How Should the WordPress Open Source Project Support Contributors?

January 13, 2022 00:20:07
How Should the WordPress Open Source Project Support Contributors?
WP Review
How Should the WordPress Open Source Project Support Contributors?
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Joe Casabona

Show Notes

They say no good deed goes unpunished. Recently in the WordPress space, perhaps even the wider open source space, there's been a lot of discussion about that. Is contributing to WordPress worth it? In December Matt Mullenweg asked us to give Five for the Future. He talked about the Tragedy of the Commons. But who is really contributing to open source? And how do we make sure people who do contribute don't feel like their good deed results in punishment?

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Read the blog post and get all the show notes at https://wpreview.io/33/

Show Notes

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Episode Transcript

They say no good deed goes unpunished. And recently in the WordPress space, perhaps even the wider open-source space, there's been a lot of discussion about that: Is Contributing to WordPress Worth It? In December, Matt Mullenweg asked us to give five for the future. He talked about the tragedy of the commons. I responded in kind by talking about Cura Personalis. But now there is a different issue and that is who is contributing to open source? And how do the people who should be contributing to open-source feel appreciated? That's what we're going to talk about this week, January 13th, 2022 on WP Review. Welcome to WP Review. A show that provides analysis on what's happening in WordPress and what it means for users and business owners in the ecosystem. This podcast is brought to you by GoDaddy Pro. You'll hear about them later on. My name is Joe Casabona. And today, I want to pose a question to you: How should the WordPress open-source project support contributors? One of the most famous stories about Tom Sawyer (the fictional Mark Twain character, and not the popular song by Canadian rock band Rush) is about the time he had to whitewash his Aunt Polly's fence as punishment for acting up. But instead of just taking his punishment, he ended up convincing his friend that painting the fence was something he wanted to do, that it was something only he was skilled enough to do, and that it was something that everybody should want to do. His friends, sure that they could do as well a job as Tom decided to paint the fence while Tom went off and played. Many of you also know the story of the pied piper, Who was able to remove rats from the infested town of Hamilton (solving a big problem) that they had only to then learn the children of the town away from the town and into a cave, the same way as punishment for not getting paid what he felt he deserved for solving the rat problem. In the Post Status slack earlier this week, a story was shared about an open-source developer who inserted malicious code into a popular library that rendered websites using that library useless. This contributes to the bigger story of who really is contributing to open source, and who's making money off of open-source software. In fact, this story led Morten Rand-Hendriksen to write a piece called “Open Source Considered Harmful,” citing a white house national security advisor who said the very same thing. All of this led Joost de Valk in the Post Status Slack to make a lengthy comment about how most WordPress contributors despite the common refrain are not volunteers. That they are in fact paid by bigger companies. And I won't rehash the entire discussion here. Though, No doubt, some intrepid WordPress journalist is summarizing it nicely as I speak. But I will highlight some points in Morten's piece. He says, “Most open-source developers volunteer their time and skill to build and maintain software. Others earn billions of dollars from”. He also says, “most open source projects are governed and controlled by a so-called “Benevolent Dictator for life or BDFL - typically a relatively young, relatively white man who either started the project or took control of the project early on, whose power is absolute and unchallenged.” And Joost for his part points out Five For the Future “Right now is basically a tax that is fully optional and leads to very little benefit. The community and the user don't care whether you pay the tax at all. So the most rational thing to do is to not pay the tax and just ignore the five for the future program entirely.” Five for the Future, of course, is the program that Matt Mullenweg promoted multiple times during his state of the word in December. Finally, Joost also says, “We all want stability which means we need to pay people to do the work. And that's just for the plugins, not even talking about WordPress core underneath it.” He also brought up the idea of an app store. Again, a way for plugin developers to help monetize their work directly through the [wordpress.org] plugin repo, while also generating income for the open-source project. After all of this, Matt Mullenweg himself chimed in disagreeing with Joost’s premise saying most plugins are from independent developers and he had some numbers to back that up. And that he believes that an app store wouldn't work. It would discourage more plugins from making it into core. And this is something that in the apple ecosystem is called Sherlocking. He