WP Briefing: Episode 79: Why Start a WordPress Media Corps (and Why Now?)

There’s a new initiative in the WordPress community: the WordPress Media Corps. In today’s episode of the WordPress Briefing, you’ll find out how it came to be, first as a nugget of an idea during the pandemic and now as an active experiment. Learn how this shift in focus values the ongoing impact, and often invisible effort, of independent WordPress media—and seeks to help them more easily deliver engaging, high-quality WordPress content to their audiences.


Host: Josepha Haden Chomphosy
Editor: Dustin Hartzler
Logo: Javier Arce
Production: Brett McSherry
Song: Fearless First by Kevin MacLeod

Show Notes

Making a WordPress Media Corps

WordPress Media Corps Next Steps

WordPress Media Corps Initial Roadmap

#media-corps Slack channel

Small List of Big Things

WordPress 6.6 call for volunteers update

WordPress 6.5.3 maintenance release

Openverse Introduces Collection views for Tags, Creators, and Sources

WordCamp Europe 2024 Schedule Released

Have a question you’d like answered? Submit them to WPBriefing@WordPress.org.


[00:00:00] Josepha: 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 insight 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! 

[00:00:28] (Intro Music) 

[00:00:39] Josepha: If you’ve been keeping an eye on the WordPress marketing space for the past few months, today’s topic will be no surprise to you. Today, we’re talking about the WordPress Media Corps. It’s a bit of a controversial topic; there’s no point denying that, so today, I want to take a little journey through its history.

The WordPress Media Corps is an idea that goes back probably four, maybe five years ago. I don’t know what year it is—four years, five, four, or five years ago. It was the height of our COVID isolation. So I was spending a lot of time with our WordPress media folks, people who hosted podcasts, who gathered weekly roundups, and who were writing these nuanced and thoughtful newsletters.

[00:01:19] Josepha: And during the prep phases for these, I was witnessing all the work that goes into them, researching questions and topics, marketing both before and after any appearance, and consistently engaging with the audiences they had grown over time. Over the course of the year, I wound up in two or three different conversations with these hosts about how this does or doesn’t fit in the WordPress project as a way to contribute.

Now, invisible contributions are a persistent concern for any open source project and is one of the problems I am often most desperate to solve. As with so many long-standing problems, if the solution were easy, it wouldn’t still be a problem. And that’s the case here as well. I’ve got a quick side note on why this is a hard problem to solve at the end of the episode. It’s relevant to the overall discussion, but not if you’re only here to learn about how we arrived at the Media Corps. So, choose your own adventure! 

[00:02:16] Josepha: So, during one of those discussions, Allie Nimmons reminded me that we have always relied on third-party supporters to share information about WordPress. It was a smaller group than we have now, much less variety in the format, but they didn’t have contribution acknowledgments either, right? 

And she was right. They were included in something called the WP Planet. And I remember that I said to her what I wouldn’t give to be able to acknowledge the value that WordPress media folks bring to our ecosystem. These folks who have more flexibility than us can be a little more, more nimble who are canonical power users of WordPress, sharing not only what they are excited about now and in the near future but also the things that they had to learn in order to get the most out of the features and the software.

[00:03:07] Josepha: Like that’s practically a gold standard of the people that we want to have talking about us.  And, for folks who’ve worked with Allie, you probably can predict what’s next. You know she’s not afraid to call it like she sees it, and she called me on my excessive dreaming. She asked me what actually was stopping me from getting that done. I don’t recall if I had an answer for her at the time. I, I probably didn’t, but ultimately, I think the answer was, most likely, that I was afraid to try.

So you might be asking yourself, what has changed my mind since then? What has changed since 2020, when I was maybe too scared to get this done? Why does now feel like the right time compared to when I was first thinking through it? Well, for starters, when we look at then, we look at the context of then; it was my second year leading us. It was 2020, the year of COVID. And I was desperately trying to roll out a disaster recovery plan, incomplete though it was.

[00:04:06] Josepha: I wasn’t sure how much more disruption we as a community could stand, so I didn’t want to take any more risks than I had to. Which brings us to today. One of my big obstacles to tackle this year is our plateauing growth. I said it right there in my big-picture post for 2024. Re-engaging those gold standard users who are talking about us while making it clear that their contributions add to the success of the project seems like a high-impact opportunity to me.

We’ve kicked off our initial experiment for the Media Corps. As with many high-impact projects, there’s also a high potential for risk, so I’m trying to get a clear indication of success as early as possible. Because of that, the experiment is time-limited and has pretty strict guidelines up front. It’s also being paired with a pause on the current work with the marketing team, just so that we can focus as much attention to get that signal sooner rather than later.

[00:05:01] Josepha: Not everyone agrees with this plan, which is to be expected. There are so many seasoned marketing professionals in WordPress, myself included, and I mean, our software is a primary tool in so many marketing tool belts. It probably would be odd if we didn’t have any marketers around. So there you have it, a brief explanation of how we got to today’s Media Corps experiment. 

Quick side note on why it’s a hard problem is that a good first step to acknowledging invisible work is removing the need for human recognition of the work. I’ve worked with teams, guided them since I got here to define contributions as granularly as possible so that we can find ways to attach automated triggers to them so that you don’t have to do a ton of invisible things for someone to notice them and give you props for them. Obviously, the more automation, the more dehumanization, and of course, the work of breaking things into tiny chunks feels like micromanagement; it feels like value assessment.

[00:06:01] Josepha: It also often felt like kind of a toxic tallying of who was doing what where. None of that is what any of us wanted when I started that work, and it’s certainly not what I want now. But because it is so often misread as a way to, like, separate out good contributions from bad, not all teams have embarked on that journey with me. And for those who have done that with me, not all of them have actually implemented, kind of that definition of the individual types of contributions you can make so that we can do that kind of automated acknowledgment of the work. 

[00:06:40] (Music interlude) 

[00:06:47] Josepha: Which brings us now to our small list of big things.

First on our list is WordPress 6.6. It’s our next major release. There are still a few volunteer roles that are available. I think documentation lead is one. So, if you are the sort of folk who just loves to write the docs, it’s been a while since you have done that for the WordPress project, with the WordPress project. That’s a great opportunity for you to kind of dip your toe in and see what’s going on in the world of WordPress.

[00:07:15] Josepha: The second thing on our list is a minor release that actually came out last week. It’s a maintenance release, but it’s one of those where it’s really important to get upgraded and make sure that you have the latest security and maintenance releases on all of your sites that are in production.

The third thing on our list is about Openverse. Openverse is now offering a new way to explore our collection. We’ve got over 800 million images and audio files in there. And so, the collection search makes it easier to view works that are belonging to an individual tag, creator, or source. It just kind of helps you filter it out a little bit more so that there are more decisions than there are options available in there.

And the fourth thing on my list is that the WordCamp Europe 2024 schedule has been released. We’ll be talking a bit more about this event as we get closer and closer to it. We are racing our way. It’s like a month away as we go. So take a look, plan your activities, and come and check out our community.

[00:08:16] Josepha: And that, my friends, is your small list of big things. Don’t forget to follow us on your favorite podcast app or subscribe directly on WordPress.org/news. You’ll get a friendly reminder whenever there’s a new episode. If you liked what you heard today, share it with a fellow WordPresser. Or, if you had questions about what you heard, you can share those with me at WPBriefing@WordPress.org. I’m your host, Josepha Haden Chomphosy. Thanks for tuning in today for the WordPress Briefing, and I’ll see you again in a couple of weeks. 

[00:08:44] (Music outro) 

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