Everyone is getting honest about the WordPress community. Everyone is telling it like it is, calling the community out for generally being an asshole. What an asshole community (not pointing fingers at anyone of course). What a bunch of pathetic people, what a lot of meanness. You’re a bad community, a nasty community, a naughty community. Isn’t it great that everyone is getting so goddamn honest?
I wanted to play along. So time for me to bring in some hard-hitting, hard-facts. Are you ready for it? Can you handle it?
Here are some of my truths:
A few months ago I quit my job. I didn’t announce it on my blog. I just did it quietly. I was ready to move on, I was happy about it, but I didn’t feel the need to post about it. What I do in my job is my business and besides, I didn’t think that anyone would really care. A few weeks afterwards, I started getting emails, DMs on Twitter, and messages on Slack. “Are you okay?” they asked. These were people that I don’t see very often, but who were genuinely concerned about my wellbeing. They didn’t pry into my reasons, they just wanted to make sure that everything was alright. I didn’t think that anyone would care, but they did, and I was moved by that.
Two weeks ago, myself and seventeen other people pulled off one of the biggest WordPress events in the world. We were eighteen people from different background and cultures, who spoke different languages and who had different ways of doing things. We didn’t always agree, and sometimes things got heated. But when we all arrived in Seville, we greeted one another like old friends and we pulled off an amazing event. Nearly a thousand people joined us for that long weekend; for many of the attendees it was an opportunity to rekindle old relationships, for others was the start of new friendships, and who knows what could come of them?
At the end of 2014, a friend to many of us, Kim Parsell, passed away at her home in Ohio. This was a huge shock to many in the community; it was so deeply sad. There was an outpouring of grief across the project, on Twitter and on Slack and on our public blogs. I received many emails and messages checking on my welfare, asking if I needed any help. I remember one in particular, from someone I greatly admire and respect, saying how shocked he was and how it reminded him of the importance of keeping in touch. I spoke with community members then about the need for being vigilant, to make sure that no one just disappears, to check in to make sure that everything is okay. These lines of communication between us are fragile. We all have lives outside of this online community, lives that we keep to ourselves. It’s easy for someone to just drop off the map, but there are people around who won’t let that happen.
Here’s some more honesty: there are things that piss me off about the community, the snark and the backbiting, and the poisonous people who dominate conversations and make it so that I feel so uncomfortable that I can’t even raise my voice. I don’t particularly like how the project is structured, and I have problems with how it is run. Problems go from root to branch. But, to be honest, I don’t dwell much on those things. What I value is this: the email from New Brunswick that bears the gift of a quilt, the friend who jumps on a plane to spend a weekend, the messages of support and care when suddenly I’m not around as much anymore, the out-of-the-blue emails to keep in touch; the people around the world who support me through the many changes in my life, those who have taken a chance on me and are supporting me in my future; the big get-togethers where I make new friends, and the quiet dinners when I can slip away with old(ish) ones. The constant surprise that there are people who live in more countries than I can count on my fingers and toes who actually give a shit about me.
Write your posts. Wring your hands. Join comment mobs. But the sheer number of posts of late that are overly critical and snarky and angry gives the wrong impression. When all we have are posts about the bad things, it’s easy for the good to get lost. Every community is both, and we should celebrate the good as much, if not more, as we bemoan the bad. Otherwise we misrepresent ourselves, we misrepresent this community, and we misrepresent those that we care about.