakes, and I’ll hear and see things that I disagree with, but I know there are better means to address them, and taking it public should actually be the last, not the first, means of resolving an issue.

I’m glad that I had the chance to meet Jay in person.


12 responses to “Jane Wells Is Not So Bad”

  1. Jay’s a good guy. I hope to have the pleasure of chatting with him sometime – over drinks or otherwise. (There’s always that cross-country trip he’s planning…)

    And, who has called for Jane’s resignation? I must have missed that. Certainly, Jane and I have had disagreements, but I think she’s a great person for the role she fills. (Though, I wonder why her being female would cause anyone to question her ability to develop either WordPress UI or the WordPress community. That makes no sense to me.)

    Further, I would assume that Jane would be just as willing to chat with me over drinks as she has several other people recently. That’s the thing: I don’t assume that, just because I have a disagreement with someone that we can’t be cordial, or discuss and/or work out our differences. Jane appears to hold the same belief.

    If only more people did, as well.

  2. I’d have to second this. I may disagree with or criticize decisions made by those running the WordPress.org project but i’m not going to call for their jobs or attack them personally. Jane isn’t evil, even if her hair is sometimes red… or violet.

  3. I would argue that it’s not Jane that’s bad, but that the policies she publicizes rub the community in several wrong ways. I hadn’t heard the “Jane should resign” lines; had I noticed them, I would have redirected people towards focusing less on the person (she’s just doing her job) and more on what’s truly bugging them (they just don’t like what she has to say).

  4. I’ve long thought that the overblown hostility towards key figures in our community is largely down to a misperception, a fear that there is a tight-knit cabal in charge who look down upon the rest of us, actively ignore our opinions and strive to keep us out of their bright, shiny, cinnamon-smelling world.

    This fear, of not being part of the “in-crowd’, probably echoing unhappy memories of not being one of the cools kids or the jocks or the cheerleaders in high-school, results in expressions of either slavish hero-worship or outright hostility. Those who choose to be hostile often adopt largely meaningless issues (usually cynically planted by the handful of people with a specific commercial interest in knocking Automatic or the WordPress project) and launch full-frontal, deeply personal attacks, their fury stoked by the belief that they will be ignored anyway. It is always fun to watch their embarrassed climb-down when they DO get a thoughtful, well-reasoned response from, you know, an actual, real-life human being.

    I really like the WordPress open source project, it has made my life substantially better, it has been interesting to watch its evolution and it is exciting to think about the future possibilities – if you believe in the democratization of publishing and the free movement of ideas, there is nothing more important going on right now. I am very grateful to all the thousands of people who have contributed to the project or to the plugin and theme eco-systems. I am also appreciative of the substantial and ongoing contributions that Automattic and other companies have made to the project and am happy that they have found a way to make that commercially viable. As companies go, Automattic are a great company and my sense is that they are intrinsically decent people, folks I would enjoy meeting even if WordPress had never happened.

    I have not met Jane. I think we have exchanged a few words on Twitter or blog comments but that is all. I saw her at WordCamp Ireland but didn’t say hello because she already inundated with people but, if I do meet her in the future, I would not expect her to be anything other than a nice, intelligent person who happens to be good at the job of sometimes calling the shots and making decisions.

    I did get to meet the PollDaddy guys and Donnacha O’Caoimh who was particularly generous with his time, genuinely open and funny about the mad trip that they are all on. He actually shocked me at one point by remembering some random bit of feedback, about premium feature pricing, that I had submitted about a year earlier, just some spur of the moment thoughts submitted via the WordPress.com contact form – they really do listen to us.

    We all need to remember that these are normal folks who, through hard work, enthusiasm and listening to their users, have found themselves in an extraordinary position, commercially and culturally, but we all own the WordPress project every bit as much as they do. Sure, they benefit financially from their work, but they are not taking anything from any of us, we only gain; attacking someone whose daily efforts benefit you is really dumb.

    It should go without saying that the open source project is philosophically open, and has attracted passionately open people but Automattic, too, is open, just about as open as a commercial company can be. As individuals, I sense that if I really needed to contact Matt or Toni or Jane or any of the Automattic team, or indeed Mark, Westi, Andrew, Ryan, or any of the designers or contributing developers, I could do so and probably get a reply, even though they don’t know me from Adam. I don’t believe that any of the “celebrities” in the WordPress world actually think of themselves as anything special or better than us, they are regular folks, just like us, probably embarrassed by the hero worship and exasperated, sometimes upset, by the hostility.

    It would massively improve the quality of the debate around WordPress if people could remember, as they type, that the person you’re attacking is actually a decent soul with interests much in line with your own and you’re going to be bloody embarrassed, as Jayvie was, when you meet them in person.

  5. Donnacha, I can assure you my criticism of Matt & Jane has nothing to do with not being part of an in crowd.

    Furthermore, I would LOVE to receive a “thoughtful, well-reasoned response from, you know, an actual, real-life human being.” To date, the rebuttal of my points seem to be a) you’re just jealous & b) how dare you question the almighty Matt? That’s hardly what I’d consider thoughtful or well reasoned.

