EP450 – Phase 3 of the WordPress Enigmatic Gutenverse

April 7, 2023

Join us for an exciting episode of WPwatercooler, where Jason Tucker, Sé Reed, Jason Cosper, and special guest Lesley Sim dive into the highly anticipated WordPress Phase 3: Collaboration. Building upon the success of previous phases which introduced block editing and extended it across entire websites, Phase 3 aims to revolutionize the way creators and teams work together within WordPress.

We’ll discuss a variety of features designed to enhance the user experience and foster seamless collaboration. Our conversation will cover real-time and asynchronous collaboration, improving publishing flows, refining the post revisions interface, and polishing admin design. Additionally, we’ll delve into the introduction of a global search and command component that aims to streamline content management.

Don’t miss this episode as we explore the next stage in the evolution of the Gutenberg project, and learn how WordPress Phase 3 will transform content creation and teamwork within the platform.


Phase 3: Collaboration

What is WordPress?


Episode Transcription

Sé Reed
[1:18] Is that really quiet or is it, just me?

Jason Tucker:
[1:24] Phase 3 WordPress, Enigmatic Gutenverse.

Sé Reed
[1:30] The graphic is important today, folks.

Jason Tucker:
[1:33] It is. I’m Jason Tucker. You can find me over at jasontucker.blog.

Sé Reed
[1:37] Oh, hey, I’m Sé Reed and I’m around. If you’re in WordPress Slack, I’m at Sé Reed Media. You’ve probably seen me around.

Jason Cosper:
[1:46] And you know, the hood is a two point Jason Cosper, AKA fat mama, Mike back at it again on the world’s most influential WordPress podcast.

Jason Tucker:
[1:54] Speaking of that podcast, go over, subscribe to it. We’d really appreciate it.
You can find us where all the great podcasts are and you can go hang out with us in discord, come into a discord.
Links are in the description down below. Come and click the bell and subscribe and you know, all the fun stuff.

Sé Reed
[2:12] I’m going to go in and add icons to all the discord. I just want you to know that’s coming in version 1.0000001 on the Discord.
Hey, we have a guest. We have a friend on the show.
Yeah, not only do we have a guest, but we are in a special, we have a special guest and we are doing a special show for our special guest.
We are. They’re on like literally the opposite sides of the planet is really, I think, the situation.

Jason Tucker:
[2:43] Close to it.

Sé Reed
[2:44] Yeah, I was trying to actually calculate that out. I was like, how many, where is the opposite side? I don’t know.

Jason Tucker:
[2:50] Is it in Nairobi? Nairobi, Kenya is where it is for us.

Sé Reed
[2:55] Is it?

Jason Tucker:
[2:56] Yeah, my son was over there and he was directly on the other side of the world.

Sé Reed
[3:00] I’ve been there. Fun fact. Anyway, so our guest tonight is Leslie Sim.

Jason Tucker:
[3:07] Hello.

Sé Reed
[3:09] I’ve wanted to have you on the show for so long, Leslie, and I’m so glad that we were able to have you on to talk about something that is so important.

Lesley Sim:
[3:18] Yes.

Sé Reed
[3:20] So you can introduce yourself. Sorry. I’m just so excited. Yeah, have at it.

Lesley Sim:
[3:25] Grambling. Oh, I’m Leslie. I live in Singapore, apparently not the opposite side of the world.

Jason Tucker:
[3:33] It’s relative though.

Sé Reed
[3:34] Yeah. Yeah.

Lesley Sim:
[3:35] Kind of the opposite side of the world. I run Newsletter Glue, which is a WordPress plugin that connects to your email service providers like MailChimp, ActiveCampaign.
We connect to over a dozen email service providers and allow you to write your newsletters from WordPress using the block editor. And you can write, publish, manage your newsletters from there.
Saves a lot of time. And also lets you leverage all of your monetization, SEO, strategies that you’re doing for your site onto your newsletters, which were previously just kind of hidden in inboxes.

Sé Reed
[4:11] And then you have a built-in archive also. Exactly. Yeah. just it’s oh that’s like my favorite it’s like content once and then every yes one so you can let you know put your walls yeah do all the things to it.

Jason Tucker:
[4:24] I found out that you also do a podcast you probably do multiple podcasts and I don’t know about it but one in particular that I’ve heard about just just today was one that you do with Matt. Oh yeah. All right. Tell me about that real quick. I just want to know that.

Sé Reed
[4:38] Did you say Matt Kromel?

Jason Tucker:
[4:40] Yeah.

Lesley Sim:
[4:41] Oh, that is great.

Sé Reed
[4:43] He’s a lovely person.

Lesley Sim:
[4:46] And he does everything and I just kind of appear.

Jason Tucker:
[4:50] Hey Matt, I see you. I see you Matt.
These losers don’t do anything. It’s all me.
Yeah, he’s great.

Lesley Sim:
[5:01] So that’s a show called Glam That Plugin.
And basically we help, people sign up to get their plugins glammed.
And so Matt talks about the readme, so like the description on the repo and also like pricing strategies.
And then I go through their homepage and also their plugin settings and stuff like that. And like their like conversion flow, like upgrade conversion flow.
So we go through all the details.
It’s still early days. I think we have one or two episodes out so far.

Sé Reed
[5:42] That sounds really fun.

Jason Tucker:
[5:43] I’ll have links in the description for you guys to check out.
It looks like such a fun setup.

Sé Reed
[5:52] It’s an hour of nerding out. I don’t know anyone who would like that.
It’s kind of like a makeover show but for plugins.

Jason Tucker:
[6:02] Yeah, exactly.

