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I was actually asked by a handful of people what my thoughts on this were, and while part of me is loath to wade in(I’m loathe because someone will accuse me of being pro-WP or anti-Devpress, and ignore the fact that I’m a Devpress affiliate or that I don’t work for WP. I don’t pretend to know all the answers, or the reasons, but I know what bothers me.), I agree it’s something that affects the open source community. Personal attacks aimed at me will be deleted.
I’ll let WPCandy sum it up:
Yesterday I posted about DevPress’ offer of free memberships to any WordCamp attendees, provided the WordCamp organizers are legit and contact DevPress about their interest. A number of organizers showed interest in the comments of that post, and WordCamp Philly organizer Doug Stewart announced the deal for attendees on their blog.
Then, last evening, WPCandy was contacted by Andrea Middleton, who took an administration role with WordCamp Central earlier this year. Middleton notified WPCandy that the WordCamp guidelines (specifically the part on fundraising), WordCamp organizers should not allow companies that are not sponsoring their event to do giveaways at a WordCamp.(Source: WPCandy – Devpress deal for WordCamps is against WordCamp Central Guidelines.)
They cover the situation pretty well, but the comments on WPCandy and the twitterverse is what has upset me, greatly. This whole mess was blown out of proportion and could have been handled quietly and maturely off book, without any of the name slinging and pointy-fingers that I’ve seen.
What went wrong?
WordCamp Philly should have said “Let’s double-check about the rules, because this is a grey area.” They made a perfectly understandable human ‘gaff’ and assumed it was cool, because we all know Devpress is cool and GPL and basically awesome.
Devpress should have said “I want to give things away at WordCamps. I’ll ask the head honchos at WordCamp and find out what I need to do!” They too made a perfectly normal mistake, assuming that WordCamp Philly would do any needed due diligence.
One of the many things I’ve learned working for The Man is that people see a server on fire and always assume someone else has reported it, right up until you run in with a fire extinguisher and shout at them.(That’s a true story.) I always quote Lord Buckley here: If you know what to do and you don’t do it, there you bloody well are, aren’t you?
The right thing was to look before you leap and not assume. People made mistakes. They could have kept it all off the funny pages, too, by being patient. WordCamp telling WPCandy “Hey, sorry, not so much kosher.” was a polite heads up and WPCandy, being journalistic in inclinations, ran with the story. Devpress’s rep was, understandably, frustrated and upset at the smack down and at the slowness of resolution, and it showed. But as a ‘formal’ statement, his email is the example the need of a bit of PR.(This mess is in part why I don’t consider websites like WPCandy (and certainly not this site!) to be journalism. There’s an attitude and (supposedly) ethics to which journalists abide and a code to follow about how to handle this. One of them is that WPCandy’s email should have explicitly stated that Justin’s response would be posted on their blog. I studied journalism for a year, and I know I’m not a journalist!)
Who is right? Devpress or WordCamp? Who is right? Devpress or WordCamp?
A lot of ‘right and wrong’ ties into my last two big posts, about legality and morality. I’ll put it plain and simple for you: If you’re going to have a WordCamp, which is sanctioned and branded by WordPress, then you are obligated, legally and morally, to abide by their guidelines.
The rest of the bitching is commentary. If you don’t like WordPress’s rules and regulations, don’t use them. It’s just like the theme and plugin repos. If you don’t want to follow those guidelines, then you self-host, and as long as you abide by GPLv2, everyone’s happy. But WordCamp is run by WordPress, and they get to make the rules. No one’s stopping you from making ‘BlogCamp’ or whatever you want. You could probably even get away with using ‘Word’ in the title, though you would be wise to make it painfully clear that it was not a sanctioned WordPress event.
WordCamps are an extension of WordPress.org and the WordPress Foundation, which means that they are not community ‘owned’ products, though they are community driven. Maybe people are forgetting that, at the end of the day, the responsibility for WordCamp, and WordPress, is not us. We’re the result, and the reason, but not the responsibility. If WordPress vanished tomorrow, we could fork it and move on, make our own forums, and actually be okay. But right now, we’re all taking advantage of a free product. We give up our time and our efforts for something that doesn’t directly make us money.
Why isn’t the community in charge? Why isn’t the community in charge?
That points right back to the heart of the issue for me. The community isn’t in charge because it’s not a Big Dog. At the end of the day, every project needs someone to stand up and say “This is what we’re doing.” We need a big dog, someone to be in charge, and someone to draw a line. A lot of people have made noise that this should be a person the community votes on and approves. I disagree.
WordPress was never about ‘community’ in that sense.
The community doesn’t provide oversight to the plugins, the themes, or the forums on WordPress.org. Sure, we volunteer our time, but we don’t all have trac commit privileges, do we? We are not where the buck stops for this, and we have to keep that in perspective. You can tout all you want about doing what the ‘community’ wants, but the community provides ideas, suggestions, dreams and hopes. Someone else looks at the bottom line and says yes or no.
That’s really very freeing to me. That makes it easy for me to say ‘You know, I really hate this new thing.’ and I don’t feel like they’re going to revoke my license. As long as I keep it all in perspective and remember that I don’t have to like it, but as long as I play this game, thems the rules, and it’s okay. You can support the tool without loving every aspect of it, and no one says otherwise.
The responsibility of oversight belongs with WordPress, not you or me, and the fall out does too. A community has trouble being in charge like that because oversight ‘committees’ rarely work to anything but mediocrity. As it stands today, WordPress is benignly governed by a company who listens, pays attention, and respects us, even if they don’t do everything each individual wants, and they keep their eye on the scope. (Perhaps by comparison, you should read up on the growing pains Drupal’s had recently. Not enough oversight there, perhaps, but I have to study more about their entire situation to know for sure.) If everything goes great, we ignore our overlords, and when we don’t like something, we vilify them.
Why are you so mad about this? Why are you so mad about this?
I’m upset to see people being mean to each other. People are blaming each other, calling names, and pointing fingers. Of course this is a situation that makes people angry and emotional, but if we’re running a business, we don’t get the luxury of doing that publicly anymore. You no longer speak for yourself, you speak for your group.(I run a fan website for an actress. Every single time I speak my own speculation about the TV show she’s on, someone assumes I know something secret and am not telling them, or I’m hinting at what’s to come. I no longer am able to speak for me the fan because of this. Trust me, I know how daft it is, and I hate it.)
But the problem is I see a lot of name calling aimed at one person alone. That really bothers me because it looks like people are attacking a person and not remembering that the WordPress Foundation manages WordCamps. NOT the community. NOT the sponsors. NOT you or me. Hell, not even the volunteers who are doing the work!
If you have a problem with WordCamp and the WordPress Foundation, do the right thing and take it to them.
Most importantly, we need to be patient with each other. You don’t change the world in a day. Sure, we’re used to a fast paced world, where decisions are made on a dime and the whole status quo changes in the time it takes to
svn up. But things still need to happen with thought and understanding. We have to look at the whole situation. And that’s why with responsibility comes the need to have oversight.