EP306 – What is the WordPress Governance Project? – WPwatercooler

January 25, 2019

On this episode of WPwatercooler, there’s a deep dive into the WordPress Governance Project. The discussion begins with acknowledging the challenges of understanding the current leadership and decision-making structure of WordPress, highlighting a sense of confusion within the community. The WP Governance Project, as introduced by Morton Hendrickson at WordCamp US, aims to document the existing structure of WordPress decision-making and promote transparency. Furthermore, it stresses the need for WordPress to have a more active role in broader open web discussions. As WordPress powers a significant portion of the web, the dialogue also touches upon the importance of representation and the need for clear organizational direction. The episode brings out how decisions about WordPress impact a vast array of businesses and people. The team emphasizes the significance of open communication and the challenge of managing diverse contributors. They further discuss the recent appointment of executive roles within WordPress and deliberate on the actual impact these roles will have on the community. The episode wraps up with an acknowledgement of their sponsor, ServerPress, and their product, DesktopServer.

00:00 Introduction
00:38 Understanding WordPress Leadership
02:06 The Inception of the WP Governance Project
03:40 Morton Hendrickson’s Introduction at WordCamp US
05:03 Aims of the WP Governance Project
06:14 The Need for WordPress in Open Web Discussions
08:25 Representation in WordPress and its Impact
09:55 Recent Executive Appointments in WordPress
12:20 Importance of Open Communication in the Community
14:21 Challenges with Diverse WordPress Contributors
16:21 The Future Direction of WordPress and the Governance Project
19:33 Personal Insights and Community Experiences
21:46 The Role of Volunteers in WordPress
26:41 Conclusion and Acknowledgements
28:44 Sponsor Mention: ServerPress and DesktopServer

Join us around the WPwatercooler.

The WordPress Governance Project

WPWeekly Episode 344 – Introduction to the WordPress Governance Project – WordPress Tavern

