341 – Is the WordPress community overrated?

“Thinking the unthinkable (TTUT). Episode 341: Is the WordPress community overrated?” with Nathan Wrigley and David Waumsley

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This in the 15th episode of our “Thinking the Unthinkable” series. Today we are asking… is the WordPress community overrated?

What have we done? This could be the end of this podcast! Let’s hope nobody thinks we are trying to speak for the community, or that we even have a clue what the community truly is!

Talking points

What’s the WordPress community?

WordPress started with community. It was one of the forks of b2/cafelog. Community is mentioned in the comment that started WordPress.

If we go to the wordpress.org community page ( https://make.wordpress.org/community/) we see there’s:

  • WordCamps
  • Meetups
  • virtual events
  • mentorship
  • diversity initiatives
  • and more

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Presumably, the vast majority of people who use WordPress are not involved in any of these things.

Are they part of the community by default? The co-founders of WordPress count users of WordPress as the community.

What about the Elementor users who installed WordPress as a task, like buying a domain name and getting hosting?

I’m not all that sure what ‘the community’ is really. If it’s just that you use the software, then there’s millions, most of whom don’t care too much about such a thing. I guess that the community is more about the people who find the online groups, Slack channels, YouTube etc, and who consume it, and in some cases give back?

I suspect that the ‘official’ version would be more about ‘those who contribute back’?


Community is tricky to define

People coming together who share an interest or an attitude. A group of people living together. A sense of common ownership.

If there is a strong leader and doctrine, a community can also be defined as a cult!

In the case of an open source community it is seen as a by-product of collaboration which begs other questions about the freedom to collaborate.

Is there really a community or just many communities that by chance use WordPress?

Perhaps it’s increasingly more about this. Facebook groups, podcasts, Slack, Make. There’s so many places where people hang out and only use that channel.

Personal experience of the “community

Starting in  2007 I understood “open source”, but did not see I had the PHP skills to be part of what I thought was the WordPress community.

Over time, following blogs and later Facebook groups (Genesis then in particular Beaver Builder) I started to feel a sense of being part of a wider community.

When we started this podcast I did not feel part of the WordPress community. We had Beaver Builder in common, but there was more than one software and things about building client sites that did not fit there.

The first (and only) time I really felt part of the WordPress community was the Indian WordCamp I spoke at.

A great “community” experience. Mostly I was isolated in India and then I had a connection with local people that were not my wife’s family and friends.

It is a mixture of things for me. Mostly I look to learn, but socially I am fascinated by other cultures and ways of thinking,  and something like WordPress does allow you a way into other worlds.


I really do feel this sense of community, but oddly, it’s always shifting sand. So the only stable thing in it has been our collaboration (David and Nathan – WP Builds). All the other people have ebbed and flowed. So for a period of time people are in, then they’re out, and you never hear from them again.

It’s kind of odd, but I guess that’s just what real life is like. I do not hang out with folk from school and I can see my kids working their way through different friendships as they get older.

I guess for some it’s about getting the code done. Others, it’s about having a nice time. Other still just want to find a deal, and there’s a few who are in the community to sell a product or service.


Where there may be tensions

Representing WordPress user’s interests. One criticism is that Automattic is forging ahead by ignoring the present. Automattic and key sponsors have reasons to promote Gutenberg / blocks. Big events feature that.


Local WordPress Meetups are often reported to be very different. But, it feels like these are dying out?

Personal and Local politics in a global community (if “users” are the community)

For example:

Another criticism is around the handling of diversity and inclusion in the community. Some feel the community is not doing enough.

Some don’t want politics discussed (like at family events).

Most large organisations think about diversity. The W3C does.

Fortunately, tech is good at bringing people together. Global collaborations mostly manage to keep complex personal and local politics where the nuances can be better dealt with.

There may be legitimate concerns over seeing there is clear policy and safeguards in WordPress IF it is getting political on a global scale. 

This will be old news when this goes out but there were anguishing exchanges over the diversity quotas for the European WordCamp. European volunteers doing the blind selection of speakers were being held accountable for not achieving the preferred diversity targets of some.

One of the lead organisers aid people were, “calling us idiots, misogynists, racists, and that we cannot wash the blood off our hands”.

They could not meet the expectations of some community members.

Is it beneficial to start making inclusion / exclusion decisions based on gender and race? Who can speak for all cultures and demographics  globally without creating friction?

Even if policy is only applied to “the west”, there is no agreement. This is particularly apparent in the US presently.

Little about people’s lives fits the expectations people might have of them from physical appearance. It’s conduct that matters in communities. 

I heard someone explaining the need for the all female WordPress releases and it was about bullish behaviour (that most men hate too)

Managers and teachers have to deal with this all the time. They do this by separating the behaviour from the person or type. They are not very good if they have to keep using their power to sack or send people out of the room.

Mostly there is no need. People will often change behaviour if  they know the people asking for change care about them and understand their views.

If you believe some magical split of sex and race will create balance then you end up reinforcing the idea that people are biologically defined by them. The same argument that legitimised segregation in the first place.


Some have said it is a community of people who agree with its leader  

“Resistance is futile” is often seen as a rallying call for those promoting Gutenberg adoption over page builders.

Final Thought

The community is not overrated. Not at least in terms of what matters – software! I’m in debt to all who have volunteered to work on WordPress and have provided help, support and tutorials.

I’m now only using WordPress locally to generate static sites and using AI to replace 3rd party plugins. But it is the community’s work that trained the AI.

Unless a bunch of people start using WordPress as I do.,I am out of anything that could be called the WordPress community.  

I find other global tech channels I follow more open.


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Transcript (if available)

These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.

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[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Hello there and welcome to the WP Builds podcast, once again. You've reached episode number 341. entitled is the WordPress community overrated? It's the 15th episode in our thinking the unthinkable series. And it was published on Thursday, the 14th of September, 2023. My name's Nathan Wrigley, and I'll be joined in a few minutes by my good friend, David Waumsley. But before that a few small bits of housekeeping.

