WordPress Names Josepha Haden New Executive Director, Joost de Valk Marketing and Communications Lead

During the 2018 State of the Word address, Matt Mullenweg acknowledged lessons learned in the process of releasing WordPress 5.0. One of those was the need for various teams across the project to work together better. The friction during the 5.0 development cycle was beneficial in that it surfaced areas where the project can grow and sparked conversations that are already leading to improvements.

Last week Mullenweg announced that WordPress is expanding its leadership team to include Josepha Haden in a new Executive Director role and Joost de Valk as the Marketing and Communications Lead. These new roles better distribute project leadership to more individuals who have demonstrated the ability and judiciousness to guide large, diverse teams towards success. Haden will be overseeing WordPress’ contributor teams and de Valk is leading the marketing team and overseeing improvements to WordPress’ websites and other outlets.

The Executive Director role is particularly critical for the health of the project, as contributor and community feedback pours in across so many different mediums. Tracking all of this information and taking it into consideration amounts to a full-time job. In her first week in the new role, Haden is seeking feedback regarding the challenges contributors face when working on the project. She identified seven challenges which seem to resonate with many who have commented:

  • Coordinating on collaborative work between teams
  • Aligning our work better to project goals/values
  • Understanding team roles, leadership structures, and decision making
  • Clarifying the differences between open source and open commit
  • Tracking conversations and progress across the project
  • Raising project-wide concerns more easily
  • Improving how we recognize and celebrate success

Responses from contributors have so far revolved around a similar theme – the desire for more clearly-defined projects and goals for teams, along with more communication from leadership.

“Define goals and deliverables for each project deliverable,” Daniel Bachhuber suggested. “Once these are defined, it’s much easier to estimate the level of effort and resources required. Distinguish between full-time sponsored, part-time sponsored, and completely volunteer labor. Each of these three do not work at the same pace. It’ll be much easier to estimate a team’s velocity if you know what type of labor you have to work with.”

Meagen Voss offered some valuable insight from a newer contributor’s perspective. She said the leadership of the project is very unclear and that people could benefit from that information being more prominently published. She also suggested that WordPress explore the idea of having ambassadors for each team to facilitate communication and collaboration across projects.

You get to know your team very well, but no so much other teams. I’ve met some great folks in Slack and am getting to know the two groups I’m involved in super well. But if I have an issue or a question that needs to be addressed to another group, then I would have to hang out in that team’s channel for a while to figure out who the right person is to get in touch with. Identifying “ambassadors” or points of contact for each group could be a quick and helpful way to address that.

The conversation is still open for contributors to jump in and share their own challenges and suggestions. Haden plans to follow up with the next steps after gathering more feedback. Action born out of these conversations has the potential to greatly improve contributors’ experiences working together, resulting in fewer people burning out on communication struggles or losing momentum from lack of clearly defined objectives.

17 Comments


  1. I have a weird feeling, based on how the GB has handled user feedback – and their own statements saying that GB was decided on years ago and nothing was ever going to be able to stop the forced integration – that this group is just a facade. Damage control.

    When you hear the Automattic people say things like ‘get on the train or get out of the way’ or ‘we don’t care about reviews’… that’s very telling about the state of WordPress.

    My clients will continue getting GB disabled until that is no longer possible, after which we will switch to the inevitable fork. WP was absolutely fine as it was before Matt needed to appease his investors.

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  2. So is this why the Yoast feed on the dashboard suddenly urged users to upgrade WordPress and to use Gutenberg because it was now kickass?

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  3. The Yoast price increases opened my eyes to where a certain part of WordPress is going, premium and upmarket. What attracted me to WordPress was the opposite philosophy, so I watch the evolution of WordPress with some hesitation.

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    1. I kind of fail to see how Feature Creep is part of an evolution .. thats usually the first signs of devolution.

      And yes, Gutenberg is Feature Creep – a feature nobody needed except some leading folks, high in their sky castle made of dreams and clouds (and not much else).

      cu, w0lf

      ps: I prefer watching revolutions instead :)

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  4. I really like the idea of ambassadors or representatives of some sort… someway that those of us who make our living with WordPress can contribute to these discussions without feeling left out of the conversation.

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    1. Gutenberg was decided up on years ago by Matt. Did you feel included then? What else has Matt planned for WordPress without you knowing?

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  5. I must say I didnt love Gutenberg that much (almost zero) couple of months ago – but…

    1. Change is an inevitable part of life
    2. We are all scared of NEW things
    3. We are all hard to acknowledge we need to RE-learn again

    So I decided I will try it, learn and play with it so I can have REAL opinion- now I just love it more and more.
    Dont be lazy or scared of changes, take a online courses, read documentation, create something (not single page thing) – and then comment on other posts, crying because you are scared to go outside of your comfort zone isnt right thing to do as a Human.