then vaguely lamented that the app store was the cause of Joomla’s demise. Of course he provided no evidence or even anecdotal stories for this. So, what does all this mean? is Matt Mullenweg and open-source Tom Sawyer who has convinced volunteers to do the work that built his $3 billion company and his $400 million net worth? Is Joost right that contributing is no more than a tax, a punishment on those who actually contribute? And that there should be some mechanism like an app store for plugin developers? In other words, what should the WordPress open source projects do to help support contributors? Well, my answer to the first question is No. I don't think Matt is the open-source World's Tom Sawyer. I think that Matt has a vision and he ardently sticks to that vision. However, I have and continue to call into question how he can objectively run both Automattic and be released lead on the open-source project. I think that if an app store on the open-source side benefited Automattic, we would see it. But with Jetpack and the curated experience of [.com], we simply don't need an app store on the .org repo in the same way we do for say Woocommerce, which is also owned by Automattic. In fact, Daniel Schutzsmith, (@schutzsmith on Twitter), I will link to this in the show notes over at [wpreview.io] has a great thread looking at [.com] here in 2022, and how it compares to [.org]. He has a lot of favorable things to say about [.com] and its experience. You might find as I might find that it's a lot better in several regards. And that there is a way to buy plugins in the [.com] dashboard. I am inclined to agree with Joost who has much more experience in this arena than I do. I've never contributed directly to the core nor did I ever run a multi-million dollar international company. And while I was receptive to the idea of an app store when I was first posed this question on the Post Status podcast back in May, now I'm not so sure. In episode 30 where I covered the State of the Word, I mentioned the idea of Cura Personalis, that we should take care of ourselves first before we can properly take care of others. In that same light, how do we reconcile the open-source projects who claim to rely on volunteers? Isn't Matt trying to take care of the open-source project first before the open-source project can then help take care of others by building their businesses? And at risk of ripping a hole in the space time continuum, I think a combination of Matt's thoughts and Morten's thoughts actually summarize the problem nicely. More people use and profit off of open source than contribute to open source. Automattic for their part does contribute to the open-source project a lot. They also have a vested interest in its success. And the same thing could be said of Yoast (to the company, not Joost to the person) but while they contribute a lot because they have a big vested interest in the success of WordPress, they are also diversifying by moving into the Shopify space. Something that you'd think was an absolute scandal depending on whose comments you read when the news broke. But what about the people who don't really have a vested interest in the open-source project? The people who are using WordPress because it's the best thing for them to use at the moment. The people who have plugins on the repo that make exactly $0. The people who've tried to bring about change, but were unsuccessful because of opposition from concentrated power. I don't think it's the open source projects job to help contributors make money. Just like I don't think it's any WordPress user's job to contribute. But in an ideal world, both parties have an equal vested interest in each other. The WordPress open-source project should help contributors whether that's through their own platform to reach a wider audience with an app store or through other means of compensation and rewards. At the very least, contributing shouldn't feel like a punishment that we were tricked into doing. In practice though, it's more complicated. Half of the release team for 5.9 is on Automattic's payroll. Is that because of a lack of volunteers from other places or because the release lead also happens to be the CEO of Automattic? And this allows him to have a little more control over moving the open-source project in a direction that he sees as beneficial as someone who's been lead organizer of multiple WordCamps, participated in many meetups, and submitted to the block pattern directory. I can tell you that contributing feels like punishment sometimes. Rules seem to appear out of nowhere and are enforced now, and discussed later. Certain opinions or points of view are discouraged and talked down. And God forbid you do anything to openly advance your own business or career for the dozens of hours you've put into your contributions. You're not even allowed to self-promote in a free WordCamp talk you give. And I understand that we don't want talks to be too self-promoting. But a mention at the end or at the beginning, I don't see a problem with. So my question is, do other companies making millions off of WordPress without contributing? Do they know that they are basically getting free labor from other companies and volunteers? Do they feel it's futile to get involved? Do they, like Joost and me to an extent feel it's more of a punishment than something worth doing? These are all hard questions and I am, but a single