The first thing is to mention very excited. Now the page builder summit 6.0 is starting next week. That's just a few days from now. 48 speakers, all talking about WordPress website building. And although the name of the summit is the page builder summit. It really is a whole lot more than that. The best way to get involved right now is to go to page builder, summit.com. That's page builder, summit.com. And register, click the little pink button and register. And the whole thing will start on Monday. There's a kickoff call. We've got bingo. We've got prizes. We've got presentations. We've got a Facebook group. We've got networking sessions. There's a whole lot going on. So come and join us next week. page build a summit dot com.

The other thing to mention is that if you find this episode interesting, I'm encouraging people to leave comments on the website at wpbuilds.com. After all we have all of these commenting features built inside a WordPress. So why not try and use them? Look for episode number 341. And leave us a comment there whilst you're doing that. Why not head over to our subscribed page? WP Builds.com forward slash subscribe. And sign up to our newsletter. And we've also got deals. Page WP build stock on forward slash deals. It's a bit like black Friday, but every single day of the week.

The WP Builds podcast is brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro the home of managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain, SSL, and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients and get 30% off new purchases, you can find out more by heading to go.me forward slash WP Builds. That's go.me forward slash WP Builds and we really do thank GoDaddy pro. For their continuing and ongoing support. Of the WP Builds podcast.

Okay, what have we got for you today? Well, as I said at the top of the show, this episode is our 15th. In the thinking the unthinkable series and this surely is the most unthinkable thing is the WordPress community overrated. We get into how the WordPress community began. We get into what it now has become. What even is it, depending on where you are, what you do, where you're looking from, it might be a completely different thing to you. Is it getting a bit too political? Should politics stay out of it and just be related to code? How can you get involved? What should you steer clear off? And all of that good stuff. And I hope that you enjoy it.

[00:03:37] David Waumsley: Hello in the 15th episode of our thinking the unthinkable series, we're asking is the WordPress community overrated? So Nathan, we're now going to speak for the WordPress community. Didn't we agree that

About it?

[00:03:51] Nathan Wrigley: that's right. I and you have a complete understanding of what the WordPress community is. And so whatever we say will represent everybody's thoughts on every single issue equally. No! No it won't. It'll be just me and you. We should really get that out at the beginning. This is going to be such a biased conversation because it, that's all we've got.

We've got our own little version of what the community is so we're gonna, we're gonna talk to that.

[00:04:17] David Waumsley: I'm not even sure if it's overrated, is it? Is it rated? Did we find it on TripAdvisor? Three stars. Three stars. I don't know, honestly. Anyway.

[00:04:26] Nathan Wrigley: There's bound to be some software somewhere which rates CMSs. I should just point out at the beginning as well that I have got really loud workmen next door to me. And so if my audio is terrible, I do apologize. I'm having to use software to cancel out all of the drilling and noise going on in the background.

So that's just a little caveat right at the start.

[00:04:47] David Waumsley: yeah. I don't think we've talked about community before shall we kick off with trying to work out what we think it

[00:04:54] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah let's define it a little bit. And again, caveat emptor. We're probably gonna get it wrong here, but we'll give it a go.

[00:05:01] David Waumsley: Yeah, so we have to start from the beginning, and the word community is right in from where I'm in it. We're recorded. This'll go out later, but just as the 20th anniversary has gone on for WordPress. So there's a lot there and there's a big feature again of Mike Little, one of the co-founders who sent out the tweet to Matt when he was asking to fork B two or Cafe Log as it was.

There was a number of them, and in that quote he says, community. I'm sure there's others in the community, in that old community for B two and Clog that could start up WordPress. It's right there from the beginning, isn't it? If we say that's the start. There's community is mentioned there.

[00:05:40] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, that's interesting because obviously that's pre WordPress community because the quote literally is, and I'm going to quote, I'm sure that there are one or two others in the community who would be, and then obviously expressing interest in doing a fork of B2. So I don't know what that community was, but there's, there must've been some online community which was nascent and just building itself up.

That would later become the WordPress community, a community of people who were into forking software, doing free open source work and all of that. So yeah, fascinating.

[00:06:12] David Waumsley: And that was my kind of what I felt the community was when I came into WordPress, obviously sometime after this I saw it as what they're referring to the community. All the, all these people who are collaborating on the same open source software that I guess is what he's referring to as the community there.

And that's what I actually thought. And that's why I didn't feel in the early days when I started, I got, Ooh, there's a nice bit of software. I'm going to use this. This is great. I was aware of open source and what it was. And I was aware that there were people building it in collaboration with each other.

And that was my feeling of what it was and why I, there was something that I couldn't be a part of really, cause I had no PHP skills.

[00:06:52] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I'm completely with you. I was in, I was using Drupal for years and years, and there was a community there, but I wasn't a part of it really. I looked at the events that they put on, it's called DrupalCon. It's a bit like a WordCamp and it, none of the presentations appealed to me.

Particularly, I attended a few events, but I never really got drawn into that. And so when I came to WordPress, that's the same expectations, really. It wasn't for a quite a while that I figured out that there were Facebook groups and different spokes, if you like, of the community wheel that were, that we're trying to achieve different things.

Some of them, it was just friendship. Some of them, it was about writing code. Some of CSS or themes or whatever it might be. And all of these different. Like I say, spokes of that bigger wheel were there, and I got really sucked into it. But I didn't have any expectation of that at the beginning, and I do wonder...

We always talk about the community. I wonder if there are still millions of people out there for whom it is literally a piece of software. They have no idea that there could be any kind of community underpinning it. It's just, I go to wordpress. org, I download it. And I use it and I buy plugins. I download plugins, free plugins and themes and so on.

And that is where it ends. No interest. And you immediately get rid of the dashboard icon in the WordPress admin, which tells you about the community events. Just make that go away. And that's all they want from it. And I would imagine, maybe this is a controversial thing to say at the beginning, I would imagine that's what most, most people have as their experience.

It's just software, nothing more, nothing less.

[00:08:31] David Waumsley: yeah, absolutely. And we've talked about this before. Imagine all the millions of elementary users out there. For many of those, installing WordPress. It is just a task like buying a domain name or getting hosted in their interaction is effectively with the Elementor software, more so than WordPress, to which they may not know what is elemental and what is WordPress in that.