Sé Reed
[6:05] I’ve always wanted to do that for like websites, but like it’s way too involved.
So like, I like the focus of plugin, like that’s a really like, nice, nice niche. So that’ll just we’ll have to have you on to talk about that.

Jason Tucker:
[6:18] Thank you for introducing us to it. I appreciate it. And three.

Sé Reed
[6:24] Yeah, I agree. I, you had some so there’s been a lot of talk about phase three over the past couple of weeks. I don’t really know when those just the past couple of weeks, right? That just came out, somewhat relatively recent.
And there’s always been talk about Phase Three since we heard about Phase One.
There’s the four phases.
And so it’s like the fall of Gutenberg, like seasonally, not like the fall of Rome. Right. Right, right. I mean, unless that’s prophetic.

Lesley Sim:
[7:02] I was going to like take a screen recording of you saying that and just post it everywhere.

Jason Tucker:
[7:06] It’s like when we all found out that web 2.0 was a thing and we didn’t realize we were in web 1.0. The HTML had versions. Who knew?

Sé Reed
[7:14] Oh, English is so fun. The autumn of WordPress. There we go. Autumn of Gutenberg.
Anyway, We, the collaboration, right, that’s been kind of turned into the watchword for, was the watchword for phase three and has now been a little bit amended by executive director of the WordPress project, Josefa Hayden-Chomposy.
I can’t say her last name.

Lesley Sim:
[7:43] Chomposy.

Sé Reed
[7:44] Chomposy, thank you. I like really worked on that.
I just don’t like calling people by just their first name. It’s weird.
You know, it’s like, they’re like, anyway.
More about workflows is what she was kind of, kind of, it’s being redefined more in that direction.
But I think that even more interesting is that in the phase three article that Matias, that someone can pronounce his last name for me.
That would be great, wrote recently where you had some really awesome comments.
They brought up the admin and that had not really been necessarily on the horizon before.
So I thought that was really interesting in terms of sort of shifting the scope, so it’s not just about collaborative writing.
But we don’t have to talk about that because I really want to talk about are your comments on that post.
So, can you tell us a little bit about what you were talking about on there?

Lesley Sim:
[8:55] Yeah, so let’s rewind a bit and go big picture. So Matthias Ventura.
Ventura, Ventura.
You got it. He, March 25th, posted on the big WordPress blog about phase three, kind of like the big picture.
What’s, what the plans are, what’s happening? What are the big themes that they’re gonna cover? Or maybe I should use the word themes. What are the big things that they’re gonna cover?

Sé Reed
[9:25] What patterns do you see? I mean, ah.

Lesley Sim:
[9:33] Yeah, so like the things that they’re gonna cover in phase three, this includes publishing flows, real-time collaboration, admin design, something called library, which is a bit vague.

Sé Reed
[9:51] I have lots to say on the library component. Long-time listeners of the show will know. I see you, Courtney, looking at me.

Lesley Sim:
[9:58] Yeah. And yeah, so those are all the things.
And since this is kind of big picture here, the things you’re going to work on for phase three, I thought I’d just kind of chip in and talk about a thing that I’ve been kind of been trying to slip into the dialogue, the general slip into the dialogue of the people that make WordPress.
And that is about kind of taking a user first or use case first approach.
Sorry, I’m getting an echo. Is that me?

Jason Tucker:
[10:48] Give it a shot. Maybe it’ll say. Yeah.

Lesley Sim:
[10:50] Ah, it’s done.
Yeah. And so it’s kind of like taking a user-first, use case-first approach to building stuff, just because I guess that’s how a lot of modern software is built these days.
And I think it’s kind of good. And I think like, you know, WordPress being used by so many millions of people, it’s great if we could adopt that as well, rather than kind of a way that we’ve kind of been doing stuff in the past.

Sé Reed
[11:26] I think, I think that what really struck me about this point specifically was that, you, And I know sort of the larger answer to this, but what, it’s not clear to me, someone who follows along to the community, where these features are actually being pulled from.
Right. And it’s like, you actually made a comment, I think, where it’s like, if we knew that, you know, 50% of the user base was like, you know, really struggling on the collateral specific thing.

Lesley Sim:
[12:03] Yeah.

Sé Reed
[12:04] Yeah. Then it would make that less, not less negotiable necessarily, but less of a like, why are you doing that? Because we would have the answer.
We are doing this because of this. And right now it feels like it’s designing in the abstract for this sounds like there’s some features that should happen.

Jason Tucker:
[12:29] Would that be cool if?

Sé Reed
[12:30] Yeah. doesn’t take into consideration, you know, the multitude of ways like WordPress has been like just I mean, its whole thing is right. It’s expandable.
So it’s been expanded. We We have done the thing that it says that it can do, and we have expanded on it. I feel like.
This process, and I say this as someone who is currently a very active contributor and, you know, sees all the work that everyone does, but it happens in a vacuum, a weird vacuum, because the community is like this core, and then around it is the ecosystem.
And the ecosystem knows about the community in the core of the Make community, but the Make community, like, are we just ignoring the rest of it, there’s this plugin called PublishPress.
I’m sure we’ve talked about it on the show before. They have a bunch of different mini plugins that do revisions and different things that are literally part of this phase.
It feels like we’re solving problems that have already been solved and not looking, like instead of standing on the shoulders of our own community, we’re like just building the same ladder.
Like we won’t like ignoring what’s happening around us. It’s just, I just don’t, I don’t know who we’re building for.

