Listener Poll: Is WordPress A Community Run Project?

Well, every time a change goes into the core of WordPress that is visual and is not liked by a vocal minority of people, the question of whether or not WordPress is a dictatorship or a community project comes up. Personally, I like having one person or a select few who guide the project along. I think if everything revolving around WordPress were community driven, it would actually hold the project back. I look at Matt and the core committers as the folks that stand by the side and say “move along now“. I will say that I don’t always agree with what goes into core and I exercise my ability to be vocal about those changes such as my stint against not having UI in the backend to control how post revisions work. I’m still upset by that but I’ve moved on, partially because a plugin exists which does it right. Also, by disagreeing with something that ends up in the core, I shouldn’t be told as a solution to fork the software and do it myself. While there is truth in that response, I don’t think that’s the way to approach disagreements.

In the end, Matt Mullenweg is the leader of the project but it’s development is largely community driven. Not everything the community wants ends up in the software but I feel the community plays a large role in which direction the software goes. Does that make it community run? I don’t think so. I think it’s more like community driven development with the final say coming down to Matt and the core committers.

At any rate, you can chime in on the discussion here in the comments after you’ve voted or in that forum thread. Interested to see where this goes.

[poll id=”20″]

7 responses to “Listener Poll: Is WordPress A Community Run Project?”

  1. The issues you have outlined above seem to be the same reasons I hear from Habari developers about why they jumped ship.

    I’m fairly happy with the way things work though. WordPress is the best product out there so whatever they’re doing seems to be working. If it aint broke, don’t fix it!

  2. I don’t have enough experience to directly contribute to the code base, so I can’t really answer the question in regards to WP, but I will say that in my experience with non-code related group tasks, there is probably nothing worse than the decision making or lack thereof that occurs in heavily democratic committee like decision making structures.

    The bottom line is that everyone has an opinion, but that doesn’t mean they are all equal in terms of quality. This is even true of customer opinions. As much as you want to value that feedback and each voice, some opinions are simply just noise and your business will be hurt by acting on them. In fact, I know many entrepreneurs who swear that their pricing model is not tweaked enough (read high enough) until they get a certain percentage of complaints / gripes from users. So the feedback can be useful, but not necessarily for the reason one would think.

    What’s the old saying? A camel is a horse built by committee? Something like that.

    The point is that is that if WP is not as responsive or open to direct community feedback (no clue if this is true), it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing (although I can see how it would frustrate folks) and in fact may be one of the distinguishing characteristics that have helped WP progress as successfully as it has….

  3. There are advantages and disadvantages to either approach.

    Of course, the Ubuntu model works, and it works very well. Ubuntu is very clearly a community project, yet also has a very clear decision-making structure in place, headed by “SABDFL” (Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator For Life) Mark Shuttleworth.

    Of course, Mark Shuttleworth is an amazing leader and businessman, and uses his SABDFL position very wisely. (Shuttleworth earned his hundreds of millions the hard way, building a business on his own, before allowing himself to be bought out and then using his money to launch/support Ubuntu.)

    Not to say that it can’t get there, but WordPress just isn’t there yet.

    Perhaps Matt Mullenweg will prove to be the same sort of canny businessman and leader. Matt is an incredibly charismatic, enthusiastic, and intelligent leader for WordPress, but IMO still has the business acumen and maturity of the 25 year old that he is. (And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that; after all, look at what Bill Gates built, from much the same start.)

    With all that said, if Matt wants to keep WordPress as his (and Automattic’s) baby, that’s fine. The model has obviously worked fabulously thus far.

    My main frustration on this issue is when WordPress tries to take advantage of the benefits of being ostensibly a “community” project, while at the same time not relinquishing the control/decision-making to that same community. Choose a position, and then live with the advantages and disadvantages of that decision; don’t try to straddle the fence.

    Personally, I’d be fine with whichever way the decision were made. I love WordPress and don’t ever see myself using anything else.

  4. WordPress is a theme and plugin author run project that slowly turns to a commercial mess with all the plugin and theme authors going commercial GPL.

    Wake up, you started in the first place to contribute to the community with what you have been doing. And goign GPL erases the FREE in WordPress since WordPress would be nothing without the great plugins (that sooner or later you’re having to pay for)

  5. I think you said it perfectly when you said that “it’s development is largely community driven.” It’s not community “run” but it is community “driven”. If the project were community run, you’d quickly face the “too many chiefs not enough Indians” dilemma, which causes the project to grind to a halt. If 1,000 people think they all have equal say on a matter, you unfortunately don’t end up with 600 wanting option A and 400 wanting option B. Instead you end up with options A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, and J each with roughly 100 supporters. How do you handle that? Which option do you go with? The unfortunate answer is that usually none of them get done, even if 9 of the 10 options are horrible.

  6. Well, I have changed my mind in that Matt Mullenweg is really not the sole decision maker for the software anymore. As I’ve discussed with a few people and have witnessed what goes on in the Developer chats, the decision process is spread amongst a few people, namely the core commiters who then delegate feature development to whomever wants to take a stab at it. Those who participate in the dev chat get a say with the topics discussed in the chat and you can vote yes or no or provide alternatives or whatever.

    Also based on my discussions, Matt appears to be more involved from a development standpoint with and not so much with He is more of a delegator than anything else.

    So with all that in mind and what I’ve experienced, I say the WordPress project is definitely community driven with plenty of opportunities to voice an opinion and contribute to the project without one persons purpose getting in the way.


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