[00:08:55] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, that's a really good point and then there are things like, there are quite a few solutions out there which get rid of WordPress as much as possible, skin it so that it doesn't look like a WordPress site that you might have ever seen before. That's interesting.

[00:09:09] David Waumsley: you both, you and I, as the time we're recording, this is going to sound so out of date, but I was watching the co founders talk together in the same place at the same time, also with the Drupal guy. But it was interesting. I think both of them at some point mentioned the community in terms of being users rather than just those collaborators.

So if we take that as the. Those people who are using Elementor are probably unaware that they are using WordPress effectively under those definitions come under the community, even if they're not aware of it.

[00:09:40] Nathan Wrigley: yeah, I think that's right. I think now you would have to say that the community is definitely made up of a whole bunch of people. different sections. You only have to go into like the Slack channel for WordPress. Let me just quickly open it up and see what's going on in there. Okay. So I'm seeing things like there's an accessibility channel.

There's an announcements channel. There's a community events channel, contributor day core. I'm just going to rattle some of forums, docs, marketing. Plug in reviews, meta training, ones about WordCamp TV, sorry, WordPress TV, WordCamp Europe and US. And that's just a few, there are dozens and dozens more. So it's splintered and it's rather than it just being all about the code.

It could, it really could be about anything now.

[00:10:24] David Waumsley: I mean, There is the the on make. wordpress. org forward slash community. That's the kind of main page. It does highlight, it doesn't say too much about things, but it does let you it lets people become aware of things like WordCamps, meetups virtual events. And there's also other things like mentorship and diversity initiatives as well on there.

There's a lot, which is classed under community for WordPress in that, which isn't just about coding.

[00:10:57] Nathan Wrigley: It's interesting as well, because on that page, there's, it's divided into various different sections, but the first section is all about highlighted posts. So there's just sort of nine posts, which have got the tag of highlight, and it's all about. Announcing events and scholarships and community team meetings and things like that.

But then immediately below that is a post which was pinned on the 4th of October 2019, which is entitled how to contribute to the global community team. And I do wonder if this is a big part of how it's developed is. Giving back the intention of being part of the community is at some point to get people to start giving back.

So rather than always just being a consumer and downloading the software and using the software, I think the intention of a lot of these community events is to obviously promote learning and get people into it, but also to encourage people to start to give back and give a little bit of their time for whatever it is that they are interested in, whether that's a word camp or a docs or a translation or a.

Committing to core, but yeah, giving back, committing and contributing is a big part of it.

[00:12:05] David Waumsley: yeah, I've, I don't know if it's that I've become more aware of that, but it felt over the last few years that there's been much more about, if you can't code, that's okay. There's other ways you can do stuff in WordPress and give back. I, it feels to me anyway, that's been, that idea has been promoted much more recently.

[00:12:25] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I think so. I think so. But not only that, I think it's been promoted more aggressively as well. I think I have a feeling that if you came to WordPress 15 years ago, I think. If you weren't doing the coding bit, it would have been harder to find a place. And I think now there's been way more effort put into making it open, welcoming, genuinely, I think you'd have to be a fairly extraordinary person not to find something that you could contribute to.

Obviously, I'm sure there's a lot of people who wouldn't be interested in that. But, there will be something that you could meaningfully contribute to if you wish to, whether or not you wish to is up to you. But I'm sure there's something in there that you could. And there's loads of noise about that now.

There's a lot of people who, when they talk about being a community member or part of the WordPress community, they are deliberately not limiting that to code and get a little bit. Ticked off when people imply that what I meant was people who code hang on a minute, that's not what I'm thinking when I talk about the WordPress community there's a lot of that as well.

[00:13:34] David Waumsley: yeah, it's interesting. We were just mentioning, as a particular, really popular YouTube who we don't really follow before cause he doesn't do this stuff that we do. And a lot of the times he's talked about WordPress, but it's quite interesting. It's, must have quarter of a million subscribers and many millions of views over his time.

But when he talks about WordPress, it's very interesting because you can't really tell whether. He sees WordPress as some kind of company or community, he talks about it, he doesn't separate, say Automatic from WordPress, and he talks about it as some sort of global mass that he sees as this community, and I always think

[00:14:14] Nathan Wrigley: see. But, and

[00:14:15] David Waumsley: and it, yeah.

I think the problem with community as well is it's hard to define. So if you take it from the beginning where it's just those people contributing to this open source software because they want to use it personally. So a lot of these people were bloggers like Matt, weren't they? That's why he started.

He had a, he used the software that was there. It was not being supported. He thought he could do it better for his blogging activities and people who would. PHP did it and the interest was the thing, but there's an also another definition where a community can be people who live together, who share the same attitude.

So often I find that, I think we're moving much more from initially people who shared an interest in a particular code to one that is much more about a community that share an attitude. I think that's shifted in WordPress.

[00:15:07] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, you've written down here that community is tricky to define, and yeah, one little sentence stands out. You said that it's a group of people, it could be rather, a group of people living together with a shared interest or attitude. But this sentence encapsulates it the best for me. They have a sense of common ownership, and that's, that is the feeling that I had when Got into the WordPress community that there's this thing that I can't quite define this nice feeling of using something which you know.

You didn't have to pay for, but you were standing on the shoulders of giants, if it was just a lot of little commits over many years by a lot of people. Whether that's the code or the community itself. And I just had a nice feeling about it. I really can't put that into words.

I just got a good feeling. There was this like, this warm and fuzzy thing. And it just, it spoke to me.

[00:16:07] David Waumsley: Yeah. And certainly I've gone out, I named my business with WP in it. There was a sort of sense of being part of some bigger thing, which was partly there because I quite liked the idea of open source anyway. And I did that, but I was jotting down my own experience of what I thought community was.

I go right back to 2007 when I first started using it. And I knew what it was there. I just didn't think I could contribute to what I thought the community was. But it's only later when really the Facebook groups came in. No, actually that's not true. I started to get information at Google and I know I'd start to follow blogs and they use WordPress.