Lesley Sim:
[13:58] In the case of Publish Press, like, you know, Steve, Steve is a friend and like I host a a different podcast with him.
I didn’t realize that I, that I was doing a bunch of podcasts, Jason, until you said that. I was like, Oh, you just thought they were meetings and then they start getting recorded.

Jason Tucker:
[14:18] And then you’re like, I said that in confidence.

Lesley Sim:
[14:22] Fun projects that I haven’t been promoting at all.

Sé Reed
[14:26] I also relate to that incidentally.
Not promoting your podcast.

Jason Tucker:
[14:32] Why would anyone do that?

Lesley Sim:
[14:33] We’ll talk about that later. But yeah, so like, you know, I think it’s fine if you want to build something because something really should be in core rather than be a plugin.
And like, maybe there’s a case for these features to be in core.
Again, like we don’t know because they haven’t given us a use case, you know, yet.
But assuming there is, like the other thing aside from that, that bugs me is I bet they haven’t even talked to Steve about it, right?
Like to me, the first step should be like, oh, there’s a guy who with like hundreds of thousands of users who does this exact thing.
Maybe we should ask him what he thinks should be in core versus a plugin.
He’s probably going to have some really good ideas because he’s done this for many years and like, let’s figure out how to make this happen.
Right. That seems really reasonable. Right.

Sé Reed
[15:22] I think that there’s a reason, like there’s a, this, it’s this weird tension again, between the community and the ecosystem because on one hand, this person has solved this problem, right?
I mean, honestly, I’m actively using it. I literally am helping a client use the revisions plugin like I did it today. This is not an abstract use case. And the, the, um…
I totally distracted myself now because I was thinking about my client.
I was like, Oh yeah, I got to do that.

Jason Tucker:
[15:57] Revisions plugin.

Sé Reed
[16:01] You’re talking about revisions. Yeah. The revisions, the revision plugin is, um, a business, right? It’s, it’s a solution that’s out there.
And I think there might be some tension between the idea that.
Like that person’s doing it for profit. Right. and then the core code isn’t.
So maybe on a certain level, there is like not wanting to copy a product that is a commercial product.
But I think this is part of kind of just the something that we’re facing because it’s taken a long time to develop core.
There have been third party solutions that have been set up and developed for all of these different use cases.
And those are people’s businesses and livelihoods. And there’s this weird, like, are we, instead of incorporating it and finding a way to like almost absorb it or like make it part of, you know, this is so good, we need to like, kind of bring it in, like not an acquisition, but like an absorption.
But instead of doing that, we just kind of like ignore that it’s even happening.
And I think that might be to like prevent cop gang, almost like in a kind of like ethical way.

[17:21] But what ends up happening is that it becomes developed in the vacuum and then it just excludes all of that.
And then it really just feels like it’s like just kind of taking that business away from it. Like it’s just weird to ignore it, I think.
It creates more tension than it might solve. And I’m not sure.

Lesley Sim:
[17:43] Yeah. from a product point of view, because published press is already really established and they’ve solved a lot of problems, when you build something that’s similar to published press and it solves 5% of the problems and also not in the right ways, people can see, right? Because they’re like, oh, we’re so used to published press.
Obviously, you would do it this way. Why aren’t you doing it?
And again, maybe you don’t even, I mean, I think it’d be great talk to Steve, but maybe you don’t even have to talk to him. Maybe you just look at the plugin and see how they’re solving certain problems.
And this is the thing that so many people have pointed out with the block editor.
Page builders are a solved problem, right? All the page builders look alike these days for a reason.
And one could say maybe it’s because everyone’s copying each other, but I like to think it’s also because there are certain UX patterns that are just common and that’s what people expect.
People understand that when they see an X on the top right-hand corner or something, it means that they can close something, right? You don’t have to reinvent that.
Whereas I feel that with the with the block editor and with FSE, like a lot of things felt reinvented unnecessarily.
And, you know, I’ve seen like the number of comments I’ve seen on Twitter of people just saying like, if you had just copied and pasted Elementor into core, like people would have been happier.

Sé Reed
[19:07] And like, that’s all they need to do.

Lesley Sim:
[19:09] Okay, sure.

Sé Reed
[19:09] Yeah. I was like, well, we have one of those on the show.
So, and accessibility. I use Divi all the time.
I love it. it’s been, uh, I was thinking about it today in anticipation of this show, like dynamic content.
Why do I have to have a whole extra plugin suite for dynamic content?
Like post post types have been a thing for a while.
Like, so that putting, putting that type of functionality into core does is like not like saying that someone’s not going to use this, you know, Yeah.

[19:50] Putting even something like, I mean, as a FC, ACF, because it is the year ACF, ACF just announced, you know, six, one, we talked about a little bit on the show, where they’re adding in custom taxonomies and custom post types, you know, in order to like, blend it all together, we’ve had CPT UI is kind of the, you know, standard for a long time for creating that generate WP, like we have all of these like, you know, different tools that we use, everybody uses to create these things that could very easily be created in core, that like, then could be used for everybody like, and I think this is part of why that use case thing is so because are we just talking about posts like just right, you know what I mean?
Like, when you You were saying the thing about what does an average website look like for, what about a small business? That’s who I use it for.
Those are my clients, are small businesses and nonprofits.
There’s always custom post types and custom taxonomy and user taxonomy.
I feel like…
Like even just kind of going even deeper on the post is ignoring these like basic things.