Benevolent dictator for life – Wikipedia


Episode Transcription

(00:00) it’s so confusing I have money little stuff happens zoom quality’s not their problem six hey I know you had something to say we are let’s say thank you thank you for all of you folks for coming and hanging out with us a word around the wp water cooler let’s go around and get this this particular episode started Steve reverse chronological order but don’t see the problem is I is at some point I have to
(01:03) judge how old stay is that gets that gets a little little my website Jason tuckered-out blog maybe customers older me but well we’ll just go with me being next how about that cost per how about you hey what up everybody it’s your boy Jason Cosford aka the human marquee tag happy to be here today have you on prosper thanks for hanging out with us Jonathan how about you I think I’m max age 1 you know we can just put the ladies last you say anyway so please yeah well who am i who are we all really they read though for reals in this world
(02:06) prime world I make requests to impress preach WordPress at sea read media on most of the things sometimes hey it’s Chris whoa candy yo it’s Chris and gets introduced second by the way in the order that we’re going in nice Jonathan Wald um normally I’m enjoying the winter in North Idaho but today I’m enjoying the beautiful weather down here in Oceanside area and we got Chris and Chris Emma it was a different Chris lemma that’s right yeah so today we were we were talking a little bit during our pre-show about 45
(03:00) seconds before we hit the the Go button that we may want to yeah well yeah exactly that we may have even said it while we were trying to yeah start this thing up anybody’s guess tell us about what’s going on with the government’s project maybe we can kind of jump off of that a little bit and see what okay well I would like to reiterate that that was proposed literally 45 seconds before we and so I discuss this with the people of the WPE governance project the governance a rope appearance which is actually very fitting for the
(03:40) organization so it’s fine for the project it’s a more trained Hendrickson and Rachel cherry have been speaking on this across the WordPress media sphere blogosphere blogosphere so they’ve been talking a lot about it there was a really good interview they did on WP weekly and I haven’t read or see nothing on the tavern yet so can’t comment on that one but essentially what the WP governance project it was birthed out of I would say probably a frustration with the Gutenberg process it came to a head
(04:25) when it was announced by more and Hendrickson at WordCamp us in a very rogue operation where he brought additional people up onto the stage to basically speak on certain points that he wanted to amplify including the announcement of this governance project which has two main goals one is to essentially at this point to mingles one is to document the structure or a decision-making process of the WordPress project because there’s a lot of concern about transparency and leadership structure and it’s not so much that
(05:03) people are looking to protest the structure so much as understand the structure and then the other component of that once our own house is in order as it were there’s definitely a call for WordPress to be a more active part of the open web and the discussions that are happening on that level which would require a little bit of representation as opposed to just people going out there and speaking ad hoc at will ostensibly representing 334 percent of the web so that’s the project in a nutshell one of the things that I was
(05:43) really impressed by I like the open it’s a very interesting for a lot of reasons but there’s a lot of opportunity to look at what other projects have done like there isn’t like a there’s a lot of different examples to look at out there and so I so what’s what’s next and the project but there’s gonna be so far like what’s the first step is to figure out how to organize the projects there’s a little bit of a we talked about it briefly on this show I write it is I mean but you have to start somewhere so
(06:14) there’s a slack channel so folks who are interested can join that slack channel you join with your same why don’t actually know if you joined at the same email now is your WordPress chat or whatever it is I think it is I think it might be you okay good then there you go but essentially there’s three main processes happening now the first one is how does the project itself work like the governance project the second one is researching beginning the research of how WordPress works and the third one
(06:42) is researching external models so for example last was it last week we had the the fellows from amp on from Google amp who talked about you know the conversion of the leadership structure of amp from the benevolent dictator for life model to a different model and so you know that information went right into the research dock so basically that’s like researching what’s going on what’s happening with Drupal it’s happening with all of these different open source projects Mozilla and across the sphere
(07:19) of open source and what’s working and what’s not working and that’s just really it’s so we can all be on the same page when we’re having these conversations everyone has a different understanding of how WordPress the community works and I think that that is confusing to everyone you’ve seen it recently in what happened with the marketing committee announcements and whatnot yeah not necessarily that there’s a problem with that structure but it the problem is that no one knows what’s happening that’s the problem so
(07:52) no that was a really really long soliloquy so I’m just gonna for a second here well really appreciate your involvement in it I mean it’s it’s always interesting when something starts I feel like I can’t get a clear read on the energy because there’s this it’s kind of a loaded like like a lot of people care a lot about WordPress yeah like something like this a governance is a very complex just topic overall so I’m yeah it’s interesting like I’m watching the chat like are there’s clearly a lot
(08:25) of smart people here who care about things but like as humans this this organizing ourselves it’s it’s complicated so appreciate your involvement in it well it’s also really meta right like you said because we’re talking about organizing something over here well we’ve got this other thing that’s happening and of course what I you know we should also probably talk about is the fact that the WordPress project which has never had an executive director suddenly has an executive director and I think that’s great I
(08:53) think Josefa is dedicated and well-versed person in the community she’s really paying attention and participating I mean as a paid person but she’s doing a good job at that she’s not just sitting back and watching right um but we don’t know what that does we don’t know what that job does there’s not like a job description for the executive director of WordPress so even now that we have someone in that position the question what’s the relationship between the be DFL but I’ve been a trainer for life and