So there was a sense of. A bit of a growing awareness of a WordPress community through solving issues with my software and then the Facebook groups, but they, things like, and particularly Beaver Builder for me, there was no sense of the wider community in the first stages there. And I think, that is WordPress.

It's lots of subgroups who have their own interpretation of what it is.

[00:17:15] Nathan Wrigley: Yep, I can, I completely agree with that, yep. Yep.

[00:17:18] David Waumsley: yeah, and I think the only time I ever felt a part of what I now think is probably the WordPress press community is just when I spoke for the first and only time at an Indian word camp there. And then I sense, wow, I'm meeting people.

And honestly, that was where community where I thought, wow, yeah, this is great for me then, I would. Yeah, as I am now living in India, but I only had a connection with, through my wife and family, friends with us, with the local people, suddenly I was able to go to something where everybody, I could talk about the same thing to people that I didn't know from an entirely different culture.

And I thought, this is absolutely fabulous.

[00:18:05] Nathan Wrigley: It's interesting that you didn't repeat that experience. Is there a reason for that? You obviously found it really rewarding, but didn't do it again. Was that just there? There was it COVID or I don't know.

[00:18:16] David Waumsley: Yeah, that was part of it. And actually I was thinking a lot about it. Mainly the main reason is because I'm so rubbish at speaking. That's something that I did learn from that experience, but so that's partly what stopped me. But yeah, we did think for quite some time, me and my wife, we both enjoyed it, even though, it was all the WordPressy stuff, but there was and I thought that was absolutely fabulous to go there.

It quite interesting, cause I'm the oddity in a way as the kind of. The non local, the white guy, even though I do live in India. But I had no interest in the few other people who were from the States or the UK who came, there was just a couple of those as well. But yeah, it was a really fascinating thing for me, but that was the only time where I thought, Oh, there's WordPress badges all around.

Everybody's connected to WordPress. I'm meeting all of these new people, that I wouldn't have met otherwise. And I thought yeah, this

[00:19:13] Nathan Wrigley: I think it is quite easy to get really into that. To really be swept away with it. Obviously people come and they go, but I think there are a fairly large amount of people who are into using WordPress, who know what WordPress is and know that there's a community who are.

Almost really addicted to it. They're fascinated by attending the events. They like going and getting the badges, meeting the people who do what they do. They're genuinely into it on a very personal level. They've made friends. They've they've engaged. And. It's just so easy to keep going back and meet old friends over and over again, I totally get it.

So that feeling that you had, I think is quite addictive, and so that to me, the people that have that feeling, I think they are some kind of inner, I don't want to say clique because that's the wrong word, they're like an inner, another equally bad word is cabal. There's a lot of people who go to these things, get really consumed by it, and maybe they're...

Maybe they're the people who are the decision makers, who make things happen in the WordPress space. Not sure.

[00:20:27] David Waumsley: Yeah. There was one speaker on the one that I went to a female speaker, but I think she was from Italy and she'd lined up. So obviously she was an addict. She'd lined up to speak at various different camps, mostly around there. She was doing it as a kind of travel trip, and I thought, wow, that was, I thought, yeah,

[00:20:47] Nathan Wrigley: She's really in deep. Yeah, that's fascinating. I do, for me, I do wonder if that whole, attending WordCamps and that kind of core WordPress community, if you like, I do wonder if it's more atomic than that. It's been atomized. One of the things I wrote in the show notes is I feel that the WordPress community now is divided up into a plethora of different areas.

So you've got Facebook groups, some of them absolutely ginormous, really massive and busy, but they don't ever touch. The WordPress make or the WordPress slack or whatever it might be. They're just doing their own thing. And the same would be true of, Twitter kind of has its own WordPress feel to it, and the same would be true probably on a variety of different platforms, discord, maybe as a.

Here's another way that you could consume it. Certainly there's YouTube channels where you get hundreds, possibly thousands of comments on YouTube videos, and that kind of keeps the community going as well. So really, like I said earlier, spokes on a wheel. There's, I really don't feel there's the one perfect place anymore.

I guess it's just where you prefer hanging out.

[00:21:55] David Waumsley: there is. I feel there is a, and this is where we'll probably move on to where there might be tensions in the community because there is a sort of particularly I think at the moment I wanted to talk about the community. People are talking for the community to a certain degree with it.

And I think, that a few criticisms, I think we agree on this one. One is that, is the events that are being put on, are they representing the vast majority? So one criticism is particularly with Gutenberg is that kind of automatic or Matt himself is forging ahead with the WordPress future as he wants it, but by ignoring the present users, which may be just traditionally on the regular page builders or using the classic editor and stuff like that, because of that, then as automatic and other key sponsors have a reason to promote Gutenberg and blocks, all the big events are going to be featuring that.

[00:22:49] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, it's interesting that there definitely was a moment in, I don't know, the year, but whenever WordPress 5. 0 came around, there was definitely a sort of tension built in there, wasn't there? When Gutenberg came along, a lot of people really thought, I don't want anything to do with you being one of them, and it felt like you were tearing a community apart a little bit.

I'm happy to report that I feel that we've largely got over that bump in the road. I feel that. There's a lot of people who were put out by it who are now more sanguine, but it definitely did cause a problem. And it made the community sort of staring into itself. And I'm sure that a lot of people left at that point and thought, I don't want anything to do with this.

If decisions can be made in this way. Which I didn't have anything to do with, then that's not a community I want to be a part of. I feel like my, what is it that, what's the word that people use always in this case? My agency, that's it. My agency has been lost here. I feel that things of the software that I once knew and loved has been usurped from me.

I didn't have a voice in that, or at least I couldn't find a place to make that voice heard. And so left.

[00:23:58] David Waumsley: Yeah. You know what? It's interesting because, I have no issue actually with the fact that it might be all about blocks and Gutenberg, even though it's of no interest to me, I just don't need to turn up and these things have to be funded. So it's only going to be what the sponsors are going to fund now, so I've no issue with that as such, even though it's not my bag, but we were just talking before we were, it's anecdotal stuff through people, but it.