Jason Tucker:
[21:13] Yeah. I think it’s kind of like what Leslie was saying earlier at the very beginning of the show here is that idea of like taking stock or looking at what the functionality currently has in WordPress and making sure that we can actually do that again and continue to do it.
And we’ve, we’ve, we’ve seen it time and time again where something, something was built and it’s a really great solution for it.
But then they end up not checking themselves and making sure that this functionality can continue to be used again.
Something like ACF, those, those, those fields, ACF didn’t build fields, you know, fields existed in WordPress.
Because those fields existed in WordPress, they should be used everywhere.
And this is where the whole Divi and Beaver Builder thing comes into play.
Like these, these folks figured that out and was like, this is going to be core piece of this technology. I need to be able to have fields show up and they skipped it.
Like it didn’t even exist. And that’s kind of where it comes down to like, like kind of reading the room.

[22:21] You walk into WordPress and you look around and you go, what are you guys using?
And everyone’s like, dude, none of us are using this, but why are you so fixated in this whole idea of doing this like real time asynchronous, you know, building or whatever.
Like some of those things, like I would love to have that happen.
That would be great. I would love to not have that thing that pops up that says, you know, so-and-so is editing the page right now.
I’m sorry, but you have to wait until they leave or their session times out or a cookie gets blown out or whatever, like whatever, whatever the technology is that makes that work.
We, Like those sorts of things would be great, but there’s some stuff that we just skipped entirely.

Jason Cosper:
[23:04] Yeah, I spend at least an hour a day in Google Docs, just like either reviewing some internal content, you know, going through and doing this sort of stuff.

[23:19] And the idea of having a Google Docs like experience for WordPress, it is like a very like powerful selling point.
There’s not really, at least that I’m aware of, many CMSs that are trying to do something like that, trying to have this collaborative environment.
And when you have a collaborative environment for content editing specifically, that’s a really powerful thing.
Like having, also, outside of just being in like Google Docs, I work on a product team and I’m in like Miro boards, I’m in things like that, where you’re sitting in this environment with, you know, sometimes two other people, sometimes 10 other people, and you’re all reviewing the same thing.
And somebody’s off working on this thing over on the side.
And, you know, you’re focused on your area. And like, if you like if you ever get a chance, like while other people are working in a mirror board, like, pull back and zoom out and just watch like all of the stuff that people are doing and it’s it’s wild It’s actually funny that you say that, because I tried to use a Miro board during a meet.

Sé Reed
[24:35] Like a Google meet totally failed to get it shared to anybody.
I was like, Google’s like, use this board. I was like, cool, we’ll use a board for this meeting. And I was like, nevermind, just when it works, it’s amazing.

Jason Cosper:
[24:51] When it when it doesn’t. Yeah, you’ve you’ve definitely got problems there.
And it’s it’s a it’s it’s a it’s a big problem to have to land.
Leslie in your your comments when we were your initial comment that you put on that post, you know, in the real time async collaboration, identifying the types of users and use cases that people might have for this collaboration.

[25:24] It’s it’s a big thing. Like I said, I work on a product team.
And the way when I started working on this product team, they decided like, we’re going to start working in this way that’s a little alien to us.
And it’s actually been worked really well, is what you outline here, like, let’s interview these people that that have these use cases, and see how they’re actually going to use the product.
So we started talking to people and saying, Hey, instead of us telling you what we’re going to build, and how cool would it be if we built this and then having you go, Oh, yeah, that sounds great.
Can’t wait to use it. Why don’t you tell us what you what pain points you’re running into what you need from us, so we can build a product that people actually want to use.

Sé Reed
[26:23] So I want to, one thing I do want to say is that, so, and this is part of the weird division that I see is that there are folks like Anne McCarthy who’s been running a full-site editing outreach program who is, they are doing actual interviews and research, but even from the comments that I’ve read, they’re actually interviewing editorial teams and like one type, like one area of use.
And I don’t, I’m not like, so media and that type of thing, which is all very, very much content focused in terms of that collaboration.

[27:02] But there was a comment in that thing in the, in the comment that said, you know, I bet there’s a lot of WordPress instances that is one user and you know, not that this is like, Is this even really solving or meeting the 80-20 criteria that is actually laid out in WordPress’s ethos that to put it in core, it needs to work for 80% of WordPress.
That’s like the ballpark thing. And we’re only talking to a certain segment of the audience of WordPress.

[27:41] I don’t know why no one’s ever talking about small businesses.
We all just decided they’re going to Shopify and it’s done.
Like, it’s given up. I don’t, I feel like small businesses are just like, like, we’re all like, Oh, writers and bloggers, like whatever.
I’m like, but we’re all small businesses.
Like all of those people, you know what I mean?
It’s not just about content. It’s about monetizing your content.
It’s about the membership plugins that you use.
It’s about, you know, emailing out your content and that type of stuff.
So are we talking to, for example, the plugin developers who run a plugin that, you know, ships out your content like Newsletter Glue to all of these things?
Like what could make that work better?
Or what could, you know, what is missing that has to have workarounds instead of just assuming that this group of people is gonna have all the information for 80% of the use cases out there, or that those specific use cases are gonna have the information to meet that 80%. Like, it’s just not.

Jason Cosper:
[28:54] How would you think of the cat bloggers?

Lesley Sim:
[28:55] Right? And the Fortnite streamers.

Sé Reed
[29:00] Exactly. I mean, the Fortnite streamers, I was talking about this on the pre show. My, my sister’s partner is a Fortnite streamer. She’s kind of famous.
Jess Weymouth on all the things. Uh, yeah.
Where’s that money? She doesn’t care. I know.

Jason Tucker:
[29:19] Right. I don’t know.

