On Trust and Opacity

Yesterday Tom McFarlin published an important article titled The WordPress Community (A Comedy of Drama, Ego, Oligarchies, and More). If you work with WordPress or the WordPress community, it is mandatory reading and worth some serious reflection. Tom shines a light on some of the darker parts of flat-structure communities and asks poignant questions about communication, language, and leadership among other things. There is a lot to latch onto here and I have no doubt there are many articles being written in response as I type this out.

Here I want to focus in on a small part of this conversation and contribute my own perspective on something I think lies at the heart of much of the conflict Tom addresses: Trust and Opacity.

The Customizer and the Pyre

In WordPress, like any grassroots political organization, the level of conflict and partisan strife increases with its size and power. WordPress is now so big and powerful that I’m surprised we’re not starting to see breakout groups and organized factions trying to exert their will on the overall project. This is likely due to the spirit of Open Source, and we should count ourselves lucky that it has not happened. Yet.

However, there are clear signs of fracture within the community, exemplified by the furious anger directed toward the Customizer and the team that works on it.

Long story short, the Customizer (which moves many of the theme customizing features into a preview panel for direct experimentation and application) has always been controversial because it does not fit every use case. For the release of WordPress 4.3, the Customizer will be extended to include the Menu Editor (and here it’s important to note that the original Menu Editor view will remain in the admin panel). This inclusion has caused a vocal and often aggressive response that at times devolves into personal attacks on named contributors in the project.

There are people in the WordPress community who hate the Customizer with a passion, and they want to have it their way: Burn the Customizer. With Fire.

The common argument can be paraphrased thus:

“I/my clients don’t use the Customizer. Its inclusion goes against what I/my clients need and therefore has no place in WordPress.”

When work continues unabated in spite of this opposition, the objectors feel like their concerns are being ignored by whomever is calling the shots, they get angry, and sometimes lash out. This is neither new nor surprising. But it is disappointing, especially when it devolves to personal attacks, or even worse, sexist remarks and verbal assaults. These things do not a healthy community make.

On Trust

Underlying the vitriolic assaults on the Customizer lies a lack of trust; in contributors; in leadership; in the community. To many, even those involved in WordPress contribution, it can appear as if there is a hidden “inner circle” of leadership in the community – a WordPress Illuminati if you will – that calls the shots. And to some, that imagined group may appear to be running an agenda that goes counter to their interests:

“I don’t use the Customizer. Its inclusion goes against what I need and therefore has no place in WordPress. Even so, someone has decided it must be there in spite of my objections. Clearly there is an imbalance of power here. My voice does not seem to matter.”

What we have here is a classic case of mistrust. When questions are asked about the expansion of the customizer, the answers are forthcoming (again, paraphrasing here):

  • User testing and research shows that the Customizer is better understood by the average user.
  • The Customizer provides a better user experience.
  • Users appreciate the ability to see their changes in real time in the real site before publishing it live.
  • Users often voice frustrations when having to switch back and forth between back- and front-end and experiment with things like menu ordering on their live site.
  • Etc.

The response to such statements are questions like “Who are these users?” or “Who did these tests?” or “That doesn’t fit with my experience.” or “I don’t care. It is not what my clients want.”

Again, this is about trust. When presented with valid (if unsubstantiated) reasons, many opposed to the idea of the Customizer (or any other controversial feature, like auto-updates of plugins) have trouble trusting those that who make the decisions.

“Who are these people, and who gave them the power to decide what’s best for me and my clients?”

This is a problem, and it is one that every grassroots political organization has to face at some point. People want their way. And when they don’t get their way, even if they are in a minority position, they will fight tooth and nail to impose their will on the rest of the organization. Sometimes that is a good thing. Most of the time it is a problem.

On Opacity

Much of this distrust stems from the relative opacity of meritocracies. On the face of it, meritocracies are as open and transparent as is possible, but in reality they are only open and transparent if you are actually taking part and observing the day-to-day goings on.

