WordPress Contributors Actually Do Listen to Feedback and Engage With the Community

I am a writer. That gives me a license — not to be overused — to steer into hyperbole once in a while. I get to be critical, sometimes overly, because I can come back the next day and shower the WordPress project with praise. Perhaps, at times, I forget to be as fair or kind as I should be. Maybe I miss the mark when pointing out faults once in a while. I am sometimes simply wrong (as one reader recently pointed out, that was the case with 90% of what I wrote). And, for those times that I do step out of bounds, I am sorry.

However, it always comes from a genuine love of our community and loyalty to the WordPress mission.

I had planned on writing about an upcoming feature change for WordPress today, but something more pressing came up. As I was working through that article, a new comment landed in my inbox for approval. It was on the borderline, that gray area where I had to determine whether it added enough value to the discussion. I felt like it needed a thoughtful reply and not the knee-jerk reaction I had initially written. It was gnawing at me because I knew few things could be further from the truth:

When Matias and Justin respond to comments and ask the commenters to supply more details about the problems they mentioned, I doubt many will do that, since many of us already know that the WordPress developers don’t listen to us. They maybe pretend to listen, but the evidence shows that they do not. As one other commenter mentioned, we are suffering the tyranny of the minority.

Christian Nelson

It is disheartening when I see comments that state that the core contributors do not listen to users. However, I do understand where some of that sentiment may come from. There have been many pet features I have been passionate about that have never gotten the green light. Tickets that seemingly die out from lack of interest. Unresolved disagreements. It can become easy to think that you are shouting into the void.

However, it is not because developers are not listening. That is not a fair statement to make.

In my line of work, I follow nearly every aspect of the WordPress project. From Trac tickets to GitHub pull requests, from business acquisitions to theme development, I tend to dabble in a bit of it all.

More often than not, I see others who care as deeply about the project as I do. I watch the core/inner developers — the folks who do the bulk of the work — gather and act upon as much feedback as possible. I see the same from people who are less in the public spotlight but just as vital to the community. Everything I see stands as overwhelming evidence that they listen. There is so much engagement on GitHub, Slack, and the Make blogs that I cannot keep up with it all.

Matías Ventura, the Gutenberg project lead, has always been approachable and seems to care deeply about the project’s success. I cannot recall ever reaching out to anyone working on WordPress who did not respond, even when I approached them outside of my role as a writer for WP Tavern.

I am amazed at how much time and energy Anne McCarthy puts into the FSE Outreach Program. Mostly, it is because I do not think I could do that job. For every complaint, criticism, or issue I have mentioned, she has dug up an existing ticket or filed a new one. She routinely does this for everyone who provides feedback on FSE.

I could list name after name after name of others who do the same, going above and beyond their typical roles.

Today, I was reminded that we all — including myself — sometimes need to step back and evaluate how we view this project and the people who are working on it.

Thousands of people contribute code, documentation, design mockups, translations, and much more. There are plugin authors who see a problem they want to solve. Developers who figure out how to do something and write a tutorial. This, still, is barely scratching the surface.

Contributing directly to the core project or being involved with the Make WordPress teams is often a thankless job. But, I am happy that so many are willing to bear the brunt of the criticism and continue working.

Not everything we want will be implemented how or when we want it. Developers must balance each new feature or change against different, often conflicting, feedback. They do not always make the “right” call, but the best thing about software is that you can iterate upon it, bettering the platform from feedback on the earlier implementation.

Sometimes, WordPress simply needs more folks contributing to create a new feature or implement a change. Developers are only human.

We are all riding this ship together. We should strive to be kind and fair, avoiding blanket statements of the people who pour their hearts and souls into the project.

If nothing else, let’s take folks at their word when they ask for more details about a problem. That could very well be the first step in actually finding a solution.

Before stepping off my soapbox, I want to simply say one thing to those who contribute in any capacity to the WordPress project: thank you.

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27 responses to “WordPress Contributors Actually Do Listen to Feedback and Engage With the Community”

  1. Well said, Justin! It’s easy to feel like no one’s listening – especially in an online setting. And we humans are often predisposed to assume the worst of each other.

    What we don’t see is how much work others put in and the life challenges they face.

    All of us (myself included) need to take a deep breath and slow down. It will make for better software and a better community.

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  2. Nick Diego says:

    Succinct and well put. Thank YOU.

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  3. Norman Freeman says:

    If they listened Block Editor(Gutenberg) would have been just plugin and was never a part of core.