Sé Reed
[29:20] You didn’t even mention bring it over here. there. But not using a WordPress site.
Actually, that is really an interesting market. The link in bio, the link tree, that market of people who are like, website, why would I even bother with all that?
I’ve got a list of links, which is essentially a blog role.
I tried to get to someone’s website from their link tree and there just wasn’t one there. There was no website there.

Jason Tucker:
[29:55] So like, WordPress is hard.

Sé Reed
[29:57] Well, you know, we’re not making them necessarily making them easier.
Like we’re not broadening the scope of who can come into that.
We’re just like really drilling down on these.
I think these use cases that aren’t necessarily representative of the breadth of the ecosystem.

Lesley Sim:
[30:23] How would you want it to be, how would you approach that though?
Would you want them to be like, every six months, a year, show you, here are all the different types of people that are using WordPress and for phase three we’re going to focus on these circles of people?

Sé Reed
[30:44] Opinion, I don’t think it’s like, has to be an ongoing thing.
I think WordPress is 20. Has there, like we do a user survey every year, but it’s all about like, you know, do you use, make money using WordPress?
And like, every year I take that survey and I’m just like, why is there nothing that like really contributes to understanding the community here?
You know, like we’re not asking the question, get those answers.
So I don’t know, comprehensive survey of the community talking about these use cases, like talk about your use cases, like you use this use case and get it out there to the general people who are building and you know working with.
Working with WordPress agencies, people who set it up for all their clients, you know, and, you know, just get a broader perspective.
And I don’t think we have that. And I think that’s what really spoke to me about your comments.
Like you were like, especially about these people, what about these people and what use cases, like, and what you said was, if you, if you, you, if we knew what, like how, where that data was coming from, you know, our 50% of the people like using it for blogging.

Jason Tucker:
[32:00] Like this one right here really got me because I get it.
Like WordPress is admin does look dated. It does look dated. I understand.
But also WordPress is admin has a lot of issues with it.
If we want to make some huge changes, you’re going to break a lot of stuff.
I think the only thing that’s probably not going to break are those I’m not going to name any names, but those, those plugins, where the entire screen gets overtaken by the whole screen.
You, you, you boot it up into the, the, the form editor that you’re going to now be able to drag and drop across the entire fricking thing.
I don’t know if you, I don’t like making, making changes like that in admin.
I think if anything, it’s going to be great to get rid of those bars up on the top, all the notices, but they’re just going to find another hook to jump into and they’re just going to put that stuff in there in a different hook.
It’s like, I don’t know, we, we, we just did weird stuff in that admin and we allowed for a lot of people a lot of people that just do very like.

[33:14] I’d say even close to toxic things in the admin that just makes it very difficult for someone who’s, you know, either managing somebody else’s website, their customer’s website or what have you, or the customer themselves is going to log into the website.
So if we’re talking about, you know, who’s making money in WordPress, I think, I think the people that are making those plugins that are overtaking these, you know, these things are definitely making money in WordPress.
But also I, and I haven’t seen this yet, but could you imagine if you’re, if your client logged into the dashboard and there was essentially like a timer set.
So after like 90 days of the website being launched, this thing pops up and says, do you need help building a website? Do you need help managing your website?
And this plugin just goes and takes over the front page of the, of the WordPress site telling your customer, Don’t use these people!
Use this instead. And while we made this one little dumb little theme or this dumb little plugin that you have installed on your website, like those sorts of things could happen.

Sé Reed
[34:20] It was like if AI takes over.

Jason Tucker:
[34:22] No, just just if somebody just had something in the dashboard that would just go in.
Like hold it hostage. Wow. I’ve never thought like those sorts of things could happen because of the fact that we’ve allowed for such an open way of managing the you know, the, the dashboard and, and being able to, I mean, you get people that put all sorts of weird crap over on the left-hand side of the dashboard with blinky lights.
I’ve, I’ve literally seen like a marquee tag style stuff going on over there, telling you that, that things are happening in the dashboard and you should click on my thing. And it’s like, you’re not that important, man.

Jason Cosper:
[35:02] Get rid of the giant cartoon heads, right?

Sé Reed
[35:06] So I have a question though. So, um, Leslie, you, You put these amazing thoughts there on the site and there’s a little bit of dialogue back and forth.
How do you, so you are to me a use case for the community, right?
Like you are a plugin owner, you are, so you’re a developer, I think you’re a developer, right?
You’re a developer, yeah. Not a developer, you do like, whatever, plug-in owner, so you are aware of the development updates and all of that part of it.
So you kind of have that use case happening. And then you’re a business owner, so you’re like the money-making side of it, right? And then you’re also involved in the community. You’re part of the media landscape.
You’re talking about the community. are involved in the ecosystem.
How do you, and individually, as someone who has a lot of thoughts about this, how do you either feel about where your comments go in terms of feedback, or how do you seek to advance those ideas?
Does that make sense?

Lesley Sim:
[36:28] Yeah. Okay. So I think I used to get really upset and I used to be really emotionally involved in this stuff and get upset when certain things happen or not happen.
And I’ve just kind of stopped, which has been really good. So I’m a lot less involved these days.
I think that’s good. I mean, it’s good for you.

Sé Reed
[36:52] I don’t think it’s good for the project, I would like to point out.
I think that’s what ends up happening. And I still want to hear your answer, but we lose so many good people all the time because their good ideas and their good comments are just sort of dissipated into the ether.
And people feel like, well, I don’t need to be bothered. I don’t need to bother to give my feedback here because it’s just gonna evaporate.
And there’s, you know, I’m wasting my emotional, mental energy and my time even bothering to give this feedback.
So yeah, it is good for you. I’m glad that’s good for you mentally, but it is to the loss of the community.
And that makes me sad. Anyway.