I spend most of my time working with and researching WordPress, and even I can’t speak with much authority about how a release lead is picked or who the next core contributor will be. I can make an educated guess: Release leads are picked from core contributors based on skill, availability, and willingness to take on the responsibility. Core contributors are promoted based on the quality of their previous contributions. In other words, a meritocracy.

But who picks the Release lead? And who promotes core contributors? That is a question left unanswered, and I think this is where the idea of this mythical “leadership group” stems from.

Like a cascading waterfall, the transparency of meritocracies is made opaque by the volume and force of information that runs through it.

From the outside it appears there is a group that is in charge of WordPress. It is not listed anywhere, it is not elected, it is not given a mandate, it just is. And when a controversial decision is made (like adding the Menu editor into the Customizer), it is easy to imagine a group of evil faced conspirational dictators sitting around a table discussing how to screw the community over by moving everything into the Customizer.

Which is total nonsense.

I know some of these people, and some better than others. I’ve observed their work, observed their interactions with the community, observed their dedication to the project and their relentless pursuit of making WordPress better for all who use it. What I’ve found is that the people who sit atop of our meritocratic pyramid are humble, dedicated, and fiercely passionate about what they do. They also think far ahead – as in far ahead – to what is coming down the pipe in the next several years. They have my trust because I see my thoughts about WordPress and its future in theirs. But that’s just me. I can also see how someone who disagrees with them would feel like their project was being run by a dispassionate group of dictators who hand down decrees like the emperors of times past.

Trust and Transparency – Leadership and Vision

I mentioned grassroots political organizations earlier, and I firmly believe that WordPress is a grassroots political organization in all but name. But that’s not the topic of my current argument.

Regardless of how you define it, the WordPress community can learn a lot from grassroots political organizations. Like I said, the problems we are facing are not unique, and they have been solved before.

Our problems with trust and opacity are both symptoms of the very essence of what makes WordPress (and Open Source) great: Flat-structure meritocracies. At some undefined point, the machine grows so large that it becomes hard for anyone to see what is going on unless they dedicate all their time to this pursuit. As a result, those who find themselves in lower levels of the meritocratic pyramid start feeling disenfranchised and ignored by those higher up and they eventually start rocking the structure and consider moving their blocks elsewhere.

The way this is solved in grassroots political organizations is through the introduction of clear leadership structures and a clearly defined vision and path forwards. This is a colossal project that causes conflict and controversy, but the result is always the same: A structured democratic system that actually works.

Can this be done in an Open Source project like WordPress? Impossible to say; it has never been tried on anything this scale. Is it a good idea to try? I’m not sure.

What I do know is if we pretend everything is OK and brush the problems under the carpet, conflicts will fester and grow until they cause a major split.

So what do we do? I have two preliminary suggestions:

  1. Make the leadership of the WordPress project public record. The immediate response to this suggestion will be “but there is no leadership”. Seriously. That is not true and we all know it. Meritocratic leadership is still leadership. By explicitly listing the current Release Lead, core contributors, and most importantly other people with decision making power, people can clearly see who is in charge and where to direct questions.
  2. Create a public long-term vision for WordPress. This one is going to be a real challenge. The vision of WordPress currently is too vague and haphazard. There is a lot of ground to cover between “democratize publishing” and “80/20 rule”. Is WordPress primarily for the average user or for enterprise? What is the goal of WordPress once we reach 25% market share? Who should drive the bus? Where do we go from here? Should WordPress be a leader in web standards and accessibility? Should we get involved in the W3C? A community of our size needs direction. Otherwise everyone will go their own way and people will be left flailing or feeling like they are not being heard.

These are my thoughts. Take them at face value from someone who has experience working with grassroots and political organizations. There are solutions here. They may not be mine, they may not be yours, but if we work together we can find them, and our community will be better for them. The only thing we can’t do is pretend everything is OK and tighten down our blinders.

Epilogue: The Customizer is a Good Thing. Accept it and Move On!

For completeness, I should voice my opinion on the Customizer controversy:

The arguments for the permanent inclusion of the Customizer are, from my experience, valid and in line with the independent research I’ve done on the matter. The average WordPress user benefits greatly from the ability to preview their theme changes before taking them live. The inclusion of the Menu Editor in the Customizer will be a massive improvement to the WordPress User Experience and will take frustration away from millions of users. 

