[wp-hackers] Community Views on Now and the Future

Scott Merrill skippy at skippy.net
Sun Mar 5 16:32:12 GMT 2006

It's easy to complain and criticize.  As I review what I've written, it
might be easy for someone to think I have a personal vendetta against
Matt.  I don't.  I don't know the fellow personally.  I'm sure he's a
charming, intelligent young man.  My comments below are strictly about
WordPress and Matt's participation with the same.

Robert Deaton wrote:
> - How do you think the Development model of WordPress is now? 

I think it's largely a cathedral, versus the more traditional open
source bazaar.  A privileged few drive most of the development.

> What are its strongpoints? 

The end result is largely consistent, because the privileged few driving
development are mostly "on the same page".

> What are its flaws? 

There is no publicly defined vision.  There is no documented roadmap.
The "same page" used by the developers is not shared with anyone else in
a meaningful way.

Short of bug fixing, it's not clear how new people can meaningfully

Contributions from new (or unprivileged) participants are often rejected
without any kind of positive reinforcement to encourage future

This has long been a problem.  Way back in the 1.0 days, I submitted an
ugly patch directly to Matt to provide per-user posting level support
(like the view levels plugin now).  Rather than say "Thanks", or
encourage me to rework the patch, Matt's word were, quote, "Does it have
to be so complicated?".  That was my first attempt to really contribute
to the core code, and it was rejected out of hand.  I should have
stopped participating right there, in truth.

My second real attempt to contribute found me working with Ryan.  He
pointed out to me specifically where I needed to pay attention to stuff
in the get_next_post() and get_previous_post() functions.  My patch
evolved, with Ryan's encouragement, and was added to the core.

A lot of people are using Trac, and a lot of things are being marked
"wontfix" with only terse explanations.  That's not helpful to the
original reporter: they took the time to file a ticket on something that
was important to them.  Curt rejections do not encourage participation.

> What do you think should be changed and what should be left the same?

I'm not entirely sure about what suggestions I could make; but I'm
pretty well sure than any suggestions I provide will be dismissed or
diminished.  My views are clearly in the minority.

> - What are your views on project's leadership? 

I think there's not much leadership.  I think there's an autocracy,
whereby one person (Matt) makes the bulk of the policy decisions.  Matt
doesn't inspire participation.  He doesn't participate much on the
mailing lists, when people are struggling with things that specifically
need "official" response (see Robert Deaton's plea to squash the
security rumors); but he has plenty of time to let us know he's going to
hand out tee shirts at conferences.

When disagreements arise, it seems to me that Matt's side usually wins.
 I don't recall (m)any examples of Matt conceding an issue.  I have not
the time to read through all my archives to determine whether this
impression is accurate.

Leadership implies vision, which further implies being proactive, or
ahead of the trends.  I don't think there's any doubt that Matt has
technical leadership, but as a _project_ leader I think he's extremely
deficient.  He was opposed to the implementation of a bug tracker
originally.  He failed to appoint anyone to tend to the bug tracker
until it became full of stale tickets.  There's not been much
_proactive_ leadership for the non-technical, mundane day-to-day aspects
of the WordPress project, and it is from that that much of my complaints

> Are they steering us in the right direction, or are we going downhill? 

The leadership is steering us in the direction they wish to go, which is
not clearly defined or documented.

> Is community feedback weighted enough with personal views of the developers? 

In my opinion, no; but then I've consistently been on the losing side of
every argument on this mailing list.  I suspect that people who are on
the winning side feel differently.

> Are we interacting with people outside the coding community enough to get a
> fair view of what could be the best for everyone?

I've no idea.

> - Do we get too little, just the right amount, or too much feedback
> from the developers on things discussed on this list and elsewhere? 

I think most technical issues have reasonable discussion with Ryan,
Andy, and a few blessed outsiders (Mark, Owen).  On the whole, the level
of information sharing has increased in the recent months, with a marked
decline in the number of things that are being added without the
introduction of a corresponding trac ticket first.

Administrative issues vary wildly.

Matt's participation in the mailing lists these days has been mixed.
It's my perception that he refrains from giving definitive answers,
which oftens creates even more consternation in the midst of an on-going
discussion looking for leadership.

> Do you think this has a positive or negative impact on the project as a
> whole?

I'm clearly in the minority in thinking that much of the above hurts the
project.  I'm discouraged from participating further, and likely will
make no efforts to do so.

skippy at skippy.net | http://skippy.net/

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