About the fact that there's a, quite a churn in WordPress users. Some hosting companies say that, people who start on WordPress and then abandon it quickly can be 50 percent on that. So maybe the community keeps regenerating all the time anyway.

[00:24:42] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I wonder how much churn we get in the community because it isn't difficult to see if you go to some of the bigger WordPress events, I think it would be fair to say that there's quite a lot of familiar faces there, so I do wonder if that, and I used the word cabal earlier because I can't think of a better word but that's not really the intent of what I'm trying to say, I do wonder if that Core group doesn't churn very much.

And when there is churn in that core group, it is it's newsworthy. So when certain notable people, for example, who make popular plugins, when they move out, that's big news. It's Ooh, we're hemorrhaging people. Actually, what we've lost there is one or two people, but they were significant because they were doing a lot of work.

So they've left and that's big news. But I don't see a great deal of churn in that. But I'm sure that more on the peripheries, if you like getting further away from the centre of the, I'm using this wheel analysis a lot, aren't I? Getting away from the sort of hub of the wheel, further out on the spokes, I bet there's a great deal of churn there, people who come and try it out and just think, this is not for me, it is purely software.

They haven't got into the community. I think the more you get into the community, the more difficult it is to turn your back on it. And I'm sure that's a process that you're going through at the moment. You spent years cultivating WordPress as a thing. You're using it less and less, and you've got a really way up.

Is this something I want to do? Do I want to turn my back on all of this? Do I want to let all this go? And you can probably speak to that.

[00:26:13] David Waumsley: yeah. I am wandering away from it now because the interest, so I don't go there for the, a lot of it joining communities with started just because I needed to learn how to do something. So this. Blogs led to something else and led to groups and then you start to talk.

So that's going, because there's not going to be, even though I'd be using WordPress, I'm using it in a different way to what most people do, so there's not going to be so much interest to learn there. There is the social thing, but that has changed a lot, actually. So you're my main person who I'm connected with through through WordPress really other people have disappeared over the time.

[00:26:54] Nathan Wrigley: I think that's, I think that's true for me as well. There was a period a little while ago where I was constantly on, the equivalent of FaceTime with a load of people. That, that, much less so now. I don't know if that's because they've moved on. But I do notice that in our community, my expectation of the audience for this podcast is that it ebbs and flows.

You get people who are really interested, and they send me emails and you see them showing up to the Monday show that I do. And they're there regularly, week after week, and then they show up a little bit less and then eventually they. Don't show up at all, but they're always replaced.

So this idea of churn, I'm pretty sure it's true. And I see that, but I do think if you're right in the core, it's probably less churn. The further out of that core you go, the more likely you are to get churn. But I just see that as part of life. I didn't use WordPress for the first decade of its existence, more or less.

I wasn't part of that. I mean it now, whether I'll be in it in another 10 years, who knows? You probably five years ago would have said, Oh no, I'll be using WordPress until the day I die and here we are. You're thinking of using it in a much less conventional way. I just see that it's ebb and flow with boats on a tide and who knows whether it will be here in a decade or not.

[00:28:17] David Waumsley: I always wonder about the meetups as well, because they have a different flavor. If we do accept that, the sponsors are going to lead to events that are very Gutenberg blocks led, which might not be the majority of how the most people are using WordPress. I wonder if the local meetups from what I've heard have a different flavor to them.

So they might be more representative of people and how they're using them more

[00:28:43] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I guess the local meetups, there's much more of a chance to really get to know people who live on your doorstep. By that, maybe it's a radius of a hundred miles or something. But they, I feel they've been really hit by the pandemic. I could be wrong, I don't have any data to point to, but I have this feeling that...

The whole online thing was really great, but getting them rebooted, restarted, is proving to be challenging. There's a lot of talk at the moment about really revamping WordCamps so that they've got one particular focus, so instead of it being just a generic three day event where there's a contributor day and a bunch of talks about anything in WordPress, or indeed outside of WordPress, it could be SEO for example, the idea is that the future is going to see events where there's much more of a single focus.

So it might be that a one day event just about SEO, which attaches itself to WordPress but isn't necessarily exactly WordPress, or it could be about plugins or block development or whatever. This seems to be the way of doing it. And I do think that's because of. The last few years, what we've been through and the difficulty of getting people back and traveling and making it important, but also the economics of it, if you're going to send a bunch of your people to a WordPress event, that's going to cost you thousands and thousands of pounds and whether or not in this day and age, it's worth it.

Everybody's money is tight, so that is playing a part as well. And yeah, I. I don't know, maybe if somebody's listening to this who ran, runs, is thinking of running a meetup or a WordCamp has something to say, that'd be interesting.

[00:30:23] David Waumsley: Yeah. That's let's get into something controversial now about we got the politics in, because as we were saying about community, it can be about the interest that you have. It also can be about sharing an attitude and there is a bit of politics that is creeping into WordPress that I'm not sure needs to be there.

Kind of local and personal politics in a sort of global community can be a bit. Difficult. So I think, if we define the users out there as anybody who uses it, then so it, for example, the taverns covering something, which is about how the WordPress community is supporting Ukraine's resistance against Russia.

That becomes quite a tricky thing, doesn't it? When you've got Russia as the fifth largest country to be using WordPress. Yes.

[00:31:13] Nathan Wrigley: I guess it really depends what you talk about there when you're talking about what the community is. So it's hard to figure out, it's hard enough, to figure out what WordPress is. And within that community, there's going to be all sorts of different opinions, isn't there? So this stuff is really, is it's really hard to have the right answer.

Because I don't really know. What the community is. And I'm sure that the vast majority of people using your Ukraine example, I'm sure that the vast majority of people who are users of WordPress will have a position similar to yours and similar to mine on that. But I, but with any. There are bound to be people on the other side who view themselves as part of the WordPress community.

They use the software, they've been to events, but they may not share that opinion. Now substitute the word Ukraine there for more or less anything. And there's going to be people sitting on both sides of that fence. And so it becomes difficult to say this is what the community stands for because maybe 99 percent of people in the community stand for that.