Yes, there are edge cases (typically large business and enterprise installations) where the Customizer is not ideal, but because WordPress is Free Open Source Software, an enterprise site is worth no more than a blog nobody ever visits to the project itself. All sites are created equal. So even though the need of an enterprise site to not have the Customizer seems to carry more weight than the need for millions of bloggers to have it, in reality it is the bloggers that matter. WordPress is powerful because of the millions of people who use it to throw their thoughts, feelings, hopes, and desires onto the web with abandon. The big business that chooses WordPress to back their online publications is the exception that proves the rule.

30 thoughts on “On Trust and Opacity

  1. Thanks for this beautifully written article, Morten. My immediate thought is that WordPress leadership is a meritocracy based on technical skill. The barriers to participation and leadership are largely technical: things like understanding Trac, version control, and the WordPress codebase.

    In other words, if WordPress disenfranchises people, it’s because they’re not technically skilled enough to “hang with” the leadership. I think this is a problem—those people might have equally valid opinions on UI/UX, for example, but find themselves functionally shut out of the discussion.

    So I wish it was easier for less technical people to get involved in leadership and direction discussions. Getting rid of IRC (thank goodness) was a start. Something other than Trac and Core meetings to discuss feature changes—at least broad, directional ones—would help too.

    Customizer-politics-disclosure-wise: I have no particular opinion. This is just what I’ve noticed overall in WordPress.

    1. I think you are right in that the group of core contributors is largely picked based on technical skill. That said, a lot of these people have very strong UX backgrounds as well (Ryan Boren comes to mind in particular) so it’s not like the bus is driven entirely by developers. But you highlight an important factor which is there is no clear path for anyone who doesn’t identify as a “developer” to make their way up the pyramid. That needs to change.

  2. Well said, as usual, and I like your suggestions. We will see how things play out.

    I guess I don’t follow enough of the “relevant” sources. I usually hear about the drama late and am left scratching my head over most of it, wishing I never even noticed. Especially this overreaction to the Customizer. I can see why developers with products that were committed to a separate settings panel would be upset, but that’s on them. As a forward moving usability improvement it seems hard to argue with. Just on widgets it’s a huge improvement. I was a little skeptical about applying it to menus initially, but why not give it a try?

    I have been very skeptical but still impressed with the approach Obox takes in their Layers theme, where their page builder *only* works through the customizer and you have all your content in there. There are a lot of drawbacks to this, but usability is not one of them. It’s just one case, but I was blown away by watching a first time WordPress user work with Layers yesterday without much need for coaching.

    1. A lot of the anger that comes out whenever a new feature is suggested seems to stem from a lack of awareness of the work having already been done on that feature. Like you said, most people don’t notice a change until it’s slated for release so it comes as a surprise.

      I think WordPress could benefit from doing what Google does when they ship new features to Gmail etc. As the feature is getting closer to release, they put up a flag in the UI telling people something new is coming and asking them to test it out early. That way they get tons of feedback from actual users and it’s less of a surprise.

      The current approach in WordPress is to offer some feature plugins up under the “Beta” flag in the plugin installer. This only hooks in advanced users, and very few of them at that. Having a contextual flag in the UI would be much better.

    2. Dan, I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been playing with Layers since it came out, and from a developer perspective, Obox has taken the Customizer to a whole new level.
      It’s even possible to build an entire site from the Customizer.
      Now, I don’t see what all the fuss is about, in the first place. The Customizer was added to make it easier for non-developers to make front-end changes to their sites without the fear of accidently removing something from the back-end. To me, that’s a bonus. When I build a theme, or a child theme, I’ll try to take advantage of the customizer, so if the client wants a slightly different shade of color for their anchor tags or header tags, they can try it themselves instead of calling on me for such a simple change.
      Anything that makes life easier for client and developer, is a good thing in my books.

  3. Thank you for the link to my post, Morten. Completely unnecessary, but definitely appreciated.

    That said, I think you’ve done a fantastic job articulating some of the key points that are happening right now. In terms of The Customizer, I don’t really have a hard stance to voice on it – so there’s that.