    I guess WordPress will remain top in web until the next big thing that will replace it with ease of writing till then watch the numbers closely and hope for the best

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  4. Georgio says:

    when I see comments that state that the core contributors do not listen to users.

    WordPress search is broken. provides results from Gutenberg markup and internal meta data, REST API does not scale to larger sites with a few hundred users, posts, categories, tags, responsive settings in Gutenberg are non existant, and many more things, all this has been brought up many times by users, even before initial Gutenberg release, and nothing happened. Lesson learned.

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  5. Álvaro Franz says:

    The best thing is that actually anybody can become a contributor and push WordPress closer to their vision.

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    • Paul Lacey says:

      That’s absolutely right, whoever contributes the most time and human resource gets to steer the project towards their vision. And the great thing is that if the project has any feel that it’s going away from your vision then you can steer it back with more human resource and contribution.

      It’s totally actually fair that whoever has the most money to contribute people and direction will get to decide where the project goes. Of course there can be forks, but when a project gets to the point where a fork this deep in is the best option for a wide part of the user-base then something in the democracy of how this all works clearly fell apart in the face of who had the most money.

      Just a reflection of so many things in society I guess.
      Thankfully we are free to explore all other options if we don’t like it, as sad as that may be for many.

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      • Nick says:

        The issue at hand is who is the “user-base”?

        WordPress’ mission has long been focused on democratizing web publishing for as many people as possible, and Gutenberg quite clearly is an important step in service of this mission. So, while there may be many developers who are not happy with this new direction, they are FAR outweighed (1000x? 10,000x? more?) by the many who just want an easy to use platform. Gutenberg is still going through its growing pains, and perhaps they could have handled things differently through this transition. But it is quite clearly making WordPress a far more accessible tool for a FAR larger user-base.

        WordPress itself destroyed much of the print media industry, which probably supplanted other things previously. Artisans of all stripes lost their trade and livelihood to industrialization. Should these things not have happened because there were entrenched interests who were hurt? Greater efficiency and accessibility tends to just be the natural way of the world.

        Even things like Walmart or Amazon are “good” for the world insofar as people benefit from better prices and time savings. And while they are the source of plenty of knock-on human and environmental effects, I don’t see how Gutenberg is anything but a positive for the common good.

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        • Paul Lacey says:

          Do we know for sure this group far outweighs the other, like are there stats, or is that just a speculation / guestimate? Either way are things proven to be easier for these people through some big surveys?

          My point is that what you have said is a great opinion, but so many of us (I’m guilty) are making up narratives to fill the gaps in any real data.

          This other group sound like a good fit for WordPress.com

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          • Nick says:

            My assumption is that the target user base for WordPress/Gutenberg is the world’s population. Even if you got rid of a few billion who don’t have much access to internet, you’re still left with an enormous amount of people. Though the more access that everyone gets, the more likely it is that internet and devices will become more accessible to everyone.

            Even without any assumptions at all, the number of developers who are displeased with Gutenberg are necessarily much smaller than the total userbase – there would be no clients for developers if everyone was a developer!

            Sure, many people might be better suited for WordPress.com, but that itself seems like a baseless and condescending assumption…. If WordPress.org were made very easy to use (the entire point of Gutenberg), why wouldn’t people use that? They get access to themes, plugins, etc… Moreover, if there’s some hidden financial agenda on the part of Automattic (as some have suggested here), why would they contribute at all to dot org when it cannibalizes their business?

            Matt Mullenweg strikes me as a highly decent, honest person who truly cares about WordPress, open source and people in general. As with all plugin/theme developers, there is no reason he can’t do something that serves the common good while also earning a living/capitalizing on his ingenuity and investment. Moreover, that profit allows for his company to be the primary contributor to the Core that benefits everyone.

            At the end of the day, it is impossible to be all things to all people, so he has chosen the side of the many which will leave some people feeling unserved (maybe even betrayed). But, quite clearly there are plenty of developers who have also gotten aboard the gutenberg train and many of them will thrive into the future. The majority of be grudging holdouts will probably go the way most other dead trades and industries, and I lose no sleep over that. They can either get with the program of trying to best serve the common good while making a living, or take their considerable skills and energy elsewhere.