Lesley Sim:
[37:42] So I guess I’ve tried to narrow my focus. So instead of getting involved in all the WordPress drama, I just get involved in one aspect of WordPress drama.

Jason Tucker:
[37:51] Build a podcast around it?

Lesley Sim:
[38:03] Or multiple podcasts? The thing that I’ve decided to kind of, I’m not going to say die on, but like the things that I’ve decided to focus, fight for, is this product management thing.
Because I think it affects me directly, but it also affects everybody else who has to use WordPress and gets frustrated every time there’s an update that feels funny, I guess is the nice way of putting it.
And so with this, for example, I’ve kind of been trying to see these thoughts to a lot of different people in a lot of different ways.
So I’ve talked about it on all sorts of places.
I guess the Make WordPress blog is one of them. If I can share my screen for a second.

Jason Tucker:
[38:59] Yeah, go for it.

Lesley Sim:
[38:59] Is that possible?

Jason Tucker:
[39:00] Yeah, let me just turn mine off here. There you go.

Jason Cosper:
[39:04] Yeah, well, Leslie, I do, I do see you pop up in a lot of conversations in, like, the post status slack as well.
Especially around that stuff. I know that you’ve, you’ve been really great, like, you know, weighing in with your your thoughts there.
I always, when I, I’m pretty quiet in the post status slack.
But when I scroll through and I see one of your your comments on something that’s that’s going on in the community, I’m always like, OK, OK.
Maybe I was skimming past some stuff that someone else said.
I won’t call anybody out.
I’ll be kind. But I always stop and pay attention when I see the fan stuff.

Lesley Sim:
[39:47] Yeah.

Jason Cosper:
[39:47] I appreciate that.

Sé Reed
[39:51] What is this? I want to know.

Lesley Sim:
[39:53] I’m like, ooh. I’ve never seen this. So this is something that I created after being grumpy and talking with Mark Zara about… So it’s the same product management problem.

[40:06] And we were thinking, maybe if we kind of gave an example of what we hope to see, then people would have a more tangible understanding of what I say.
So it’s not like this crazy person in the side, over in Singapore, halfway across the world, saying product management, product management.
And then people mishearing and saying, project management, oh, we have that. We are really good at that.
We don’t have that for the record.
Yeah, so what I’ve been trying to do lately is be more specific and give more examples of what I mean.
And so even like, sorry, I haven’t even talked about this yet, but going back to the make WordPress thing, that’s why I was really, really specific with my examples, like really spelling it out so that people could see exactly what I meant rather than, you know, Like I could have just stopped here, right?
Like one thing I love to see is more use case approach versus an abstract approach, you know, like submit comment. But that would not mean, like that would mean a million different things to a million different people.
But like by being more specific than people, like, ah, I see what use case means and I see how this can be helpful.
And so, sorry, long, long prelude to this, which is, We wanted to kind of explain like…

[41:30] How it would look if we instead of…
Yeah, so instead of starting out with, here are the features that we’re going to build, let’s figure out who wants to use this, or let’s figure out how we can build this, which has kind of been historically the approach, like, oh, let’s build collaboration, now let’s figure out what goes into it, or let’s build a block editor, now let’s figure out what goes into it.
We thought, like, or I thought it’d be better if we had a problem-first-based approach, which is a different way of saying use case-based approach.
So figure out the problems that are occurring in the WordPress ecosystem.
What are the stumbling blocks or the obstacles or the hurdles that are either making it harder for people to grow their business or making it the reason people leave WordPress or whatever the case.
And then once we have clarity over the problem space, then it becomes a lot easier to figure out all the different ways that we can solve it.

[42:34] And I feel like right now, and the thing is, you can see it from the way they phrase, these things are phrased, right?
So it’s, you know, here are the phases, we’re now in the third phase, it’s going to be centered around fostering seamless collaboration, right? There isn’t any mention of why, right?

[43:00] Like, and the things that are not being said are indicative of the way that people are thinking about these things, meaning, you know, So, sorry for all the flipping, but…
So if we go to Matthias’s original post on thinking through the WordPress admin experience, which she wrote last year, it was very like, here are some initial ideas and design concepts that I’ve come up with.
They are very in the early stages.
Let’s kind of play around and think these things through.

[43:43] And that phrasing suggests that it’s a very feature-based approach.
Like, you know, let’s think of these ideas. In contrast, what I hope the posts start to sound like would be more like, after speaking to plugin developers or after speaking to XYZ, we learned that ABC was a problem and And here are some design explorations that could potentially address this problem.
So similarly, with phase three collaboration, instead of it just being like, we’re now planning its third phase and it’s going to be centered around fostering seamless collaboration, I wish that it would instead say, publishers, bloggers, editors make up 60% of WordPress and we know that all of them are using Google Docs to write and then copy and paste into WordPress.
So we thought it’d be better to streamline all of that into WordPress and work together with them to figure out what that new world would look like.
Right. That’s like such a different approach to the whole thing.
And when you change your approach in that way, like everything else necessarily changes.

[44:59] And like the solutions or the features that you develop could have a lot of overlap with what you would do in the current way that they’re planning on doing things.
Everything else, it’s like, you know, I asked two people to draw a forest and yes, they’re both drawing trees, but the way that they’ve done it is so completely different, and that the paintings at the end look completely different, and I think that’s kind of what I’m getting at.
It’s really hard to kind of see, so I’ve been trying to constantly point this out to people.