    But in terms of how to lead an open source project forward given the nature of its size, I find the analogies to political organizations interesting and, if nothing else, fantastic food for thought.

    I’m eager, above all else, to see how things play out in WordPress. I do believe that it’s going to continue to get better, though I think we’re finding ourselves in uncharted waters right now – as far as the software is concerned – and we’re *all* trying to steer the ship in the direction we want it to go.

    1. Not quite. The Credits page is exactly that – a credits page for work already done. It doesn’t reflect the actual “leadership” nor does it list out who is in charge of important things like Vision.

  4. Wonderfully articulated Morten. Your article is a good read for any volunteer community.

    Like Tom, I strongly believe that everything will eventually get better.

    Thanks for the article.

  5. As a site owner (non-developer) who decided to use WordPress as a tool, I don’t/shouldn’t have an opinion on the Customiser. I don’t really care. What I do care about is using a tool that has plenty of community backing and a reasonable strategy for the future.

    The seeming warfare on a core part of WordPress has me a bit worried. I would hate to be the one who leveraged his company’s future on Node.js – right before the split. I wish there was a way for those capable of having valid opinions to hash these things out before we see it in public. A stronger, more defined leadership plan would be a start.

  6. Morten, this is a brilliant entry, as usual, but thank you for outlining it the way you did.

    To keep it short, I support 500% the idea of openness when making high-end decisions and planning the future.

    I have serious doubts that the Customizer is actually user-friendly more often then it isn’t, accounting for all of the things it’s been meant to do now. I’ve had half a dozen discussions with some leads with regards to that, and I also asked multiple times about the number of people who were part of the usability test group, as well as the use cases they had. If someone did say that the group was large enough (like, not a dozen internal people) and they all had practical different cases with Customizer, I would have politely apologized for my disagreement since facts are facts.

    I have the greatest respect to both Boren and Obenland who also posted their UX tests here – https://make.wordpress.org/flow/?s=customizer . I do, however, know how many other different options there are being used in practice, that would either harm the UX for customers, or should be implemented against the best practice (i.e. outside of the Customizer).

    If a public Roadmap was available, then people could decide upfront whether they’d support a project given the plans for the next couple of years, and at least challenge some of those ideas and take action early in the process, instead of as a post-factum.

    While some decisions may seem minor, they aren’t. As I mentioned at Tom’s blog, with 24% of the Web now, 10% of WordPress is a minority in terms of a percentage, but it’s 2.4% of the entire Internet.

    Some decisions such as forcing Customizer for WordPress.org themes may be the right thing to do in the long-run (consistency), but it goes against the long public process of assessing options, and I know of several freelancers and theme businesses who left, stopped maintaining their themes on .org or lost business due to the change.

    Everyone has to be respectful to the different applications of a platform. I have accepted the fact that every single decision in terms of improvements and feature additions is solving a problem for someone out there. But if that problem is consistently affecting the way I and everyone around me use WordPress, then we have a bigger problem and we need to find a way to make that work.

    And those decisions on top should take into account the wide WordPress environment – freelance designers and developers, small agencies, product developers, SaaS builders, 3rd party businesses integrating with WordPress, enterprise customers, theme shops, and dozens of other groups who actively support and promote WordPress. Otherwise we’re finding a solution for our own problems and forcing it on tens of millions of websites, without prior notice (as a Roadmap) or any acceptance to public discussions (not ignoring make/org comments and Trac comments).

  7. There’s some nasty, nasty stuff being said on Slack chat groups as well. Much of it is made up simply to discredit and defame people.

    People are teaming up like gangs and targeting individuals to try and turn the community against them supported by some very big players in the theme market.

    On the topic of the customizer, at least the menu page is still there and a plugin which enables you to deactivate it.

  8. The fact that so many people were moved to voice their opinion is a good thing. Discussion and debate is healthy. What is not good and not healthy is the way in which some of those folks did it. Personal attacks and such is the stuff of school yards. It’s not how grown adults should behave. Reading some of the vitriol takes me back to my junior high school days.