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    1. This “don’t be scared of change” response is not reflective of what is actually happening.

      Let me clue you in.

      This morning a client contacted me about a broken site I constructed in 2017. It’s a property rental site which relies on a lot of custom code. The client company has changed hands a few times and so I’ve not been in touch with them recently. They were prompted by the dashboard to update to WP5. They pressed the button. Outcome: the site doesn’t work any more. Their business is down.

      Now, I get paid to fix these things, I’ll just tell them the price and if they agree I schedule it in, no problem for me.

      Once their site is up again they will find that the page previously filled with styled form fields and custom integrations is now replaced with Gutenberg, and they will find that editing a property is now much more difficult. They aren’t writing articles with complex layouts, they are editing a CMS to run their online business.

      So they will call me and say “Why is it still broken?” and I will explain that changes to WP mean they need to pay me to make the site run as it once did. I need to turn the old code into Blocks.

      Am I afraid of change? Not if I’m not getting the blame for it breaking. Not if I get paid.

      Are the clients afraid of change? Not really, but there’s a clerical worker tasked with entering property data and she can’t do her job. Her boss is really annoyed. Annoyed at costs, annoyed at downtime. Everyone is secretly thinking its probably my fault somehow because I’m the website guy.

      This is what’s happening in the real world.

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      1. Your reply was very good, but I doubt it got through to him since I very much doubt he has any clients or customers of any kind.

        I didn’t care much for his accusation of me “crying” either. It’s more my clients that are crying out in despair.

        ps: The Gutenberg reviews section isn’t getting any better. It should soon be down to 1-star, even with the admins feverently deleting unwanted reviews.

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      2. Silly question, but would activating the Classic Editor plugin solve the problems your client’s site is having?

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      3. @Mike:
        An even more silly question specially to you:
        How long do you think the Classic Editor would solve the problem, and what would happen after that?

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    2. None of the negative reviews I’ve read give me the impression that users are “scared of NEW things”, just happens this editor makes everything harder for many.

      For me there’s a difference between trying new things just to learn something new or having something that actually benefits your workflow. I can publish posts quicker in the Classic Editor, which is all that matters to me, my theme takes care of the design already.

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    3. I like the direction Gutenberg is taking, though it’s odd that it requires plugins for such basic things as custom column widths, padding, and margins. With plugins like Ultimate Add-ons for Gutenberg, Kadence Blocks, and Atomic Blocks, Gutenberg behaves like an intermediate-level page builder – but why were even the most basic style enhancements left out of core?

      I’m wondering whether the core team didn’t want to scare the WP community by having people think Gutenberg would compete with page builders. Perhaps more features will be added slowly until WordPress is closer to the likes of Wix and Squarespace (though it’s unlikely the core feature set will be as glitzy).

      In any case, I am now creating pages with Gutenberg as though I’m using a commercial page builder. I actually find it easier to use than some of the more beloved page builders, two of which I own licenses to.

      Even writing posts with it is getting easier, though it’s nice to have the option of using a Classic Block or the Classic Editor (the latter selectively available for posts if you use the “Disable Gutenberg” plugin).

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      1. The idea behind GB is simply way too pathetic or idealistic. In my opinion also a very superficial idea, that was not really well thought out they just began developing it. Actually that explains why they simply did not care about accessibility for example. They also did not take into consideration what will happen if they design an interface for newbies needs and make that the default and in the future the only option.

        If all that was not enough they topped it by an extremely poor UI, and a hardly existing documentation. The only thing you can figure out of that is how to write a bock that renders a simple PlainText component. Would you like to render several RichText components in the same block based upon the documentaion you will simply fail and not find a working example.

        Would you make a search, you will find tons of articles from programmers sharing how they made their first (very basic) GB block, but in most cases their solution proves to be outdated since that as GB just evolves every 2 weeks…

        I reallly do not think GB was any good for the community and it actually fails even for newbies as the most 1 star reviews comes from them.

        GB has a severe deficit in every aspects and it can’t be better until they put together a well maintained dev ocumentation at least that is detailed enough and kept actual.

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  6. ahahah Yoast doing communication for Wp…
    I remember how “good” he managed the Yoast 4 upgrade… and it was not even that bad.
    i ll sit and wait what he will do with GB ahahahhah

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  7. As a developer of plugins, we’ve found it interesting to support our clients who have decided to move forward with Gutenberg and those who are sticking with the Classic editor.

    Essentially, it means we need to develop two concurrent sets of code because we want to make it easy for people who use Gutenberg blocks and we had always had a Shortcode adder inside the classic editor.

    It will be interesting to see how people continue to embrace the two options going forward.

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