Where’s that elephant in WordPress community?
I’ve been attending and speaking at enough PHP and WordPress events and conferences to confirm my first impression on differences between the two. WordPress events, especially WordCamps, are heavily oriented towards entertaining attendees and making them feel special while PHP events are really a way of celebrating experts and mentors in the community and creating a special opportunity for the audience to communicate with these mentors on a more personal level.
I even said that the PHP community could learn from WordPress how to treat attendees while the WordPress community has a lot to learn from PHP on how to treat speakers, but that’s not fair. That statement assumes there’s only one correct way of doing conferences and that point of view is flat wrong in its core. These two communities have very different perspectives on a lot of things and that’s precious.
However, that idea of “treating speakers” stuck in my head. Not as making speakers at events feeling like stars, that really goes under the organiser’s signature. I’m thinking more about the way the WordPress community treats advice and recommendation from their own experts and mentors.
We’ve seen this in many WordPress areas. Accessibility, testing, backward and the latest PHP compatibility, to name a few. And this is not the first time someone is bringing up this topic. The scary thought is that we don’t see someone bringing it up that often any more. And things in those areas are not necessarily fixed or improved. It feels, not like no one is talking about that elephant any more but more like we moved the elephant in the basement so that we prevent accidental running into it while showcasing our shiny, new block editor’s features.
This state reminds me a lot of those “new thought” movements where all “negative” and unpleasant thoughts are being shut down and avoided by any means necessary. I’m not well equipped for that kind of thought process. In fact, you could say I have a talent for starting unpleasant conversations.
Furthermore, working on fast implementations of newest technologies, such as React.js, and keeping PHP parts backward compatible with dark ages, simply defy any logic I’m used to exercising. I’m not an expert on logic, nor do I incline to ever be seen as one. I’m just trying to wrap my head around the idea of stretching the present from the far past to the “first to be there” future and to imagine the universe in which these things are possible. Even React.js had a release with 0 new features in favour of fixing existing problems and preparing a good base for whichever new will come later.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for making mistakes. That’s the only way to learn. I think WordPress made enough mistakes for several lessons now and it’s time to start learning them. Of course I’ll mention documentation here as well. We all saw what lack of documentation did, and is still doing to Gutenberg and yet, companies will without question sponsor contributors to write the code while only a handful of people are volunteering their free time in, nothing short of noble attempt to patch black holes in documentation with duct tape. I’m still the only sponsored documentation contributor and, honestly, that’s insane for the project of this size.
I would really love to see us stop faking this happy state and start working on unpleasant things, things that need fixing and improving. We’ve spent way too much time on the frontend for a project that heavily relies on a backend for, well, everything. We’re past talking about it, I fear. It’s not enough just to bring that elephant back to the living room. We have to do with it whatever is being done with an elephant in this analogy.
I hope we all still remember that elephant, in our world, means PHP.