(09:25) the executive director regardless of whether it’s just a format yeah which it is obviously so that’s important now but what’s that relationship what is the role of the marketing communications lead we don’t know and and it’s that unknowing it’s not again it’s not the people in mind how it’s going to be it’s that we don’t know and it’s the not knowing that makes everyone uneasy when our whole livelihoods are part of this organization you know it makes you uncomfortable now say I know that you
(09:55) don’t speak for the governance project of course like no one is going to go ahead and assume that but I want to go ahead and make it clear but do you see the move to appoint an executive director and someone in charge of marketing as sort of a look I’m opening things up a little bit or yeah I mean long term I mean you know it might take some of the heat off but I mean I personally don’t see it as as a move that is sustained as sustainable as actually having true open governance on the project well it’s like I said we still
(10:36) don’t know what that is so now it’s like okay so there’s someone else here making decisions what’s the process for those decisions we still don’t know so it doesn’t solve the unknown problem what it will do hopefully and and I again I really do have a lot of confidence in Josefa in her knowledge in her intentions so as an individual I think it’s a really probably a really great choice for WordPress and I’m glad that she’s there that being said someone needs to put out a job description it just tell us what
(11:09) she’s doing does that mean that WP mayor becomes WP governor’s is that what happens or essentially what the soil boils down to is communication your governance project or Gutenberg or the way it was rolled out everything really boils down to just a communication issue right I don’t know that and look I’ve watched all of the the blab not dubbing people have but I’ve watched all the chatter oh oh you know on the internet I’ve seen I’ve seen the threads I’ve been kind of following you know on the sidelines
(11:50) what’s been going on right and it’s it’s really easy to point fingers or think that somebody’s doing something malicious or bad or evil or somebody had it out for somebody but really all this boils down to is just that communication right and so all these projects and all sad new people that are in charge of this or that really hopefully that’ll just fix the communication problem right because our community as a whole is kind of left in the dark on things or we get things as they sort of come right
(12:20) and and it feels like it’s very you know from the hip right when it is not it’s just bad communication that’s what it might be I mean their businesses their livelihoods their employees their children their health insurance is riding on this software and we’re all investing and no one’s mad about the structure it’s been working for 15 years everyone’s just like can we get a road map can we see what’s happening we need to know where we’re going because we’re all going there and we’re on a bus it’s
(12:53) like we’re on a plane with no destination that’s right well what you’re referring to is the people that are making their money off of developing WordPress right or running WordPress sites or the people in our community I think is bigger this has a bigger impact because WordPress like you said runs 34% of the Internet and you know a lot of those are hobby sites but a lot of those are businesses right those are people running businesses on this platform right so when when the scissors are made about this platform and they’re not
(13:23) communicated well it affects business and that’s what I get concerned about I think the the way that it affects the businesses is not directly and so because it doesn’t affect them directly there’s a thought that it doesn’t affect them that it only impacts the community this is only inside baseball but all of those WordPress people business owners all of us whatever we represent WordPress to all of those people and if we’re having new meetings and we’re like well we’re gonna try some other
(13:52) software’s rienner maybe I’m gonna recommend this platform for this client because I don’t know where they’re going with this and I don’t feel confident anymore then that person that person’s just going to do whatever you know we say so the confidence level of our community and the WordPress business community the people who make the money and live off of WordPress that’s really important to the overall 34% to that to that it’s the advocacy of all of those people that has put everybody on
(14:21) WordPress in the first night and I think it could happen in even a worse way than you just died right because as an a as an agency owner I don’t talk about software with my clients right most of the clients don’t know what WordPress is they don’t know their own WordPress so once you’re curious we will talk about that I don’t lead with it right so if WordPress let’s say there’s some day in the future where WordPress is is not my first tool first tool of choice for building websites right I’m just
(14:49) gonna switch quietly right right and so it’s just gonna go away very quietly and that’s worse that is worse and that’s that’s why I think that this is so important because you and everyone underestimates the kind of like it’s like almost like you know dark matter right there’s like matter and dark matter in the weird world the dark matter is all of these these people using WordPress doing WordPress out there running WordPress sites who aren’t involved to don’t have part of this
(15:19) conversation and you know they just hear the rumblings right they just hear from someone and they’re all very room or oriented and if they have a problem and they go online and they see drama just introduces doubt and concern and there’s no way to really reach those folks directly so rumors are the only thing that reached them you know this this amorphous group of the biggest part of WordPress absolutely but I think there’s even another set of people don’t don’t even know that the drum is
(15:48) happening they’re not involved I don’t know it uh you know is is something broke right so I’m gonna try something else yeah I mean I I want to reiterate that I think the Gutenberg you know whatever upgrade happened you know or needed to happen something had to happen because was far behind so in no way you know do I think that this was a bad choice technologically or feature-wise but we’re still feeling the repercussions and just slapping an executive director and a marketing communication person on there I don’t I
