John James Jacoby, lead developer of bbPress and BuddyPress, published a 35 part tweetstorm sharing his thoughts on leadership in the WordPress project, the community, and the WordPress economy. A tweetstorm is a series of tweets linked together in chronological order around a particular topic.
There are a number of useful nuggets of wisdom in his tweets that I think can benefit from more exposure to a wider segment of the WordPress community outside of Twitter. It’s a snapshot of one individual’s eight year plus journey in trying to create a sustainable business using WordPress. With Jacoby’s permission, I’ve republished his tweetstorm into a blog post to make it easier to read and digest.
No exacting leadership hierarchy provides the perception of opportunity for anyone to step-up. This is actually really important. Having @photomatt (Matt Mullenweg) be the BDFL (Benevolent Dictator For Life) means we always have a safety net, to help the community be true-north during times of unrest.
Don’t forget that @photomatt purposely has made monumental gestures to remove himself and @automattic as a WordPress dependency. It’s up to the 99% of us that aren’t @photomatt to learn from what he’s accomplished, and find the ways to invest that he hasn’t yet.
Core, Plugins, Themes, etc… none of this in WordPress is easy or directly profitable. It’s all a very long gamble to sustainability. Some WordPress companies/agencies have long-term investment strategies outside of employee retention/satisfaction. Again, it’s a long game.
Ultimately, WordPress needs more than @Automattic‘s bank-roll to help empower the next generation of awesome plugins/themes as products. Some people in the WordPress community that have labeled me: Hot-Lava: Do Not Touch – that makes me sad, because I don’t feel that way.
People will choose to stonewall professional progress because of misperception. Biases exist all around the WordPress community. Some of the most prolific contributors to WordPress (@alexkingorg, @koop, etc…) ultimately were shunned and exiled. It can be toxic.
When @johnbillion (John Blackbourn) says there’s a lack of leadership – there is plenty of leadership, it’s all just currently in a holding pattern. Holding patterns are not bad things, they are necessary to assess what happens next. And there is more happening than ever before.
WordPress is about to get real. Reporting will shape your perception of progress, because there is too much progress to report on. @post_status & @wptavern are our CNN and BBC. They are plugged in so the rest of us do not have to be, and can worry about other things.
I’ve made a lot of friends and allies through WordPress, and accidentally made foes somehow too. That’s not fair. We all need each other. So many individuals are pouring their lives into passion projects surrounding WordPress, hoping to eventually pay their kids tuition.
Talented individuals wanting a better life for their families than they had, busting their butts 24/7 on great ideas, need our support. When someone says this plugin sucks because whatever – it’s an OPPORTUNITY to help someone. Take it, be helpful, that’s the spirit.
When someone says this WordCamp talk was bad – provide that person with feedback yourself, in private, and help elevate them. The problems of the relatively small WordPress community are systemic across all communities. Be ready to be wrong, learn, and recover.
I’d be lying if I said I wanted to take a vow of poverty, relinquish my earthly possessions, and accept WordPress as my CMS and savior. I do want to be profitable enough (thanks to my WordPress experience) to provide others with stable and comfortable living conditions.
I’m eight solid years in, with a thorough understanding of the entire WordPress landscape, and know there are good people struggling. There’s no reason for qualified professionals to struggle in the WordPress space anymore. There is LIMITLESS opportunity and ability.
I deeply want WordPress to continue down the trajectory of success, and I want everyone following me to succeed along with it. Angel rounds dramatically increase the odds of success. Companies like @10up (the bootstrapped anomalies) need a @jakemgold (Jake Goldman) to work.
People are VERY quick to categorize. Yes; I’m an engineer. I also love philosophy, business, yo-yo’s, and clearly tweet-storms. The next time someone says something negative about someone/thing WordPress related, please remind them super-villains are not real.
To make money in WordPress, you need to be likable, and build products where your likability shines through. Like @pippinsplugins (Pippin Williamson). Being likable and profitable in open-source means having integrity, focusing on people more than product, and hoping it pays off in the end.
I think I’m likable, and I’d always like to be more likable, but I also know tweet-storms like this make people think you’re crazy. If you think there is ANYTHING I can do personally or professionally to help you, please know that I desperately want to.
I used to know @photomatt very well. He’s not a bad guy; he’s a great guy. Also an easy target. Concentrate on you. Shout-out to my starving indie plugin and theme artists out there. You rule. Don’t give up. We’ll figure it out together. Thanks for listening; sorry to muck-up your day. WordPress rules because of all of you.