    Good grief people it’s software. Go outside and enjoy the real world for a while. Take a walk, ride a bike, throw a football, sit on the park bench and feed the birds. Anything. Life is too short for this type of nonsense.

    For the record, I don’t particularly care for the customizer. I’ve never used it and probably never will. But I do keep an open mind. Never say never and all that. Having said that I would never personally attack those who are working on it.

    Peace.

  9. We are relative newcomers to WP, only having started using it three years or so ago. We have since invested a lot of time and money into using it to underpin the administrative side of our business. We chose it because its open source and has a huge community that is very interested and passionate about seeing it go forward.

    The Customizer incident is not the disease; it’s just a symptom of what appears – to outsiders – to be a larger situation that Tom’s post does an excellent job of summing up.

    If you have a business, and 10% of the customers vocally object to a new ‘feature’, you would likely slow down and look very carefully at this feature, probably even wait a while to include it (at least one more update cycle), while gathering more information about it. You would not likely say “customer be damned, this is what I want to put in here”, and just do it anyway; you would at least determine whether or not the vocal 10% indicated a greater, non-vocal percentage who would keep quiet and find another vendor to replace you.

    So from an outside view, this isn’t really about the Customizer – this is about the ability of a few – as you mention, who appear to be in the hidden ‘inner circle’, that somehow can disregard this vocal 10% dissent, and simply state that they’ll be doing it their way because they wish to do it their way. The refusal to consider an easy, built-in option to disable the Customizer, and the manner in which it was refused only adds fuel to this fire.

    1. You get my point exactly Kim. The Customizer rage is just the latest of a string of controversies, and the severity seems to escalate with each new issue.

      I actually think in the case of the Customizer the “leaders” have (or at least believe they have) data to back their claims. The problem is that a) that data is not shared, and b) they are all volunteers who would rather spend their time doing the work than putting out fires when people start panicking because things are not moving in the direction they want them to.

      I’ve volunteered for numerous organizations, and it is incredibly frustrating when you get derailed by people who are not willing to have a proper discourse about an issue. The problem is that in normal organizations there is a leadership structure and an accepted plan and vision that can be pointed to when people dissent: “If you don’t like it, make sure you voice your opinion and vote when the vision is up for reevaluation.” No such system exists here so it’s hard for anyone (even insiders) to know exactly what’s going on and equally hard for those at the core to fully explain the vision they have and provide proper reasoning for it.

  10. While I’m not a professional WordPress developer, I spent a number of years in leadership positions in a large professional trade group (ASMP, The American Society of Media Professionals). There are parallels.

    Over the last four years, the organization had to make some large shifts of all kinds, including completely re-working 70-year-old bylaws and a constitution that could only be changed by a vote of the elite members of the Society. This was not a smooth process, and there were a large number of extremely vocal opponents in the membership, all of whose concerns had to be answered by the leadership. It was – and remains – a balancing act: measuring how transparent the decision-making process should be with actually getting something substantive accomplished. (You simply cannot release the transcript of six eight-hour days of board meetings, plus the massive correspondence by email and conference calls over several years to the membership. I would not want to read it, and I was there.)

    Change upsets people, and people who are unhappy tend to be the most vocal. This does not make those unhappy folks right – or wrong. It turns out, however, there is an opportunity that develops out of this kind of situation: by answering their concerns the leadership serves to educate the lurkers, the undecided, and even the disengaged and disinterested, and that is a terrific thing. This is not a side-effect of controversy, it’s a fact of membership that smart organizations take advantage of.

    Leadership, as Morten writes, has to be thinking years out in front of the members or they are simply abrogating their authority and not doing a good job. Someone has has to make decisions and move forward. There will always be people who are unhappy with change. If the leadership is thoughtful and competent, they will hear what’s said, take it into the decision-making process and move ahead. That’s the gig.

  11. Nicely put Morten,

    Echoing a little of what Barry has just said; change can be difficult and challenging.

    But no matter how painful the change, there is no excuse for hateful, spiteful or personal attacks.

    If we can agree on nothing else, let us decide as a community to move forward without the hate. Sure, this hate may be driven by passion and fear for the one thing that binds us, WordPress. But, as a community we must not allow personal attacks.