But there's another very loud 1 percent over there or actually maybe the opposite, very quiet 1 percent over there who don't agree, but realize. Either I put up or I shot up seems to be the sort of two options you've got there. And so it's difficult. And there's always a lot of complaining around that, isn't there?

People talking about anything, so not Ukraine, substitute it for anything. There's always pushback. There's always somebody who is using the software. Part of the community considers themselves as such, who says hang on a minute, you're not speaking for me there. You're speaking for you, and you've got a loud voice, and you've got a platform, and you've got a load of followers, but I don't agree with you.

I don't know what we do with that, because in politics, it's easy. You just, you expect there to be conflict. You expect to be able to, after a few years, vote people out. But we really aren't in that situation, are we? I don't really want to have the idea of voting people out, or anything like that.

I don't know what we do, apart from be as tolerant as we can be. I don't

[00:33:28] David Waumsley: It's interesting because by far the biggest user base are

[00:33:32] Nathan Wrigley: talking about

[00:33:33] David Waumsley: America and the UK, so it's a very West, and I think we've seen, this is going to be like old news, but we're recording this just after there's a bit of an issue about the handling of diversity inclusion

[00:33:48] Nathan Wrigley: not politics.

[00:33:49] David Waumsley: on the European , the European Word camp, and whether the numbers were represented it.

So we got, and this is more of a Twitter thing, and I don't know really if it's part of WordPress, but in some ways the people talking about it are talking for the community in some form or another. They feel they are talking about it. So you've got some people are saying the community's not doing enough that, we need to bring in.

And then, new generation. Demand diversity. We've got other people seeing it as virtue signaling going on as a decoy from with Gutenberg independent devs not being included, if you like, in the future of the software. You get people who just don't want the politics discussed at all because, like in families, if you're having a family event, not everybody agrees, but if you want it to be harmonious, don't discuss politics and, other people feel there's also some tolerances being lost in the community because the social justice fundamentalism creeping into the community, as if the community does need an identity, does need a political identity.

[00:34:55] Nathan Wrigley: yeah, it's interesting because you can only see the people in those Confrontations, let's say, that's probably the wrong word, but you get what I mean. You can only see the people who speak. So in the sense of, take any argument about WordPress or in the WordPress community, you see the people who put their position and you see the people who put the contrary position.

And very often the collision works itself out and there's some sort of compromise, but it might be that. The person over here has a very strong opinion, can't be moved on it. People over here, the opposite, they have a very strong opinion, can't be moved on it. And so the collision gets inflamed.

You then get news organizations picking it up and, they might post on it from one side or another side, and all of a sudden it, you get this impression that the community is really fragmented and breaking up about issues, which perhaps. You don't care about, I'm not bothered about that thing.

It's not of interest to me. And you might very well get the impression that this is just a bit of a hot mess. There's a lot of people in here who seem to be throwing rocks at each other. I do wonder sometimes, I wonder how much, with the best will in the world, I wonder how much of that.

mudslinging from left to right and right to left and centre to... I didn't mean right to left politically though, I

[00:36:17] David Waumsley: I

[00:36:17] Nathan Wrigley: right hand and left hand. I wonder how much of that puts people off. The silent group who just stare and think, boy, I don't want to be a part of that.

[00:36:28] David Waumsley: I think it's, it's an interesting, cause at the moment, I think there's no large organizations out there who can't think about diversity and, people like the W3C, largest for the web really does and monitors that kind of stuff, but also we have the other element of the community has done so well.

Because tech, global tech brings people together to talk about something that is detached from the rest of their lives where they may not agree with each other. So the complex personal and local politics are dealt with on that level. You could just talk about code with anybody really without, mostly without the politics coming in.

And I think maybe the concern is now in terms of a WordPress identity because it does have inclusion on its community page and because it does have these camps where people feel they have to have conversations to, are we being representative of the speakers? You get these concerns. So it is. I think that's a big thing at the moment.

If WordPress is getting calls effectively political on a global scale, then there are legitimate concerns, I think, about making sure that there are clear policies and safeguards in place, you know?

[00:37:40] Nathan Wrigley: yeah it is genuinely really interesting. I guess it's also a byproduct of just growth, right? If you get to the point where you've got millions of people using it and a proportion of those people are really into it and they. Some of them are into the code. So that becomes their thing.

And so they argue about the code. Some of them are into the events. And so they argue about how the events should be set up and, pick any subject you like. That's just going to be a part of a growing community. You're never going to get a million people to stand in the same place and all agree on everything.

There's bound to be some disagreement and that is just maybe where we are. We've, it's big. There's people from all walks of life, and they're voicing their opinions, and they're falling out with each other. I guess the only difficult thing is when you get to the point where one voice wins.

One voice sort of silences everybody else. That, that can be tricky.

[00:38:44] David Waumsley: Yeah, and there is that. Obviously the organizers of the EU WordCamp You know, because they were getting Twitter things and their organizers said that people call in as idiots, misogynists, racist, and we cannot wash the blood off our hands. And you just think actually, even though that's private and Twitter stuff that's going on in some ways, because we are talking about the organization of something like a WordCamp, which is overseen by, I assume by automatic or at least, by the foundation for WordPress, then they're probably, it does sound like there's a point here where somebody needs to step in and say about code of conduct for a start, we have one and it's very clear about the events themselves, but it doesn't cover the discussions about how those events should look and perhaps there should be one.

And, with most codes of conduct, they are universal. They're not really subject to. Local politics and what you think is right and who should be excluded and excluded. They are just about good behavior. And I think if there is going to be some policy on inclusion, exclusion, it shouldn't be one that's left to the community to decide what that should be.

That's my concern about what's going on. There's a bit of politicizing of WordPress, I

[00:40:01] Nathan Wrigley: I never knew about the yeah, I never knew that the code of conduct was only bound to the event. That's interesting. Hadn't

[00:40:07] David Waumsley: I think so. That's what it implies. It only really tells you if you're attending these events, and I think actually, maybe, and it's time for a bit of a speak up on these things, but my own opinion is that you can't really set inclusion because when you've got limited numbers.