Sé Reed
[45:35] Yeah, I think that’s also what I was talking about in terms of the sort of existing in the void, because it’s almost like these features are like, so they’ve been, this is what we want to do.
And then it’s like going out to get that, you know, get that opinion that that it’s like, what is it confirmation bias, right?
I’m going to go get that and see how the people who would use these, this feature need to use this feature instead of even so even the research is feature-based. Yes, exactly.
It’s not research. Yeah, it’s not trying to find out the information.
It’s trying to address this feature.
So that really makes a lot of sense.
Also, I think you’re probably going to get there, but I just wanted to say, you mentioned in your use cases, You know.

[46:29] The idea that if everybody has 40 plugins, we should be looking at that in terms of- As a starting point. Oh, that was so frustrating.
And on that design that you just showed on that, that Matias was, you know, brainstorming, there’s like, it’s like, no, nothing, they’re like not in there.
And it’s like, okay, so where do all the plugins go? Are we just gonna shove them into this design?
And that is, I think, because they don’t have the information of being able to look at all of these monstrous installs that we’ve all seen in our lifetime of free slider plugins and whatever.

[47:12] That’s a real thing that exists. And that’s a problem that we’re not solving because if you’re looking at a fresh install and being like, how can I reimagine- Anyone can design for a fresh install, right?

Lesley Sim:
[47:24] And make it pretty. That’s not the reality of WordPress.

Sé Reed
[47:28] No, and that because the people who are coming up with the features and imagining how they should work are not the people using it.
They are not not designing from reality.

[47:45] Oh, that sounded really harsh. I didn’t quite mean it like that.
I just meant like they’re not designing from, you know, really these use cases, the multitude of the use cases, right?
They’re looking because they can’t. It’s not that’s not a limitation of them as human beings.
That’s just like or I mean it’s not a fault character fault.
It’s just if you are you know a designer working on WordPress you’re not necessarily building out looking at people’s you know 100 plug-in sidebars.
So you have to go ask and you have to go look and you have to go get that information so that you can have that be part of the design process.
Like the Just the design conversation at all Otherwise and I think this is why we I keep feeling I think we all feel this we are disconnect Like we’re having a different conversation Like we’re all you’re saying what about this stuff?
Think and like a lot is happening over here of the people who are really like actually making the software and making the decisions about what goes into core and what doesn’t all that and And those folks just don’t have the information.
They’re literally like a vacuum.

Jason Cosper:
[49:02] We’re on two different tracks. Yeah. We’re going in the same direction, but we are on two different diverging tracks.

Sé Reed
[49:11] And our destination- I don’t think they are necessarily divergent tracks.
I think we’re on the same train. I just think it’s more like, kind of, you know, that adage or whatever about the blind man and the elephant.
Like the one blind man has the tail of the elephant.
They’re like, it’s a stick or whatever. And then the other one is like at the leg and it’s like, it’s a tree.
It’s a tree trunk, you know? And unless you have the perspective of the other people, you you have a narrow perspective and it just isn’t the whole picture.
And I feel like what you’re doing and what I’ve seen you do in the community is be like, hey, bigger picture.
Let’s look at and what you’re really advocating here for. is a data-based approach to making those decisions and making so that the decisions are informed by the data.
Instead of it’s more in an abstract world.

Jason Cosper:
[50:08] Yeah, when I was looking at the document that Leslie was kind enough to share with us here on the video component of the podcast, one of the things that I noticed and saw and really appreciated was that you have like a problem statement there.
And I could see those being broken down. And as we, on the product team I work on, we’re really big on user stories.
And for people who aren’t familiar with that sort of thing, effectively when you’re building a new feature, a new product, anything that you’re adding, you have a very simple, like almost a Madlib, if you’re familiar with those.
And it’s as a blank type of user, I want a.
Action, the blank and action, so that I get blank, this benefit or value.

[51:17] So effectively having stories and having kind of as we kind of hinted to earlier, talking to people in the way that they’re using things in the way that they’re building things, having those requirements in place.
So saying, you know, as an editor, I want a way to approve posts easily, so that I don’t have to go into the editing interface to, you know, to actually approve a post.
So what does that look like in the new admin, and you give yourself this this base of a story.
And as like developers who are diving in, even on these open source projects can say, hey, I’ve got this, this idea of what my user wants and needs.
And this is, of course, this is something that in WordPress, because we’ve been doing this for 20 years now, like, you know, just a month shy of 20 years, you know, it’s going to take a lot to change our development practices to this.
But having, you know, folks like yourself, Leslie, and others pushing us to do this hard work, I think can only end up just being a benefit to the project. Yeah.

Jason Tucker:
[52:44] I think the one highlight that I want to pull in regarding what Leslie was talking about was That idea that the words that were written about collaboration were not written in a collaborative sense.
They were written in a directed sense. sense, like they were saying, we are going to do this and we are going to end up in this situation.
As if it’s already been predestined, as if we’ve already figured it out.
But the idea of not writing about collaboration in the document where the title of the blog post is about collaboration and the words that are being said in the way that they’re being described is not collaborative.
It is very much so from a higher, you know, that same hill that you don’t want to die on.
But looking down, This is what we’re going to do.

Jason Cosper:
[53:40] But it’s a benevolent dictatorship, say.

Sé Reed
[53:45] Benevolent dictatorialism.
I think there’s a lot to talk about here, even in a larger sense, in terms of the community and what feedback means, especially how that is received.
On collaborative matters. Yeah, I mean, are you giving feedback on something that’s a done deal?
Are you giving feedback on something that’s going to be iterated upon with your feedback and you’re getting report, you know, like what does that mean for us being in this kind of collaborative community.
So I would like to talk more about that in the future. Maybe we could have you on again, do another midnight episode.
We’re like a major, major overtime, major overtime, major overtime.

