1. Carl Hancock

    Introducing private Slack channels for paid contributors to an open-source project doesn’t send a strong signal of transparency. In fact it smells like pay to play. Not a good look.


    • Josepha Haden

      Hey Carl, thanks for sharing your concerns. This is first and foremost an experiment to align the efforts of sponsored contributors in a way that offers consistency to a global community of contributors. In the past, I’ve coordinated with them via DMs which on the one hand does limit the potential that anyone would feel excluded, but also does severely limit the opportunity to hold each other accountable for making decisions outside of those DMs.

      As I mentioned in the post, I have not been a supporter of private channels in the past, and continue to approach this with a healthy level of skepticism.


      • Carl Hancock

        To be clear I do not think there is ill intent here. I have no doubt what you are trying to do is coming from a good place.

        My concern is the optics and implications that introducing private channels like this could have in the future and lead down a path towards more gatekeeping. I really hate the term slippery slope but this is an example of one.

        From a WordPress business standpoint I can see how it can be beneficial. One of the primary reasons we haven’t sponsored someone full time on the project is it isn’t clear what that means nor how to have them be productive and actually contributing vs. simply trying to contribute.

        The problem of paying someone to randomly try and contribute and get their foot in the door in whatever it is they would bring to the table vs. paying someone that is getting direction from someone within the project and able to contribute in a beneficial way so that the work they do actually gets used and contributes to the project.

        So for that reason if it helps the paid contributors to be more productive and get more direction so that their time is better utilized by the project I understand that problem.

        But from an open-source project standpoint typically private backchannels introduce an issue of transparency which isn’t a good thing. There are a lot of people that aren’t paid to work on the project that contribute a ton of their own time and the optics of this are that the paid contributors are getting something they are not despite the fact they are arguably sacrificing more as they aren’t being paid to work on the project.

        So it is a tough balance. I don’t envy the decisions you have to make. I hope it accomplishes what you want it to accomplish and you are able to strike a balance between addressing needs and being open and transparent.


  2. Timi Wahalahti

    I don’t assume anything bad or shady happening in the channel like some others might do. It’s more about the process of how it was formed, the greater community informed about it and the reasoning provided to support the creation of the channel.

    If they were to build some private “pay for play” group, I think the post wouldn’t be there in the first place 🙂 So it’s good to see some level of transparency here, even though I personally think the level wasn’t just enough.

    From the Community Team’s experience, a private channel to discuss sensitive matters has proven valuable and has replaced multiple DM groups we had previously – which helps with making more things visible to the whole deputy team. So if that’s the case, I really understand where this experiment is coming from.

    I think it also comes down to leading by example. Project leadership should be extra cautious about doing something that affects (or can be assumed to do so) the transparency of the project. If leadership does not follow project principles, why would other contributors do that?

    Having public discussions is slow. It’s sometimes annoying. Sometimes you need to reconsider the proposal and reasoning. But it also relieves the stress of misunderstandings. The formation of the private Community Deputy channel did take two lengthy discussion and four months before the private channel was actually created.


  3. Sally G

    I have a problems with this, particularly as implemented without discussion, and also, in response to this:
    “. . . so we could make some of these types of channels public but not allow everyone to post in them.”
    That is definitely possible—there is one group that I have joined on slack that has an announcements channel that states “only some people are able to post to this channel”—though anyone can comment, so maybe that is not quite what is wanted.
    And of course, AFAIK at least, private direct-message group conversations can be started by anyone at any time, so I guess it did not even need to be formally announced.
    The more I consider, the more confused I get.


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