A Call for Accountability: Sharing My WordPress Code of Conduct Report

Today I filed an official WordPress Code of Conduct violation report about my experience in the WordPress community over the past week. This is my first CoC report. I have never filed an official report against anyone because, despite having had many questionable interactions in my 11 years in the WordPress community, I have always decided “it wasn’t that bad” or it “didn’t count because it wasn’t at a WordCamp”. Fundamentally, however, the reason is that I have not wanted to deal with trying to convince people about the legitimacy of incidents, nor the potential fallout from it. It has never been worth it.

In this case, the entire incident was public and documentable, and I am already experiencing the fallout from it, so I really have nothing to lose. Plus, there is no getting around it: This time, it really is “that bad” and the future of my participation in the WordPress community depends on it.

While I know that in the past the Community Team (now the Incident Response Team) has kept Code of Conduct violations confidential, I am publicly posting my report here for many reasons. I go deeper into those reasons in the report itself, but ultimately it is about accountability.

Frankly, I do not have much confidence that any meaningful action will be taken as a result of this report. I would love to be wrong about that, and I am posting my filed report here with the hope that if it is public, it is less likely that it will be obscured or dismissed.

Regardless of any action that results from it, I believe I have a responsibility as a member of the WordPress community to ensure that WordPress is a safe(r) space.

I hope that posting my report publicly could possibly prevent future abuses of power like the ones the WordPress community has seen over the past week (and, let’s be real, many times before).

Worth noting: This report only includes cited public information and my personal perspective.

Code of Conduct Violation Report


To the WordPress.org Executive Director and Incident Response Team,

I am writing to report multiple violations of the WordPress.org Code of Conduct, which occurred in the following circumstances:

Code of Conduct precepts violated:

  • Insulting or derogatory comments, taunting or baiting, and personal or political attacks
  • Public or private harassment
  • Other conduct which could reasonably be considered inappropriate in a professional setting
  • Retaliation against those who raise concerns or make reports in good faith will not be tolerated.

Additionally, the following components of the Code of Conduct apply:

  • These expectations are not exhaustive or complete. Rather, they serve to distill our common understanding of a collaborative, shared environment and goals. We expect it to be followed in spirit as much as in letter.
  • This Code of Conduct applies within all community spaces (virtual and in-person) and applies when an individual officially represents the community in public spaces.

Specific incidents:

On September 13-15, 2023, Matt Mullenweg publicly made insulting and derogatory comments directed at me in response to a X/Twitter thread I posted to him publicly about WordPress (Attachment 1; link). The context of my X/Twitter thread was intended in good faith and was directly related to current issues within the WordPress community. I was addressing Matt in my capacity as the Marketing team representative and in his capacity as the project leader for WordPress.org.

Matt responded by blocking my X/Twitter account (Attachment 2).  He then unblocked me to publicly “congratulate” me on being the first person he has ever blocked on X/Twitter (Attachment 3), before blocking me again. He also claimed in subsequent posts on my thread and others that his actions were “personal” (Attachment 4, as one example). However, it is essential to note that Matt’s X/Twitter account regularly serves as a public announcement channel for WordPress.org (example link, link). Furthermore, all of my public and private interactions with Matt, including this one, have only been about WordPress, with no personal context whatsoever.

Matt did not respond to the content of any of my comments about WordPress and the MakeWP Marketing team, except to point to a factual error I had made as a “good indicator of [my] general level of accuracy in knowledge” (Attachment 5). However, he did proceed to respond to other WordPress community members who were supporting my comments with insulting, derogatory and mocking comments (Attachment 6a, 6b, 6c, as one example, 6d as another), creating a distinct chilling effect among the WordPress community (Attachment 7a, 7b) as people refrained from openly voicing their support for me out of fear of attracting his abuse.

Furthermore, Matt directly implied that his reasons for blocking me were due to unspecified actions beyond the X/Twitter thread and claimed that “people say some pretty extreme things” (Attachment 8). While he did not mention me by name in that tweet, it was posted in direct response to another WordPress contributor supporting me on my original thread (which I could not see, as I am blocked from seeing his posts). Matt later reiterated this implication that I have done something previously to merit his actions, this time using my name in another thread on X/Twitter that was supporting me (Attachment 9a and 9b, link).

When I directly questioned Matt about these allegations in the Post Status Slack channel (Attachment 10), he responded by admitting I had never said directly to him but went on to imply that I had attacked him through an unspecified third party (Attachment 11). I requested specific details, evidence, or any other information about these allegations (Attachment 11, ibid.). However, Matt did not provide any additional information nor did he retract his statement.

