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

Rich Bowen rbowen at rcbowen.com
Wed Mar 8 13:40:28 GMT 2006

Robert Deaton wrote:
> Dear all hackers and lurkers (I know you're out there),
> With the growing frequency of topics that are frustrated with the way
> WordPress is currently moving, especially this post from the forums
> list ( http://comox.textdrive.com/pipermail/wp-forums/2006-March/001532.html
> ), I'm growing curious as to how the hackers community as a whole
> feels, so I'd like to throw up a little survey, and find out what some
> people honestly think.

Coming upon this thread somewhat late, and seeing that it's got a
boatload of responses, I'm going to reply to your survey before I read
the whole thread. You know, to be unbiased and stuff. :-)

> - How do you think the Development model of WordPress is now? What are
> its strongpoints? What are its flaws? What do you think should be
> changed and what should be left the same?

The strong point is that the code is good, mostly, and that good
thinking has gone into the modular/plugin nature of its design.

Flaws? Well, I find that the community to be deeply frustrating. The
"one chief, many indians" nature of the community leads to a bit of a
monoculture with regard to decisions. Folks seem terrified that they're
going to say or do something that Matt disagrees with. Whether he is
entirely responsible for that state of affairs, I really can't say,
having only been around for about a year.

I see repeatedly good ideas surface, with people tentatively supporting
them, while actively supporting them on IRC, but then back off when Matt
suggests that he's not behind it. That sort of single-personality
management leads to a lack of new ideas, and, perhaps as concerningly,
leads eventually to a project where nobody wants to contribute anymore,
because they're sure that new ideas are unwelcome.

Perhaps I'm overstating. I can only speak from my own observations, and
from what I hear in the remarks of other folks.

> - What are your views on project's leadership? Are they steering us in
> the right direction, or are we going downhill? Is community feedback
> weighted enough with personal views of the developers? Are we
> interacting with people outside the coding community enough to get a
> fair view of what could be the best for everyone?

No, we're absolutely not interacting enough with people outside of the
teeny coding community. There's a sense that they're not likely to know
what they want, and that their ideas are probably not particularly valuable.

This isn't to say that the leadership doesn't have good ideas. They
certainly seem to. But they also tend to disregard ideas from external
sources, with a really bad case of Not Invented Here.

> - Do we get too little, just the right amount, or too much feedback
> from the developers on things discussed on this list and elsewhere? Do
> you think this has a positive or negative impact on the project as a
> whole?

What I see, as outlined above, is that the feedback from the developers
tends to shut down interesting conversations. I'll pick on the recent
inline docs conversation, because it's interesting to me. There was
overwhelming response and support for the idea. Then The Developers
pitched in their $0.02, saying, to summarize, that it's not a good idea.
And folks seem unwilling to disagree, because, as they are more willing
to say offline, there's really no point. If The Developers disagree,
then there's little value in continuing the conversation.

I've been involved in the Apache Software Foundation since almost the
beginning. We have a simple principle. It is stated thus:

Community > Code

ie, the Community is more valuable than the Code. The code can be
rewritten. The community is our only real asset. If you piss off the
community, eventually you have no more code.

This certainly isn't the only model. The FSF tends to see the world the
other way around, and it seems to work ok for them. But it's not nearly
as much fun. The ASF has much better parties.

Rich Bowen
rbowen at rcbowen.com

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