(16:21) think is more of a covering up the problem than fixing the problem I hope I’m wrong on that because I have a lot of confidence in both Yoast and just a thought so it’s you know I like both of the people who were appointed I know that some people you know may not but I really think that I’m trying I’m trying to be laughing I’m yeah I’m trying to be as but I really think that seeing these people added is like okay I’ve heard your complaints that we need more more people maybe tending to this than just
(17:08) one benevolent dictator for life so I’m just going to go ahead I’ve heard your complaints and added to people hey yeah and it’s just a little bit here’s a and we need we need to see what they do before we pass any judgment however I I think that the open governance model that happens on other projects is a great idea I’m fully behind Morton and in this regard here’s the thing right these are both two quality people that do a great job right but that it’s almost impossible to please everybody in
(17:50) that position Matt could have put Mother Teresa in that position and somebody would have said she sucks Nizam be right it’s just our community right so so there’s gonna be criticism right these are two good really good and smart people that I’ve worked with mm-hmm I’m I’m excited for to see what that what happens because even just knowing you know there’s three people who are kind of responsible and are going you know are officially being held accountable to the community and are willing to be held accountable to the
(18:22) community and are taking action in that vein I think that’s really good and so you know I think it’s gonna be super exciting to see what they come up with at the same time the WP governance project is literally just documenting what’s happening so you know documenting the fact that there’s a new executive director in this position and you know documenting the fact that it’s been established that leads are appointed by you know in a certain fashion and the the terminology between a lead and a rec
(18:53) and what a rep does and what a lead does and that’s up to the end here okay let’s jump to the young game at the at the end of the day it’s still mass decision right what’s gonna you gonna be awesome sort of hostile takeover honestly is that matt is a reasonable human being who has the help of this project in his he it is in his best interest it is what I believe he wants as a as a geek as a person who created this thing he’s not trying to cannibalize his own community you know this is a difficult thing it’s
(19:33) a lot of people it’s a big project and you know it shouldn’t just be one person halfway kind of in charge of it so the fact that there’s three people in charge of the projects that’s got thirty four point seven percent of the web okay good I’m glad we’ve had three people ten for each of you hey what’s your what’s your hope for the project over say the next year oh that’s right my hope for the project is that we’re able to document this and that Matt Josefa possibly can look at that and be like
(20:06) let’s talk about how this is accurate let’s talk about how this isn’t accurate and you know we as a community understand what the system is and agree upon that and everyone’s like yep this is what it is and only then can we start to have a conversation and that has to include the executive director the benevolent dictator for life the marketing communications lead only then can we have a conversation of should it be this way or is there a better way to be if we just said right now oh there’s
(20:38) there’s obviously a better way to be how do we know that this this has gotten us to thirty four point seven percent of the web maybe the best one that’s it what if what if what if what if all this happens is they say thank you for your input doesn’t matter what you do no it’s futile and love your dictator and just go about it that would go in the document right that would be part of that is is there a what is the I don’t want to say a method for redress of grievances I’m gonna go ahead and say a
(21:16) method for redress of grievance okay like a like a suggestion box or if you go to a meeting for something and there’s a big problem is it really clear who you’re supposed to say that problem is to if you’re in a slack channel and someone’s harassing you is it super clear where you go to do that if there is a project you want to do and the ref on your project doesn’t think that it’s important you know and you’re trying to get other people to do it with you can you just do that and the problem is is
(21:46) that you probably can in the system as is and you’re probably encouraged to but because people don’t know that they don’t do that so like for example in the marketing committee it says expressly a bunch of times on their different Trello cards yeah just go right ahead and pick hello card and work on something right but that’s so open-ended that everyone’s like oh I can do anything that seems weird I’m not gonna do anything by and oh and a little overwhelming yeah like now you’re in charge people kind of want
(22:22) to be told what to do you know and they also want to be able to go to the person that told them what to do well am i did it’s not easy too much like the being told because there’s certainly in a case but it’s like what are we working towards if I’m gonna contribute my intentions Bertie’s what what is the what’s the direction like what there’s no direction or if there is a direction good well I want to be able to a like understand and affirm the direction or sometime or challenge it perhaps but if
(22:47) it’s not clear what that is but then when it comes to actual contributions okay maybe the direction doesn’t fully make sense to me but if it’s clear then I can okay I’ll contribute to that because I care about this project right I’m I’m ultimately intrigued by how I see a lot of value and maturing to a point where we where WordPress where we as WordPress are able to represent our collective interests in broader forums like when I think about the open web more broadly I think that’s something
(23:14) that is at least to me a newer thought and idea and I’m like yeah that actually kind of matters right like yeah yeah because I mean for a lot like WordPress to me represents the hidden sometimes about they had the health of the open web and if WordPress is healthy and strong I think that’s good for the open web so it’s okay yeah how did what what is the voice of WordPress yes and similarly I have a lot of confidence in and the people involved in the project but people are finite and this project
(23:47) has a lot more value just beyond the people who are serving in it today so it’s a so I’m yeah it’s it’s very just interesting I’m glad to see that there’s activity III guess to me no matter what comes of this project specifically I think it’s it’s going to be valuable if for I mean there’s a lot of I think there’s plenty of reason to well we want specific things but just awareness is an important first step and getting people to ask questions and think more about because how can you have conversations