    Change is hard. I was devastated when Apple announced they wouldn’t support Flash on the iPhone, for example. But in the long term, I think we have a much better and open web for this.

    We do need good people to lead us forward. People who are looking towards a bigger and brighter future. People with enough vision to see beyond the initial short term pain, for the longer term reward. I am not suggesting we need a Jobs or Gates though.

    I think the future of the web, and of course WordPress, is that it should be people friendly; A11y, i18n and L10n should be our real focus.

    If we can only agree on one thing, let’s agree that there is no room in WordPress for personal attacks.

    Let’s play nicely folks, we have a very bright future! 🙂

    Peace.

    1. I like your idea of an advisory board. One danger of the current “un-structure” or whatever you want to call it is that there are too many single points of failure. With some careful planning a group of people could take control of the project, and if Matt chose to leave or was removed, the entire stack would suddenly be rudderless. It’s not sustainable.

  12. Good write up Morton. Thank you. Surely one part of the solution to the ‘snark’ and personal attacks is for everyone to speak up and let it be known that the community does not endorse that kind of behavior.

    Some things that jumped out at me when reading:

    * Trust goes both ways. Let’s trust that both core contributors and others in the community all have good intentions and want the best for WordPress. Not only are there questions about the motives of the core team, but also of, for example, commercial vendors.

    * All of the blow-ups really show that the project needs to get out in front of communications. I’m sure it is a real bummer to have to respond to questions about the on-going work in the middle of a release. For what its worth, I subscribed to the Make WordPress Core postings and in terms of organizing, it seems like Konstantin Obenland is doing a good job. Maybe a community liaison on the core team could help answer questions and provide information without pulling developers off task?

    * Some projects use a system like Trello or Waffle which allow voting. There are Trac plugins to allow voting. We are democratizing publishing and maybe we can inject some structured ways to allow people to participate in setting project priorities.

    * I have always assumed that Matt, as benevolent dictator, chooses the release lead. The overall process, from a technical perspective, seems to be working very well. The on-time, regular releases, that don’t break compatibility, reflect a lot of hard work, organization, and focus. That was one of the main reasons I came to WordPress from Drupal. I’m thankful for the stability and incremental improvements.

    1. The overall process, from a technical perspective, seems to be working very well. The on-time, regular releases, that don’t break compatibility, reflect a lot of hard work, organization, and focus.

      Thank you for noticing that — there is a ton that goes on day to day on Trac, Slack, the forums, and behind the scenes, and most of the feedback the people working hardest get is when people are angry or disagree.

      The process could be light-years better than it is today (we’re not always on-time, as one example), but it has gotten a lot better in the past two years. The rotating leads have given a lot more people an appreciation and empathy for what it takes to lead a release, which makes you a much better contributor when someone else is leading.

  13. Thanks, Morten, this article really is a challenge to comment on—and I mean this as a compliment in every possible aspect. I have read through it twice so far and will read it again to keep deepening my understanding for the points you’re making.

    One point leaves me with a question, though:

    As a result, those who find themselves in lower levels of the meritocratic pyramid start feeling disenfranchised and ignored by those higher up and they eventually start rocking the structure and consider moving their blocks elsewhere.

    I can’t help the thought (and this may come off a little harsh, though it’s not meant to be): “…yeah, but whose problem is that?”

    Given the context of an open-source project, a meritocracy—at least as far as my understanding of the term goes, and I don’t have a degree in philosophy—by design offers little to no room for consumerism.

    There obviously is much room for consumers, users that is (no negative connotation implied here!), who only profit from, but never contribute to the project.

    But among those who do contribute, who try to get themselves involved in discussions, maybe in order to ultimately be part of whatever process of decision-making is in place, consumerism as a mindset of entitlement rather than self-responsibility cannot and should not be encouraged from the project itself.

    So when people at the “lower levels of the meritocratic pyramid start feeling disenfranchised and ignored”, in my understanding of a meritocratic project that feeling would be entirely for themselves to take action upon. Feeling left behind? Make time, invest yourself, participate, make yourself available.

