In this episode, Josepha Haden Chomphosy does a mini deep dive into WordCamp Europe 2021, specifically the conversation between the project’s co-founder, Matt Mullenweg, and Brian Krogsgard formerly of PostStatus. Tune in to hear her take and for this episode’s small list of big things.
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Editor: Dustin Hartzler
Logo: Beatriz Fialho
Production: Chloé Bringmann
Song: Fearless First by Kevin MacLeod
Matt Mullenweg in conversation with Brian Krogsgard
Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:10
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the WordPress Briefing, the podcast where you can catch quick explanations of the ideas behind the WordPress open source project, some insights into the community that supports it, and get a small list of big things coming up in the next two weeks. I’m your host, Josepha Haden Chomphosy. Here we go!
Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:40
A couple of weeks ago, we hosted WordCamp Europe and had the double pleasure of a demo that showed us a bit about the future of WordPress and an interview that looked back while also looking a bit forward. If you haven’t seen the demo, it was beautiful. And I’ve included a link to it in the show notes. And if you haven’t heard the interview, there were a few specific moments that I’d like to take the time to delve into a little more. Brian Krogsgard, in his conversation with Matt Mullenweg, brought up three really interesting points. I mean, he brought up a lot of interesting points, but there were three that I would particularly like to look into today. The first was about balance. The second was about cohesion. And the third was about those we leave behind.
Josepha Haden Chomphosy 01:24
So first is this question of balance. Brian brought this up in the context of the overall economic health of the WordPress ecosystem. And in that particular moment, he talked about companies that are coming together, companies that are merging. And in Matt’s answer, the part that I found the most interesting was when he said, “the point at which there is the most commercial opportunity is also the point at which there is the most opportunity for short-termism. He went on to talk about the importance of long-term thinking and collective thinking about what makes us, and us here means probably the WordPress project, more vibrant and vital in 10 or 20 or 30 years. One of the things that he specifically called out in that answer was the responsibility of larger companies in the ecosystem. For instance, like Automattic, to commit fully to giving back, there are many ways now that companies can give back to WordPress so that we all replenish the Commons. They can pay for volunteer contributors’ time; they can create and sponsor entire teams through the Five for the Future program. They can contribute time through our outreach program. And they can even contribute to WordPress’s ability to own our own voice by engaging their audience’s awareness of what’s next in WordPress, or whatever. And I know this balance, this particular balance of paid contributors or sponsored contributors, compared to our volunteer contributors or self-sponsored contributors; I know that this balance is one that people keep an eagle eye on. I am consistently on a tight rope to appropriately balanced those voices. But as with so many things where balance is key, keeping an eye on the middle or the long-distance can really help us get it right.
Josepha Haden Chomphosy 03:23
The second question was one of cohesion and specifically cohesion over the competition. Brian asked how, if people feel disadvantaged, you can foster a feeling of cohesion rather than competition? And Matt’s first answer was that competition is great. Specifically, he said that competition is great as long as you consider where your collaboration fits into the mission. And he also spent some time exploring how competitors in the ecosystem can still work from a community-first mindset. I personally cannot agree enough about some of the benefits of collaboration alongside your competitors. I remind sponsored contributors from time to time, and I think it’s true for any contributor that you are an employee of your company first and a contributor to WordPress second. However, once you step into contribution time, your main concern is the users of WordPress, or new contributors, or the health of the WordPress ecosystem as a whole or the WordPress project. So you get all this subject matter expertise from competitive forces, collaborating in a very us versus the problem way. And when you do that, you’re always going to find a great solution. It may not be as fast as you want it to build things out in the open in public. And so sometimes we get it wrong and have to come back and fix it but still, given time, we’re going to come out with the best solution because we have so many skilled people working on this.
Josepha Haden Chomphosy 05:01
And then the third question that I wanted to really touch on is the question of those we leave behind. Brian asked Matt if he thought mid-sized agencies and mid-sized consultants were being squeezed out with the block editor. Matt’s high-level answer was no, and I tend to agree with him. It’s not all mid-sized anything any more than it’s all small-sized anything. His answer continued to look at what stands to change for users with the block editor and who really can stand to benefit. It made me think back to my WordPress 5.0 listening tour. We launched WordPress 5.0, which was, in case anyone forgets, the first release with the block editor in it. I took a six-month-long tour to anywhere that WordPressers were so I could hear their main worries, what Brian is saying in there, and what Matt is saying to really came up all the time in those conversations. And basically, it was that this update takes all the power away from people who are building websites. And in these conversations, and Matt and Brian’s conversation, it was really focused on our freelancers and consultants. But at the same time, all of them heard that this update gives power back to all of the people who could build websites.
Josepha Haden Chomphosy 06:28
I could not shake the feeling at the time. And honestly, I can’t shake it now that no high-end consultants, or freelancers, or any other developer or site creator sit around just longing for maintenance work. After six months of talking to people, I didn’t hear anyone say, “you know, I just love making the same author card over and over and over.” Or, “updated the footer every week, this month. And that’s why I got into this business.” And more than the feeling that there just wasn’t anyone who just loved maintenance, I got a feeling that there were real problems that needed to be solved for these clients and that they wanted to solve them. And that they also would gladly trade updating footers for the much more interesting work of creating modern and stylish business hubs based on WordPress for the clients who trust them so much. All of that, I guess, is to say that, yes, the block editor does give power back to our clients again, but not at the expense of those who have to build the sites in the first place. I think it stands to restore everyone’s sense of agency more than we truly realize. So that’s my deep dive on WordCamp Europe; I included links to the demo and the talk below, just in case you haven’t seen them yet. And you want to get a little bit of insight into the full context of the conversations that I just did a bit of a deep dive into.
Josepha Haden Chomphosy 08:15
And now it’s time for our smallest of big things. All right, I have three things for you today. Number one, tomorrow, we package WordPress 5.8 beta three. If you’ve never had a chance to stop by the core channel in slack for the past packaging process, I really encourage you to stop by; we call them release parties. It’s a bunch of people who stand around and help get it done. So you can also see how it gets done. And if you’re feeling brave, you can even try your hand at testing out one of the packages as soon as it’s ready. The second thing is that a week from tomorrow, we reach our first release candidate milestone. So if you have meant to submit any bugs or patches or if you’ve been procrastinating on documentation, or dev notes, right now is the time so that we can have a chance to get everything into the release by the time we reach the release candidate milestone on the 29th. And the third thing is that we are currently right in the middle of WordCamp Japan. That is a great opportunity to meet some contributors and maybe even get started with contributions yourself. So stop by if you haven’t had a chance to check it out already. I will leave a link in the show notes. And that, my friends, is your small list of big things.
Thank you for tuning in today for the WordPress Briefing. I’m your host, Josepha Haden Chomphosy, and I’ll see you again in a couple of weeks.