(24:19) if everyone’s got different scraps of information you really just can’t have a can’t get anywhere if you’re just constantly being like oh did you think oh is that oh is out is oh I don’t actually know okay cool let’s let’s go figure that out again and like everyone keeps having the same conversations over and over and over and over and it’s like you know has anyone heard of documentation I don’t know problem right that’s what the WordPress governance project is it’s documentation
(24:45) for WordPress the project that’s what that’s kind of what I’m envisioning it as is the moment someone’s got to work on the tux I did want to make one quick point about in the participation as a contributor I think that it continually surprises people when they do say things like oh go work on a Trello documentary or a Trello card or Matt’s like anyone can do anything and you just go do it but what that’s forgetting is that there are different ways of participating and not everyone a wants to or B has the
(25:16) ability to lead right some people just want to help and I would like to you know I personally would like to help in certain areas but if it’s I volunteer to help and then I have to do everything and I can’t just help but I have to lead I’m not gonna do that because I can’t contribute that but I could also contribute help right so we have made a role a place for that so much in the ecosystem like in the in the contributor world you can because there’s ability to have a lot of its we have this weird
(25:47) problem where we have like a lack of leadership but then like there’s everybody can be a leader but it’s like with like who do any of the leaders actually have supporters helping them on anything like what’s who is all we all just going like this in different directions like that’s what it feels like right you have to I think you have to grow leaders out of people who are just starting out in volunteering and if you’re if you’re volunteering to to you know to a common cause or common good
(26:16) then slowly but surely you have people around you that go like they would recognize you and say you know what you’re doing a great job than volunteering for this do you want to lead this thing and maybe get us into a direction that you think that we should we should go or should we collectively figure out what’s the best direction our best way to approach this and that kind of makes best practices happen instead of everybody starting from scratch where a lot of times people are starting from scratch and you go why are
(26:41) you doing that thing when you could totally do it this way and we’ve already blazed that trail and it works great and and just make that happen but a lot of folks do they just go and say well I guess I’m starting from scratch right you’re tossed in there and it’s like just go swim and it’s like you know maybe we should you know we have we’ve implemented the mentorship program where the foundation is implemented the mentorship program for the word camps you know there’s no program like that
(27:06) for contributing there’s contributors a but contributor day you just all get thrown in and it’s like go find your area on your table and vote start talking to people and help just just go ahead like what like it doesn’t mean anything to anyone so everyone who wants we’ve got all these people who want to help want to contribute and everyone’s like why are you contributing it’s like women don’t know how even though it shows so clear to everyone how we still can’t and saying saying just pick
(27:35) something and start working on it is a little bit disingenuous because I have seen long-standing stuff in track that anybody could just come along and pick up and some people have come along and pick up they’ve submitted patches they’ve you know done the work they have you know and and here’s here’s a patch here’s something that is actually sitting there waiting to be implemented and there’s been no traction on the issues for two years three years five years that’s just like okay yeah just
(28:07) pick up anything and hope that it makes it in that is not the message we need to be sending yeah we want to work on the software that powers 34% we’ve basically we basically like made it so that people have to fight to participate they have to like go through the gauntlet to contribute and that has probably cost us I mean we even know the public people who have quit publicly or have left publicly because of problems but think of all the people the great contributors the great developers the right designers
(28:39) the great just like logistics people who are just like I can’t interface with this I can’t deal time for this because I job and clients and stuff and I would but I can’t so I’m out and they just don’t like we all know people like that and that’s a lot of people and that’s a lot of brain power that we are missing out on because of like it’s analogous to constructional stuff that like I don’t know humans have figured out how to do before so we shouldn’t have to like reinvent the
(29:08) wheel I’m like how to work together like yeah I mean one of the one of the resources that I’ve been kind of toying around with starting up is because the fact I work in the nonprofit space and I I do have a heart for volunteer folks is building out a place that people can actually figure out how they can volunteer for this stuff that’s not a wordpress ran place but rather like hey here’s how you can do this so I don’t think it’s just that because it also comes down to like volunteering for
(29:44) stuff that’s outside of those sorts of things so volunteering as somebody who runs a word camp or runs a WordPress meetup or teaches WordPress stuff any of those types of things are all volunteer type work that can be that can be done and so those people those volunteers they run WordPress they really and so that is governance that’s what that is it’s not separate from it so that needs to be part of it that let’s document the volunteers let’s figure out how can we onboard these people how can we maximize
(30:15) the people who have turned out as word camp organizers where they go like all this talent like needs to be documented at the very least yeah well if went and set up a page on our site over and ap water-cooler if you want to go take a look at that it’s a WP volunteer com you can go take a look at that thing and be able to just like leave a comment tell us what you’ll be doing the website anyhow honestly thank you very much for all you folks were coming out and hanging out with us really appreciate that I know what I I totally because at
(30:55) the very beginning when we first started this thing I totally got to tell you that we do that a sponsor for this particular view oh my gosh I’m so sorry go over to server presses websites repress comm for desktop server and all the stuff that they’re doing over there we really appreciate them and their efforts so definitely going to take a look at that yeah I totally totally blanked on that yeah last yep yeah I’ll talk to y’all didn’t three times just to make up for it right exactly all right thank you have a good one bye

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