    While I have no idea what kind of person Jane is, other than obviously quite convincing in person, none of that changes the very valid issues that are raised.

    This effort by Automattic apologists to somehow dismiss any criticism that doesn’t happen in person as completely useless is ridiculous. I’d be happy to say the same things I’ve said in print to anyone’s face.

    Also, remember that this knife cuts both ways. Would Matt call people poisonous to their face? Why is it the critics of Automattic’s involvement in WordPress or Matt & Jane’s war of ideological purity in regards to the GPL are held to a higher standard than Matt or his supporters?

  6. @Ben Cook – Ben, I would hardly describe myself as an Automattic apologist but, seriously, what exactly are they meant to be apologising for?

    Also, nothing I said was directed at you – to be honest, I hadn’t know about your criticisms of Automattic until checking your site just now and reading your article about why Matt should resign. Frankly, your arguments in that post make very little sense, I agree with the commenters. It is, however, your opinion, you are entitled to as many misguided opinions as you want, I would die defending your right to express them.

    Of course, my willingness to lay down my life in the defense of your freedom of speech would be contingent on the presumption that you aren’t just adopting controversial positions and using baity headlines to generate traffic.

  7. Rules are being set in place for the WordPress community for the same reasons laws are being put in place in the United States. There are people doing things that take advantage of the community or other people, or doing things that are fundamentally against the way the WordPress community would like to be treated.

    People who don’t want to follow the ideas behind the GPL are the type of people who are only self serving. A product not licensed under the GPL allows authors to take away the rights of their customers, which is not what WordPress is about. If non-GPL themes were allowed to be in the community and showcased front and center, it would influence people to have licenses that say things such as: you can only use the product once, you cannot modify the product, you cannot look at the source code, you cannot share it with people, you have to get my permission to do anything, you have to share all information on your site with me at my request, you are only renting the software, you do not own any content you make while using this product.

    Everyone is free to contribute to WordPress and work their way up the latter. Companies like Automattic are just what WordPress needs. Why should we kick people out because they have an agenda, because everyone (big and small) has an agenda. It would be a better use of time to attract more people to WordPress and in effect reduce the amount of total authority these “dictators” have. Everyone needs to take a close look at the effects of these rules. The rules are protecting the community that’s nice, fair, and reasonable, and shutting out the people who don’t want to play fair or be nice.

    Remember, Matt and Jane don’t wear both sets of shoes at the same time. They are responsible enough not to let one role effect the other, too be unbiased when making decisions. Do you think they would steal from the WordPress Project if the shareholders from Automattic asked them too? I don’t think their going to use their role in the WordPress Project to block out Automattic’s competition. Are we assuming Matt and Jane have no ethical or moral ground?

    I’d be more than happy to debate very particular issues with people… through a neutral third party of course, i.e. not on your own website.

  8. @Dan Cole – Amen to that, a solid reminder of why the GPL is absolutely crucial to the vitality and future growth of WordPress, regardless of the FUD being thrown around by some folks who want to commercially exploit what the community has built but haven’t got the imagination, skills or work ethic necessary to thrive within the terms of the license.

  9. @donnacha | WordSkill – I meant apologist not in the sense of saying they’re sorry, but rather the “one who speaks in defense” of something sense of the word.

    @Dan Cole – there are too many contradictions in your response to make my response brief and I doubt Jeffro wants this to turn into yet another GPL debate.

    However, your response at least illustrates that most of the disagreement and criticism of Matt, Jane & Automattic has nothing to do with whether they’re good or bad people, but their actions & decisions impacting the WordPress community.

    To make matters worse, it’s apparently perfectly acceptable to state that people who don’t wish to license their work under the GPL are selfish, but criticizing a decision made by Jane is somehow morally wrong?

    Give me a break.

  10. @Ben Cook – It’s perfectly acceptable to have the opinion that people are licensing their software for a reason. My conclusion is that its mainly for personal reasons and not for the benefit of the individual customers. My opinion doesn’t address anyone in particular and doesn’t demand that they change their ways or give up what they love.

    On the other hand, criticizing people directly is not okay. I don’t support people creating a list of everything someone has done wrong and then attacking them. (I don’t want to suggest that’s what your doing, Ben, just a general thought I wanted to point out.)

    I think it’s perfectly fine to criticise a decision that has been made on the behalf of the community. But I would want that author to backup his criticism with facts and show how the pros don’t out weight the cons. We can’t expect everything people do to be acceptable and as such, we need to discourage what’s going to hurt the community in the long run.

    The WordCamp rules re-enforce the license that WordPress is founded on, which is a user-centric license (vs. an author-centric license). It keeps licensing simple for non-technical users and promotes developers who put the needs of the community first. Many companies that part of the WordPress community work just fine with the GPL and get along just fine with each other, as well as with the WordPress community. There are quite a few companies that have donated time, code, or other things to the WordPress community. Which would make a great post for the WPTavern, hint hint.


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