Lesley Sim:
[54:35] Yeah. Can I just say one thing before we do?
So I guess like the way that I think about it is I wish so like right now it seems like we’re in like feature factory mode and it’s like we’ve built, we’ve like decided on the on the features, and now let’s get feedback on the things that we’ve already decided to do.
Whereas what I would love is if we had a whole other section on top of that, which is the problem, what are the specs, what’s the problem area, what’s the PRD, which stands for Product Requirements Document, and start here.
And then I’d love to see that document exist, And then people argue about that.
Because right now we’re all arguing about this. And this is too late, right? Like we’ve already decided what the solution is going to be. And that’s too late.
Like I want like a level above that. And like people arguing like, should we do collaboration?
What does that look like? I don’t want to do collaboration. Let’s do something else instead. And like, sure, we’re still going to have like lots of people unhappy, but then at least now we’re going to be arguing about the right thing, which is prioritization.
Because like, we don’t even get a say in the prioritization right now.

[55:46] And that, I think, is what I’d love to see.
And if someone wins out, there’s always going to be winners and losers, whichever section we’re arguing about.
But at least this time, it’s clear, OK, so-and-so won this prioritization thing this time around.
And then in the next release, we can all get to argue about the prioritization that time. And we don’t get to do that right now. And so that’s kind of big picture what I’m trying to push for.

Sé Reed
[56:15] I wonder if…
These user stories do exist, but they aren’t part of the community purview.
Because I just wonder, because we’re all over here being like, these things aren’t happening, these things don’t exist.
And maybe they do, maybe they’re just more of an internal thing that’s happening that isn’t, and then that is being shared, like after that process, but that process is not being shared. So I mean, that’s a possibility.
I don’t necessarily, I don’t, it’s hard. The sad thing is, is that we don’t know, right? We’re working on an open source, open, working in public software.
And I guess I have to be like, I really don’t know.
There could be user stories and some data happening somewhere that is not being shared, but I’d like to assume good intent and just assume that that’s not happening.
And that instead we just have kind of been, you know, so busy building the cart and running the cart and going down the hill with the cart that we haven’t had time to take stock of it and revise our practices.

[57:28] So maybe instead of just worrying about modernizing our UI or modernizing our admin, we should also look at modernizing our software development process that we’re in, you know?
Like, because now right now we’re just like, oh, we’re going to use this old fashioned process.
And then, but all this modern design, and I don’t, I don’t think you can necessarily be modern with a, if we’re sticking so closely to a roadmap that was developed, you know, a long time ago, like these phases of Gutenberg.
You know, that was a while ago now. It wasn’t just five years ago.
Right. I don’t know how long ago it was, but I also think it would help.

Jason Tucker:
[58:13] I also think it would help if we did this, if we just like defined who user is, I think that would probably help out a lot too.
Because like, because I don’t know who the user is in this, like, am I the user?
And as the person who’s like using WordPress, right.
Cause my, is my user was getting bombarded with popups.
Like who’s the user, like who, who’s actually using this thing.
And, and because like the admin is very much so who’s the user, the admin doesn’t know either.

Sé Reed
[58:54] And half of the users are admin.
Right now I feel like the admin is fairly neutral.
It may be not super modern, which it gets cluttered for sure, but I don’t know, it feels all right to me, not as drag and droppy as some other things.
Okay, fine. But I tried to use Webflow the other day and I was like, this is like Adobe Photoshop from 2004.
So I don’t know what modern necessarily means in terms of Black people.

Jason Tucker:
[59:27] Dream weaver called.

Sé Reed
[59:28] Yeah, what? So, but I think that we really need to like not just, just not just redesign it like it’s not just a visual problem like that is the entirety of UI and if like if like exactly what you’re saying Jason if you don’t know who your user is then how can you design a user interface or a user experience?
Yep. I just and and if your users that’s us keep being like hey maybe that’s not how we’re using it.

Jason Tucker:
[1:00:04] Maybe we’re the users, maybe we’re the admins, or maybe we’re the customer who thinks that they’re the admin, but we just changed their role to be a little bit different.
So they’re not actually an admin. So they can’t really see all of those things that we’re hiding.

Sé Reed
[1:00:18] I think it’s time for a little bit of a WordPress existential crisis.
This actually tags in. I’m going to let, there’s actually a ticket for this in the marketing team right now.
It’s called what is WordPress? Not kidding.
So I will put that in here and y’all can join that conversation.
Because it’s not about like the deep dive here, but it is something that isn’t defined right now. And it’s kind of like, oh, we skipped that.
We should probably get back to that. Anyway.

Jason Tucker:
[1:00:47] I wanna say thank you very much for hanging out with us. It’s been a pleasure.
There’s only a few times that we’ve gone over and we’ve essentially recorded two episodes. Like that kind of what happened. Oh yeah, it’s wild.

Sé Reed
[1:00:59] It’s kind of wild.

Jason Tucker:
[1:01:00] But you know what? You were worth it, friend. were worth it. Hey, thanks.

Lesley Sim:
[1:01:04] Thanks for having me.

Sé Reed
[1:01:06] No problem.

Lesley Sim:
[1:01:07] I didn’t realize these were half an hour episodes.

Jason Tucker:
[1:01:09] Yeah, they’re half an hour episodes.

Sé Reed
[1:01:11] No, this one wasn’t.
It’s probably a good thing you didn’t realize that.

Jason Tucker:
[1:01:20] Well, thank you very much. Here is our outro.

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