    That’s the answer, and in my world it’s the only one for a project like WordPress.

    One can’t expect an open-source project, even if it has grown as big as WordPress, to just deliver. Yet in the world of centralized social media tycoons, that’s precisely what people do expect. And, as I said before, it’s even fine for the software itself. WordPress, the software, does deliver, and well. WordPress, the project (should I even say: the people?), cannot be expected to.

    That said, …

    The way this is solved in grassroots political organizations is through the introduction of clear leadership structures and a clearly defined vision and path forwards. […]

    Other than perhaps more public vision, I don’t think open-source WordPress lacks anything but education on how the project itself works—as a meritocracy.

    We do need to educate people better—a whole lot more better!—on how to get involved with the project, not only in terms of how to use SVN or Slack or P2s, but regarding the mindset of meritocracy the project still is based upon.

    At the same time, educating those already involved on how to make their project more welcoming to newcomers certainly wouldn’t hurt. I think there’s a growing number of contributors obviously considering the position of a newcomer in a, let’s say, discussion around a Track ticket who would make an extra effort in their communication just to not put the person off. That’s fantastic, and I’d like to see that sort of communication become a standard across the whole project.

    If that is what you mean by “leadership”, I agree.
    However, I strongly disagree with any idea of adding new layers of hierarchy and/or structural complexity to the project like the aforementioned idea of an advisory board.

    In order to remain an open-source project, or in order to become even more of it, WordPress from my perspective needs only people: self-responsible, well-educated people whose thinking is in line with the principles that helped making the project what it is; people who take on the effort of learning how to communicate effectively and constructively across lose, topic-related teams; and ultimately people who maintain the discipline to “shut up and listen”, because their primary goal is to identify and build upon the common ground that always does exist.

    If there should be any leaders, it should be those people. Only they probably would refuse to lead. Which is why I’m proposing we should try educating everyone involved with the project toward being better leaders of themselves.

  14. I think you are missing a major point… WordPress is served best when those who use it have CHOICE. The primary problem with things like the customizer is that they are added with NO OPTION to disable them. At least not in-built. Anything having to do with the UI should always be released as an option that can be disabled to allow sufficient time for those who deal with real world clients to work out training schedules and such.

    A brand new feature in the admin area is a “shiny object” that inquisitive users are going to click on. You should have to load a plugin in order to disable it. When new features like this are released, there should be an option right there in the Settings to disable it. Developers should be able to disable it.

    I just don’t understand why there is resistance to making major things like this “optional”.

    1. I am well aware of this objection, but I disagree with it. Features like the Customizer are core to the functionality of WordPress, and if a developer wants to disable them they are moving well outside the standard use case for the application. This is what the WP-API project and other custom admin solutions is for.

      The problem of providing a “disable” feature for core elements like the Customizer from my perspective is that theme and plugin developers will start baking them into their distributed solutions. This in turn will cause users to get an inconsistent experience: “Hey, where did the customizer go?” This has happened before many times, and it is problematic for WordPress and the community.

      The core team have provided extensive documentation on how to deal with situations where the customizer is not desired, but as a core feature it should always be there for Administrator users in my opinion.

  15. I don’t think your summary of a common viewpoint here is fair; it makes one side sound really foolish:

    “…the Customizer… Its inclusion goes against what I need and therefore has no place in WordPress. ”

    Please read it over for the actual meaning.

    That would obviously be an immature, unintelligent, unreasonable position. I don’t believe anyone at all would agree with it.

    The actual position that many people are taking is much closer to this:

    “…Its inclusion goes against what I know to be the needs and desires of a large portion of the WP community – including myself – and therefore should be taken very seriously.”

    1. My summary was an almost to the letter quote of various comments and various blog posts. It is also one I’ve heard in person multiple times. While it’s true that many would agree with your version, there are also many vocal objectors who fall squarely into the category I described.

      The key difference is the part of your quote where you say “large portion of the WP community”. In much of the argumentation against the Customizer, the use cases are not a large portion but rather extremely specific and rare situations or situations where a developer is deliberately going against the current standard.

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