Permanent Tourist

The personal website of Mark Howells-Mead

I initially posted the following thoughts on which this post are based to my Twitter account as I was on holiday in England; reflecting on how much good and how much clarity a two-week break from online technology had done for me.

I love WordPress and everything it’s brought to my life; from my career and projects to friends and acquaintances throughout the community. I love what it’s possible to achieve using the software and my own experience. But the way in which WordPress itself is developed and the lack of open discussion around the future of WordPress can be an emotional drain. Being away from it for a couple of weeks has shown me that trying to contribute takes a huge mental effort which doesn’t always gain results. Seeing new features and new ideas being implemented to the base system of WordPress without being discussed in the open-source community is highly frustrating, and long-overdue fixes—sometimes more than a decade old—remain unsolved.

The way ahead for me personally is to place a lot more focus on working with (not on) WordPress. In the same way that I don’t contribute back to Adobe products or on other tech development in “the real world”. That’ll help me to maintain a positive view of the community and of WordPress as a tool. Spending a proportion of my working week (and spare time) trying and failing to actively contribute to the project can add a negativity to my week, which has recently taken more of a toll than I want to accept.

It’s been clear over the past four or five years that the development of WordPress – both business and technical – is being driven mainly by big agencies, who have their own objectives and a large number of developers who develop WordPress onwards. Accepting this fact and using their results as an open-source tool for creating websites and web apps is right for me. This will enable me to continue to focus on creating and maintaining my own projects, using over 20 years of expertise with WordPress alongside other tools to produce amazing results.

Instead of battling to get my voice heard, I am going to concentrate on using my expertise and experience to provide clients and users with tools and an environment which they need to be able to easily achieve their goals. If there are features and tools they don’t need, then I’ll simply omit them from the project. This approach will allow me to support friends and colleagues from within the community on a more direct basis, instead of trying to interact semi-anonymously.

Seeing the ongoing discussion about diversity in WordPress events on social media has also affirmed thoughts I’ve had over the past couple of years. As an experienced, privileged white man, I am sometimes tacitly excluded from contributing, so it’s doubtful that I’ll continue to spend so much time contributing to future events.

I totally get that it’s important that no-one be excluded from contributing based on their skin colour, gender or sexual orientation. I completely agree with this. It’s important that people who need the visibility or inclusivity of a speaking engagement take the fore, and that this be a more critical point deciding who is involved in WordPress and who represents the CMS and the community.

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