Impact:

Given Matt’s role and uncontested authority within the WordPress project, his statements and opinions, including publicly declaring his blocking me and indirect accusations of “pretty extreme” behavior, have significant weight in the WordPress community. He has publicly stated that he will not see or listen to my input about WordPress, let alone consider it as worthwhile.

As a result of his statements and implications, I have had to reassure my WordPress colleagues and partners that there will be no incriminating or untoward information coming out about me. Since this incident, I have had many conversations about “what I said” that was so bad, in which I must explain that I do not know what Matt is referring to. 

My professional credibility, personal reputation, and meaningful participation in the WordPress community have been and will continue to be affected by this incident.

This incident, and my role in it, has been discussed throughout the WordPress community, including multiple articles, posts, and podcasts. I have had to defend and explain myself in discussions I can see, but I have no way to defend or explain myself to the extensive audience that Matt is able to reach, just on X/Twitter alone (Currently he has 131.8K followers. I have 2,694), let alone within the global WordPress community.

In addition to the impact on my professional and personal reputation, I believe that this incident has and will directly impede my ability to participate fully and openly in the WordPress community in the future, particularly as Matt personally approves many levels of access and responsibility throughout the WordPress project, such as WordPress.org site access and speaking at flagship WordCamps. I also believe that my ability to fully engage with project leadership and sponsored community members employed by Matt has already been and will continue to be negatively affected, further hindering my future ability to participate in the community. 

I also fear both current and future retaliation from Matt and, by extension, project leadership, with regard to my future engagement in the WordPress community. I was hesitant to even file this report because given that the people who make up WordPress project leadership are employed by Matt’s private company, I am unsure if it is possible to have a fair examination of these circumstances, let alone if any action could or would ever be taken.

To that end, I believe that summarily discrediting me and negatively affecting my current and future participation in the WordPress community were, and continue to be, the intended impacts of Matt’s actions.

I respectfully request that the WordPress.org Executive Director and Incident Response Team investigate this matter immediately, thoroughly, and objectively, and take appropriate action in line with the Code of Conduct guidelines to ensure a respectful, inclusive, and professional environment within the WordPress community.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Sé Reed

WP: @sereedmedia

Weekly Watercooler Discussions about WordPress and it’s community.

4 responses to “A Call for Accountability: Sharing My WordPress Code of Conduct Report

  1. Nabeel Avatar
    Nabeel

    I deeply appreciate your transparency. Matt has been for sometime now acts as if any individual and/or organisation and/or company as “freeloaders” and “parasite” that profits from WordPress that does not follow a8c guidelines.

  2. Matt Avatar

    Since you’re posting publicly, I’ll reply publicly, and on your site: I am totally fine talking to you and engaging with you about WordPress in WordPress channels about WordPress topics, I just don’t want to and shouldn’t be forced to on X/Twitter. It’s easy to view tweets logged out but if you’d like me to unblock you so you can see my tweets, I’d be happy to, there are other features for filtering tweets I can use to not be exposed to content I’d rather not see when using social media.

    We should debate ideas more than people and I’m sorry my Twitter block took the conversation in such a personal, us-vs-them direction. We have a lot of real problems to solve in WordPress and I wasted a lot of people’s time with this distraction. I’d also be willing to try taking a break from Twitter for a month if you think that’s be helpful.

    1. Iman (she/her) imanisthere from twitter* Avatar
      Iman (she/her) imanisthere from twitter*

      Hi Matt.

      No one is forcing you to do anything specifically and you can’t detract from the point being made here by saying you have to take a break from social media and when you come back it will all go away. The point here is that although you are the reason for this post it’s not about you in that you won’t suffer fallout. the point is that you did make very questionable remarks on twitter that will have a negative impact. If you made them there or anywhere else you need to go back there (in this case on twitter) and retract, make corrections and publicly apologise to Sé. I’m sorry but saying or making false claims on a public social account with over 100k followers has repercussions and more so for the folks you have said them to.

      I will end by saying you’re still being disingenuous here and evasive from the point being made to exempt yourself of responsibility.

    2. Ben Meredith Avatar
      Ben Meredith

      Do you know what it’s called when someone who is being accused of harassment reaches out directly to the accuser in the midst of a code of conduct investigation?

      A problem.

      Let the process happen, please. She didn’t appeal to you, here.

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