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            • Paul Lacey says:

              Hope your right Nick. I’ve been doing a weekly news show for the last 2 and a half years, it’s had me delving deeper into things than I otherwise would, and reading articles to cover that I otherwise wouldn’t and meeting on the panel people from all over the community, and I see lots of threads and opinions that leave me with concern and a bit of cynicism on top. To the point its burned me out a bit with how much it spins my position back and forth covering the whole Gutenberg project. And it’s contributed to why I’ve now retired from that show as of end of September.
              I still have a lot of optimism too though, but I refuse to go all in on the full benefit of doubt these days. Just trying to apply critical thinking based on all the things I hear.

              So I’m hoping you are right about your assumptions about the leadership. That would be the best outcome.

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              • Nick says:

                I have no idea – I’ve been using WordPress for 3 months, though I have taken time to try to get to understand the history, ethos etc… But I’m a reasonably good judge of character in general and I get no red flags when I watch the WP leadership speak. So, either they’re honest or extremely good actors. I choose to believe the former.

                Yet, I have recently come across various controversial things, mostly to do with censorship in the reviews/forums by Automattic staff. It’s certainly hard to ignore. But overall I am pleased with what I see, which is probably easy as someone who both doesn’t have any history with the project nor any particular skill with development and thus appreciate the shift towards a no-code end-user experience.

                One thing I find somewhat encouraging and you might look into contributing is Classic Press – a fork of 4.9 that is modernizing various things and seems to be even more classically open-source than WP. In addition to providing a Gutenberg-free experience for those disgruntled with it, I figure good work done there can only provide healthy competitive pressures, and maybe some innovation as well. I see no reason why both couldn’t exist mostly harmoniously.

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  6. Steve Grant says:

    I’m sure they listen – but the core contributors are also passionate and have a shared vision for the project.

    We all have viewpoints. There are many times in my life when I have asked for and accepted feedback, and weighed it and given it a score, then years later realised that I’d interpreted that information through my own prism and lens. I thought I saw it clearly, but in fact I have biases. As we all do. That’s normal.

    The ancient Greeks saw the sky as “Bronze” coloured, and I doubt I could convince Socrates the sky is “Blue”. We are both right, but our definitions are incompatible. Not a problem with describing the sky but sometimes that divergence is a problem.

    Now, many of the core contributors are far more patient and calm than I am, but still they have their own view of the world and no matter how open to ideas I simply can’t convert them to see things as I do.

    To be clear: Both views are subjectively correct.
    This is where the frustration kicks in. A difference in worldview leads to a specific outcome for all. If wise and calm Socrates commissions a painting of Athens, what colour should the sky be?

    Previously WP was a bit of a scruffy scrapheap from which any enterprising soul could build an manner of things with just a welding torch, duck tape and a personal vision. It was mapped out by intrepid rats: “old cars over here, copper cable over there.” It was not a great framework, but it was functioning for the inhabitants.

    Now WP is being remade more cleanly, perhaps like Lego. It is far more “modern” it is unified, it is a system.

    We can agree to some extent that “Lego is a more accessible building material and system than a scrapheap” but while it provides a lower barrier for constructing some projects, it simultaneously raises the barrier for constructing other projects.

    To be specific: If a person is using WP as a Blog System, they will be having a fine time with lovely clean Lego. If however they are using WP as framework for building bespoke CMS sites integrating multiple 3rd party quirky APIs – they will really miss the scrapheap, their welding torch and duck tape.

    I think it can be very frustrating when we see the scrapheap being cleared away, and we are offered a set of Lego. It is very difficult to argue for a replacement scrapheap, or to convince a Lego enthusiast of the limits of Lego.

    Being told “Make your own Lego Block – it’s tricky, but better” can tend to aggravate these builders, no matter how well intentioned the suggestion may be. It illustrates a fork in the road which will only widen if CMS developers aren’t given more usable comprehensible replacement tooling, or a more robust path to their own goals.

    And now your journey through metaphor land is at an end.

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  7. Rod Olman says:

    First, I’d like to point everyone to the Gutenberg reviews page: it has 3411 public reviews, of which 2262, 66%, are 1-stars.

    That’s lower than the real number since many 5-star reviews were supposed to be 1-star but Automattic has put the default to 5-star and therefore many reviews are incorrectly starred. Also, many reviews are “archived” (memoryholed). How many we’ll never know, but those of us who like watching the reviews page notice 1-star reviews disappearing from time to time.

    Second, Justin: who pays your writer’s salary? Is it Automattic, its investors or any subsidiaries thereof, perhaps?

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    • That’s lower than the real number since many 5-star reviews were supposed to be 1-star but Automattic has put the default to 5-star and therefore many reviews are incorrectly starred.