Across the world, I don't know who would ever be qualified to be able to speak for all cultures and demographics across the world without creating friction. If you include somebody when there's limited numbers, you have to exclude somebody, don't you? And who gets to do that and on what grounds?

And I think, in all honesty, if you have good conduct and you encourage people to come into the organization, I think the blind selection, that's all that those EU people were trying to do, a blind selection. They weren't prejudiced in it. That's the way forward for me anyway, those kind of politics that I think, for me, needs to stay out of of these kind of chats because it's off putting, I think, or it just silences people.

[00:41:07] Nathan Wrigley: it's interesting isn't it? Because I guess I guess if you're an institution, let's say, I don't know, you're a big bank or something like that, and you grow, and you've got to tackle a number of different issues. Discussions like this, you'd have to, you'd have to come up with a policy, about how employees speak to staff about the kind of makeup of events and all of that kind of stuff.

And you could. You could enforce that. Whereas we're in a really different situation, aren't we? From what you've just said, the guidelines, the WordCamp guidelines, they define what you must do at the event, but not necessarily the conversations which would go on around it. Because of the nature of the community we've got, nobody's I say nobody, the vast majority of the people involved in the WordPress community are not employed by anybody.

That has any sway over decisions being made and so on. They're just, they're just showing up and speaking their mind and what have you. So corralling them all to, to behave in the same way, with some kind of diktat, which an employer could do, because it's a condition of working over here, then that's difficult.

And I don't, I really don't know how you square that circle, to be honest.

[00:42:22] David Waumsley: No, I don't think you can, but what concerned me, why I feel something probably does need to be said, because, we, they were up against the fact that 20 percent of tech workers in Europe are only women, and 2 percent of, European population being only of African descent, and it was difficult for them to meet some of the expectations of mostly U.

S. based community members who talked about inclusion and what they would expect to have from it. But I think the point is. If that is something that's reasonable, that's fine. But then you have what is probably the biggest event, the state of the world, where it's organized, at least for the last couple of years, where a selected audience has come.

When you look at that audience, predominantly white and male, and probably a fair balance of those people who are interested. In the U. S. demographic there, but do you know what I mean? I don't think you can have two things going on. You can't have people attacking volunteers who are trying to set something up against the odds to meet certain diversity quotas and then have perhaps the biggest event not getting any criticism at all for that if that's what is actually believed.

So I think somehow That's where the, there is a little bit of danger of people talking for the community. And I think there needs to be a bit more clarity of position on these things. One thing that does bug me, I'm having a bit of a rant here,

[00:43:50] Nathan Wrigley: That's right. One thing

[00:43:51] David Waumsley: is the, one thing that has come from Automatic has been two, there's two planned releases, which will be women only releases, which can sound great in some ways.

But again,

[00:44:06] Nathan Wrigley: variables

[00:44:07] David Waumsley: under these circumstances,

[00:44:09] Nathan Wrigley: need

[00:44:10] David Waumsley: it to me, the reason they needed this is because of the behavior of certain people made women feel unwelcome. And of course I can relate to that, and I can understand why you'd want to do that. But as teachers and managers have to do, they can't just sack or send people out of the classroom because they're behaving badly.

They deal with the behavior. They don't assign it to one gender and say, we have to get rid of the gender because that's how they are. Because if you start to put behavior to a gender, then you're doing the reverse of what you wanted to do, isn't it? That's what feminism was all about.

Making sure that the stereotypes got broken and that we weren't using who they were biologically to use it against them to keep them down. So I think, that's my kind of take on that.

[00:44:57] Nathan Wrigley: hot take on that, just out of it just a sort of corollary to that, your, do you So you're using WordPress in a really different way now, you are much less involved in the communities that you were involved with, your Facebook account accidentally got deleted, sorry, got taken at hijacked and then you never reinstated it so you're not bothered about being in Facebook groups and all that kind of stuff anymore.

Do you does the, Does any amount of politics inside of WordPress, does it just irritate you? Or do you see some of it as good that needs to be talked about, but there are some areas where you think, boy, this is not the software that I wanted. This is straying into things that I don't feel WordPress needs to be involved in.

Do you have any of those thoughts?

[00:45:54] David Waumsley: Yeah, that's my feeling on that. It has put me off WordPress quite a lot more because in some ways, we were talking about the show and going forward of that, there's a lot of community and particularly. Talking to you, that makes you want to stay with WordPress. Cause it's not just even I've been, I've still be using WordPress as such.

It's just not in a way that I'll get much learning from people on it now, but I'd still be part of the community. But recently the politics on this, even though, I guess I'm aligned with the most vocal people in terms of what they want overall. I really don't think it's the place for it.

So it's putting me off as we know that, somebody else from this show on your new show for the same reasons as distance himself from that, because there's the kind of politics that.

[00:46:42] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah,

[00:46:43] David Waumsley: We don't really want to do, we want to get on with people. It's the conduct. Don't you?

You're there if somebody is positively contributing to something and making people feel good and enabling them, then that's great. But when the gets too much of the, and I think it's a thing that's going on in the U S at the moment. I think, there's a great divisions there, isn't there?

And when you're sitting here in India, looking at these kinds of things, you're a little bit detached from all of that.

[00:47:11] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, it's really interesting when I see the politics in WordPress, if it's something that me, if it's something that I'm really interested in, I'll probably contribute to it if it's something that I'm not directly interested in. And so there's just loads of tangential issues that, I realize that there's a lot of people who get very wound up by that issue, but it's not something that I'm too bothered.

I generally stay away from it and contribute to the things that I do. Also, I guess I'm in a funny position as well, given. Given what I do and putting content out, it's, it feels to me as if on some level I have to be a bit more like a news presenter or something, if I have to watch it from afar and then just put the, this is happening forward and allow people to make up their own minds. I sometimes have to have that role in my head as well. Okay, this is happening that they're getting hot over there about this. They're getting hot over there about this.

