Working with, not on, WordPress

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 almost 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 is a constant 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 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 work 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.

It’s been clear over the past four or five years that the development of WordPress – both business and technical – is being driven by a couple of big agencies, who have their own objectives and a large number of developers within the team who develops WordPress onwards. Accepting this fact and using their results as an open-source means of 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 20 years of expertise with WordPress alongside other tools to produce amazing results.

(Just because a feature is made available to WordPress users doesn’t mean that it has to be used. This topic merits a blog post of its own, which may follow.)

Instead of battling to get my voice heard, I will go back to almost exclusively 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, without unnecessary cruft and features which they don’t need. Also, to support friends and colleagues from within the community on a more direct basis.

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 have been tacitly excluded from contributing—e.g. through declined submissions to WordCamps and being ignored when offering my services to the documentation team—so it’s doubtful that I’ll carry on contributing to future events in more than a minimal way.

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 seems that older people like me have had their time, so it’s time to step aside so that others have a better chance. It’s more important that people who need the visibility or inclusivity which a speaking engagement provides 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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