      Just noting that Automattic has nothing to do with this. It is also the same for all plugins. Personally, I’d rather that the plugin rating field not be auto-filled, requiring that the user manually set it.

      Also, many reviews are “archived” (memoryholed). How many we’ll never know, but those of us who like watching the reviews page notice 1-star reviews disappearing from time to time.

      Are you saying that one-star reviews are being intentionally removed for no other reason than being one star? Or, are these reviews being removed for violating forum guidelines?

      Second, Justin: who pays your writer’s salary? Is it Automattic, its investors or any subsidiaries thereof, perhaps?

      I am employed by Audrey Capital as an independent journalist. I have no ties to Automattic.

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      • CW says:

        I am employed by Audrey Capital as an independent journalist. I have no ties to Automattic.

        Journalists typically disclose when they’re covering something with a relationship to their employer. Making these kinds of statements without acknowledging that Automattic and Audrey Capital are run by the same person does not build trust. On the Audrey website, under Personnel, it literally says “Matt is hiring @ Automattic.”

        If you don’t want people to think you are serving Automattic’s interests, maybe do a piece to address the issue. People like me genuinely don’t know if you are allowed to write whatever you want.

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        • I do want us to have a disclosure system here on the site with more specifics than the About page, and it is something that I think we’ll implement. Nevertheless, this is neither an article about Automattic nor my employer.

          If you want to know if I am allowed to write whatever I want, I will simply tell you: yes, I can. Of course, that falls under the subject of WordPress and related fields. If you have more specific questions, I am an open book.

          As for writing an article on the subject, I doubt it will change anyone’s mind if they are stuck in specific beliefs. At some point, folks either take me at my word or they don’t. I think the best thing to do is simply continue doing my work to the best of my ability.

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    • Hey Rod! In case it helps, I wanted to pass along this post talking about when it might make since to use the Gutenberg plugin itself:

      https://wordpress.org/news/2021/04/become-an-early-adopter-with-the-gutenberg-plugin/

      It bums me out sometimes to see those reviews as often they are from people who likely wanted to try out the block editor and thought they could only do so through the plugin. Thankfully, each WordPress releases bundles stable features from the Gutenberg plugin releases:

      https://developer.wordpress.org/block-editor/contributors/versions-in-wordpress/

      I mention this as something to keep in mind as the Gutenberg plugin still does intentionally include experimental features in order to stabilize and test what’s eventually included in Core releases.

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    • Paul Lacey says:

      Just my opinion, but I doubt anything Justin and the team here could publish would have any effect on the portfolio of companies and investors that own the site, or Automattic or anything.
      Justin could join the Guttenberg restance with me and I don’t think it would have any impact.

      I believe Justin is not influenced by who owns the site and does have free reighn and is always writing in good faith.

      If I were to perceive anything a conflict of interest to readers would be only he likely knows some of the people involved in the core project as friends (obviously) , and perhaps would feel naturally protective over them as individuals who work hard and are coming under critisism right now as a result of the controversial nature of where core has been going.
      I also have many friends working on core so I could understand this. I try to critisism the project direction, and not the people working on it (who I do appreciate)

      Just my opinion. The fact we have open comments and most are published I think keeps this site a place we can all openly discuss.

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  8. I have a complete different experience also as contributor in the core since various years and in other WP official projects (and also as co-maintainer of VVV).
    WP contributors exists, but commiters that can review code are very few compared to the rest of people. I think that the discussion needs to exclude Gutenberg/fse as the people working on are completely different from the rest.
    As today is normal that a patch that fix a bug or a PHP warning/error takes years to be reviewed and maybe get in the next release.

    During wordcamp or slack chat I got various time people saying “you need to ping the committer/maintainer privately”. This means that they cannot check everything, so they listen what it is under their eyes.
    I know that there are committers that check only tickets by last change, so if a ticket with something useful is not followed in this timeframe when they check manually well it will be forgotten.

    The only reasons I am getting my patches approved since I started is that I am pinging some committers I know with a list of tickets and maybe of that 1-2 get reviewed and finally merged.

    I am the only one that checks the ticket proposed at every release from the make post and how many of them get addressed in the next major at the end?
    I have now less of 20 patches waiting for a review or a comment, and the most old waiting is dated 2015.

    The onboarding of contributors and so on is not simple, so is clear that just committers that do that as job only can handle everything.