person who's not really qualified to answer all of them. The aforementioned are, but my observations. So what should you do dear listener? You should use the tool that best completes the job in front of you. If that continues to be WordPress, fantastic. If you can contribute to WordPress or any other project as you see fit in a way that makes sense for you, well, that's even better. But what we shouldn't do is follow WordPress or any individual or company as if they are the pied piper. Less you want to end up in a metaphorical cave wondering why this good deed feels more like a punishment? This episode is brought to you by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro is an experience tailored specifically to the needs of web designers and developers and helps them more efficiently manage their work and deliver results for their clients. Combining website, client, and project management, GoDaddy Pro is an integrated solution made by and for web professionals. Whether you are new to web design or looking to grow your business, you'll find the tools, products, guidance, and support to help you deliver results for clients. At the heart of GoDaddy pro is the hub. From one intuitive dashboard, the hub seamlessly brings your sites, clients, and projects together. Manage and monitor all of your client's WordPress sites from a single place. No more juggling multiple client passwords. With one click, perform bulk updates, backups, and security checks no matter where your client's sites are hosted. You will save time and free up your day. Integrated Project Management makes it easier to keep track of your client communications and deliver projects on time. Electronically sign, notarize, and store documents. You can create a visual timeline to break down projects into smaller tasks, to stay on track and on time. Access all of your client accounts with a single sign-on through their tailored shopping experience by-products to help clients grow their business like powerful e-commerce stores using Woocommerce. You can always reach dedicated and knowledgeable customer support. 24/7. On top of that, you'll find a thriving community of web designers and developers who share advice, insights, and learning opportunities. GoDaddy Pro is free to join. Head over to [go.me/wpreview] to get started. That's [go.me/wpreview]. All right. I hope you enjoyed those thoughts. I'd love to hear what you think. If you want to continue the conversation, you can send me a message on Twitter (@jcasabona) or send me an email, [[email protected]]. Those links and everything I've talked about here will be in the show notes over at [wpreview.io/33]. So now let's get on to the recommendation. And that is Orderable. Orderable is a new plugin from Iconic, which is part of the StellarWP brand. And full disclosure, I am an affiliate for StellarWP. But I am sharing this now, their affiliate manager passed this blog post along to me, and that is what I'm going to share in the show notes. But, it's about how to use this plugin, orderable. And how it can be used for more than just restaurants. So what is Orderable? Orderable is billed as the best restaurant plugin for Woo-commerce. It allows you to create menus where people can place orders and then pick things up or have them delivered and you can charge a delivery fee for that. And it looks really nifty. It brings the app like experience or something like door dash or Uber eats to your website. So if you or your client most likely has a need to sell online, and do local delivery or local pickup, this plugin is perfect for you. You can even suggest order bumps, customizable time slots, right? So you can set your own delivery and pickup schedule. It gives you full control over the checkout process. And this blog post that I'm going to link in the show notes walks you through how to install and configure Orderable. Now, if you just want to jump to that, you can go to…I'll make a short link for it, [wpreview.io/orderable]. That will be an affiliate link. I am an affiliate of theirs. But it'll take you directly to this blog post. And if you like it, well, there's also a free version so you can even try it before you buy it. And again, looks really nice. I think it solves a really important problem that is not solved very well in the WordPress space specifically or in WooCommerce really. So this is a Woocommerce add-on. And if you need to do local delivery, local orders, then Orderable is a great plugin. It looks like a great plugin. I'll probably talk about this, show it, and demo it for my members. And if you want to see that video, you can become a member over at [creatorcourses.com]. But that is it for this episode. I hope you liked it. I always have these strong opinions and I hope that you know that I put a lot of work into these scripts, and I'm not just kind of shooting off my mouth for the sake of it. I want to see WordPress succeed and I'm worried that we're not positioning ourselves to do that very well in the future. So, thanks so much for listening. to get even more WordPress insights, subscribe to this show. You can head over to [wpreview.io/subscribe]. You can find all of the show notes over at [wpreview.io/33]. If you liked this episode, share it with a friend. Thanks so much to GoDaddy Pro for sponsoring this and every episode of WP Review. And until next time. I'll see you out there.

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