There's going to be a collision here. So reporting on the collision is the job, not reporting on what I think about that collision. So I think in the past and probably in the future, I'm very careful not to put any of myself into it. I'm


[00:48:30] David Waumsley: There is a danger though, isn't it? No, but I think you do really well. You do present that and you don't, I just know who you are. The intent behind what you do is always a kind of good one. So I don't see it, but there, there is within that sometimes the danger of reporting the friction then if you like, and that's what's happening.

Yeah. And it does. And I've noticed this with all the blog posts recently, it was really off putting. with it because I think, it's something where I think actually we don't need, however right you might be, however sympathetic I might be for the loud voices in it about inclusion and diversity.

And I am because it's always been part of the way my life has gone. I don't agree it's the way to do it. And if it puts, if you don't bring people with you, if you just silence them, you're not going to move forward. And I just think. Actually, you can be political, as I am, wherever you like, but perhaps when it comes to this kind of community, don't be more so than you need to be, unless it's doing any good, unless you can show how it's actually doing some good, my issue, is just the fact that when I see the diversion and inclusion, there must be these certain numbers. I, my biggest worry about this is that... I was quite interested in gender and race issues. I was going to go down that as an academic path. But what I see now is sometimes when people believe there is a magical split of the sexes and races that you can create on an event that you're going to create some balance.

And the problem with that is it reinforces the idea that people are biologically defined by those. And it's the same argument that. legitimize the segregation in the first place. So I think it's not the way forward with that kind of stuff. And I think it's about people's life experiences should be brought into the community, if you like, is what they can offer.

And it shouldn't be aligned to a sex or a race.

[00:50:34] Nathan Wrigley: It's really interesting this, isn't it? Because of the size of WordPress. So you imagine companies like Facebook and Google, because they've got all these, tens of thousands of employees when let's take Google example, when Sergei and Larry started their search engine in a.

Garage is my understanding of that story. There's just no conception that at some point we're going to have to deal with all of these issues. These myriad, thousands of different issues of, employment law and diversity and everything else that you can imagine under the sun. And yet they grew and it became an important part and then they have to tread lightly and they have to employ people to figure what the jigsaw is that they've got to have as a company.

And I think we're in that stage. There's a lot of people who are venting their thoughts, venting, wrong word. They're, they're expressing their thoughts and they're coming from over here and there's conflict over here. I don't have, I just, I don't know what the solution is. My only fear. Is I don't like conflict and it would be nice if there was no conflict, but seemingly some of these things are just so important to people that the conflict just is a by product of it.

And that, that, that is a bit that I find it hard. I don't like seeing people falling out. And in fact, the mantra of this podcast, more or less from day one is, be polite, always

[00:52:01] David Waumsley: Yeah,

[00:52:01] Nathan Wrigley: to say whatever it is in a rounded way that people can understand. And if you don't agree with them. Probably the best thing to do is just, just disagree in your own head and allow them to carry on with what they're doing.

But yeah, it's just fascinating. Just fascinating. I'm not sure if I

[00:52:18] David Waumsley: you're right. You can't, no, you're right. And companies obviously have to deal with this and they have to have a policy for their company. And it may be based in where they are located to keep WordPress. Or what I guess I'm trying to say is to keep WordPress open and as an open source, where you can be Russian and you can be Ukrainian working on the same code.

Even if you've got major disagreements, you've got to keep the politics out as best as you possibly can. And I think, there's no way, even though it's well intended, I think that you can set globally on something like open source, some sort of diversity policy that might apply to another area.

So if you come to India, of course it's the divisions or the underrepresented people will be based on caste or religion here. Entirely different subjects. And you need to know the intricacies of that. And there's a lot that plays out differently in terms of gender here. So if you try to apply a U S model of diversity to here, you would probably just insult people.

You would create more division than you've solved, so that's. That's really, my concern about community and the idea of the community being that something where everybody shares the same attitude. And I think, no, they don't. The only one that they share is that they use WordPress and they quite like it.

[00:53:38] Nathan Wrigley: Interesting. Boy, this is going to be a controversial one, isn't it?

[00:53:42] David Waumsley: Yeah, I'm going to get sleep. I'm going to get cancelled, aren't

[00:53:47] Nathan Wrigley: It's I don't

[00:53:48] David Waumsley: I? So it's okay. It's okay.

[00:53:50] Nathan Wrigley: it's been an interesting discussion and, I've certainly enjoyed it, but yeah we'll see what the see what the fallout is. Is there anything else we need to talk about or is that all that we had?

[00:54:01] David Waumsley: I think that's pretty much all we had. We could just say no, I won't go into that. I think we'll close up here.

[00:54:08] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Okay. Can I open up another minefield? Okay. In that case, we will be back, hopefully, if we're still around in a couple of weeks. I'll I'll see you then. David,

[00:54:17] David Waumsley: yeah. Thanks a lot. Cheers. Bye.

[00:54:19] Nathan Wrigley: I hope that you enjoyed that. Always a pleasure chatting to my friend, David Waumsley. About these things. Was it really a thinking the unthinkable episode? What do we make of the WordPress community? If you have any thoughts at all, please head over to WP builds.com. Search for episode number 341. And leave us a comment there.

The WP Bui;ds podcast was brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro the home of managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain SSL, and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients and get 30% off new purchases. You can find out more by heading to go.me forward slash WP Builds. And we do thank them, GoDaddy Pro for their continuing support of the WP Builds podcast.

Okay. We will be back next week. We've got several things lined up for you. The first one is of course, this week in WordPress. The show that we do each week, we'll also have another podcast episode. It will be the third in our four-part mini series, all about security. And so hopefully you can join us for that. If you'd like to stay in touch WP Builds.com forward slash subscribe.

There may be some little wrinkles, some fly in the ointment, depending on how I'm feeling. I may well cancel the episodes for next week, just because of here we go. The page builder summit, just to remind you, it's starting next week. And it may be that there's just too much on for me to put on the shows next week. So if you don't get something in your podcast, feed, what's going on. It's simply a week delay because of the page. The summit had over there subscribed to that page builder summit.com, but we'll see you soon have a good week. I'm going to feed in some cheesy music and say, Stay safe. Bye-bye for now.

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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WP Builds WordPress Podcast
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