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  9. Steven Ray says:

    I’m a member of WordPress Community since 2011, I thinks WP gets better every year because of depend on Community and really help new starters and solve every problem with regards. Thanks for this useful article. I agree with writer.

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  10. Thanks for sharing this perspective, Justin, and for the very kind words about the Outreach Program. Like you, I have a long list in mind of designers, developers, themers, marketers, polyglot members, and more who routinely show up to listen, care, and do what they can to evolve the project. As I love to say, teamwork makes the dream work and this work truly takes a team.

    I too can understand where the sentiment comes from and it’s part of what drives me to engage, including when it’s a matter of giving someone an answer they may not like to hear (aka “won’t fix”) and sharing more about the why behind it. Sometimes the greatest kindness to give someone is making it clear what to expect around what will or won’t happen. Fatigue and burnout are very real right now on both sides though so practicing kindness goes a long way across the board.

    Thanks to all of you who do make the time and use your energy to engage. I fear disengagement more than anything else so know that even the toughest feedback to hear is both extremely welcomed and necessary for the WordPress project. In case anyone wants to chat, I’m @annezazu in WordPress.org slack. All I ask is patience in replying as I try my best not to be in an “always on” state.

    In case anyone wants to channel feedback they might have and help shape future features, I welcome all to join the outreach program: https://make.wordpress.org/test/handbook/full-site-editing-outreach-experiment/

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  11. Nick says:

    I’m sure Core does listen to the community, but I’m curious as to what your experience would have been like if you had contacted the Core team as Dustin Padlock… I suspect you get enormously preferential treatment….

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    • I would not doubt that my presence in some discussions may carry more weight than others, given my history in the community. And, others carry just as much or more. The best thing we can do is use our voices to responsibly amplify others’ when possible.

      However, there was a time when “Justin Tadlock” was an unknown name, and I have always felt welcome in discussions. It is part of why I have been around the WordPress project since 2005.

      We also have at least one quote tweet and one comment from core contributors who have said their personal DMs are open on Slack, providing anyone an open door. Folks merely need to step through it.

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      • Nick says:

        Fair enough! I was just playing devil’s advocate. I am new to WP and am pleased with my experience so far, and look forward to the rest of the Gutenberg phases being built-out!

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  12. Daniel James says:

    I think a distinction needs to be made here. Core contributors do listen but there is a big difference between listening and acting. The core team is predominantly made up of Automattic employees and so it’s no surprise that whatever Matt & Co wants goes.

    I mean, thousands, and I mean thousands called for Gutenberg to be scrapped and that still got shipped. People called for WordPress to have actual leadership in place that wasn’t just Matt. Josepha came along. An Automattic employee.

    There’s so many more things too. I mean I get it. If I co-founded WordPress I’d want to stay close to the leadership team and drive it forward. What gets a lot of people upset (myself included) is that Automattic is a business that has a financial burden to it. So it needs to do things that make financial sense and sometimes that goes against what individuals want.

    We’ll never get to a point where people are generally happy with where WordPress is headed unless the open source WordPress project becomes free from commercial interests.

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    • Nick says:

      I recognize that many developers are not pleased with Gutenberg, and there’s plenty of legitimate (but ever-dwindling) reasons for this. But as a newcomer to WP and fledgling “developer”, I am thrilled that WP has a benevolent dictator who chose the many like me over the few, and I cant wait for them to finish the rest of its phases.

      Perhaps WP will lose some long-time developers who don’t want to align with this direction – and I do I feel some sympathy for those who have staked their lives and livelihoods on a platform that is increasingly disappearing. But, frankly, that’s life. Every industry has innovation and people either adapt or die. So, ultimately, I don’t think anyone – be it general users or the Core team – really cares about those who will fall by the wayside of innovation that is ultimately in the best interest of the public. There surely won’t be any shortage of excellent plugin and theme options provided by those who decide to get with the program.

      “We’ll never get to a point where people are generally happy with where WordPress is headed unless the open source WordPress project becomes free from commercial interests.”
      Its not at all clear to me how Automattic is ruining anything for their financial benefit, but even if this is the case, couldn’t you and all the others who hate the current direction just fork WP and make your own? Like, what’s the problem?

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    • Nick says:

      p.s. ClassicPress appears to be an excellent project that anyone who is disgruntled about Gutenberg should get involved with. The ethos seems superior to WordPress and they’re modernizing it in many ways. I will stick with WP because I want Gutenberg, but I hope that ClassicPress will thrive as well and maybe even put some competitive pressures on WP.

      https://www.classicpress.net

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