WordPress is growing. Growing is good. As WordPress becomes more ubiquitous, respected, cherished, we will all benefit, as long as we do not become complacent in light of our success and we continue to democratize publishing for the world. With the strength of WordPress, the software and the community, it is kind of puzzling that WordPress is not really in the cultural zeitgeist (maybe that is a good thing at the moment).
My family is all about Instagram, I don't use it personally, but they are really into it. Most people know about Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, but not many in my town seem to know about WordPress. WordPress is a much more valuable tool than Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, but it remains hidden in some ways. Many people I talk to are also familiar with Squarespace, Wix and Shopify; just not WordPress. 29.2% of the internet unknown to most. There is tremendous opportunity here, but how do we get the word out?
I read a comment on WP Tavern recently, that said something to the effect of: if you decide to use WordPress, you must also labor over maintaining and publicizing it. This is not true. No one expects anybody to help push the platform forward. The comment was made facetiously, or at least that was my interpretation, but from my experience, I can say the more I put into WordPress the more I get back.
Why? Well it's simple. WordPress the software, not the name, is mine. It is also yours, but it belongs to no one and somehow everyone. It's a weird concept that I still struggle to fully understand, but when you improve WordPress, you will benefit from that improvement.
It is easy to see products like WordPress.com and feel as though they benefit more from WordPress than everyone else, and for some reason this year I have noticed a lot of unwarranted resentment towards Automattic. I am new to the space, so I do not know the full history, but it is really hard for me to see things like WordPress.com as a detriment or vampiric presence to WordPress, quite the contrary in my opinion. Yes, I understand the naming thing between .org and .com. The situation is confusing, but most things in life are pretty confusing. I could easily imagine another scenario where WordPress.com was named XYZOMG. "XYZOMG is basically WordPress, why the fancy name? You aren't promoting your core product! Why should we work on WordPress, when Automattic doesn't even promote it?" This is purely hypothetical, and I don't want to mischaracterize people's opinion, but it often feels like a "Haters are Gonna Hate" scenario. At the end of the day it is just a name. WordPress is just a name. What it embodies is more significant: the powerful software, the passionate community, and the mission of bringing digital publishing to the world.
Although we do not own the name WordPress, we do own WordPress, and when we promote, maintain, and change WordPress, we inevitably change our own personal world too. I very firmly believe that from what I have put into WordPress, I have been given back so much more, and I know I am not the only one. So when I feel that WordPress does not have the recognition it deserves, I am not afraid to try and promote it further, because I believe it will benefit my family, and many others somewhere down the road. I won't feel as though I am cheated out of my time.
I am just a small voice, but collectively we really could help WordPress grow to do more amazing things than it already has. I have been able to help my clients make tens of millions of dollars this year alone, and have been blessed for my efforts. WordPress has helped so many gain economic freedom in a way that I am not sure many other things in this world have done. WordPress is a mission worth hitching your wagon onto. There is a lot work to be done, and a vast amount of opportunity ahead.
Calls to action
I really liked Aaron Jorbin's idea of the #GutenbergChallenge. It was a decentralized, yet coordinated way to promote and provide feedback for the new editor. It was a call for people to answer, rather than a post from Make, Post Status, WP Tavern informing us what is happening.
Running some sort of community driven promotional campaign seems like a cool idea that we could potentially leverage to have a more concentrated effort in promoting WordPress itself rather than a small aspect like the editor. I am not sure how successful the #GutenbergChallenge was or how we can even measure success of ventures like this, but it might be interesting to explore how to optimize these challenges, and get the most benefit out of them. I think overall the challenge helped start tipping opinion towards a more positive perception of Gutenberg, which was initially overwhelmingly negative.
The active engagement from the #GutenbergChallenge is the best part. If you participate, you use the new editor, and get to share your thoughts in a clearly written manner. Participating in comment sections, or on GitHub is great, but comments are rarely a good place to fully flesh out your ideas, and they can often degenerate into mixed messages and misunderstandings. So rather than a central post generating discussion via comments, a call to action creates commentary among a diverse collection of experience. The main hurdles to making this effective are collection and curation.
HeroPress is another great idea. The essays really convey how WordPress has personally impacted the author's life. It covers stories from over the whole globe. The Hallway Chats are also another interesting addition to WordPress focused content. If you haven't checked The Hallway Chats out, they host conversations featuring someone from the WordPress ecosystem.
I like how HeroPress and Hallway Chats showcase individuals rather than organizations and they really add a great personal touch. The individuals may promote the organizations they are associated with, but it is really about the person and how their story has crossed paths with WordPress. It really puts into perspective how all of these people collectively create what WordPress is.
This was about growth though?
Right. Growth. I think there is a lot of room for growth in the WordPress space, especially when we consider trying to make the platform easier to use, and more friendly for new comers ( and current users ). A more difficult prospect is making WordPress more valuable in everyday life. I know many people who run a business that simply do not need a website, or a web presence. Even if they did, they would have to hobble through the nonintuitive portions WP Admin, themes, and plugins. However, almost everyone I know uses some form of messaging, or some form of social interaction via the internet. I wonder if there is space for WordPress to creep into that realm. It kind of is there, but it kind of isn't.
The new block editor will vastly improve the publishing process, and future iterations on that concept will make digital publishing exceptionally powerful and easy, but what about the distribution and discovery mechanisms we have in place for our content? For the most part we are at the whims of the Googles, Facebooks, and Amazons of the world. Don't get me wrong I think all of these companies do groundbreaking work, I just wonder if there is something better that could be created.
With the advent of blockchain, I think there is room to open things up a bit more, and start creating more meaningful connections. I have no idea where blockchain is going to go, nor do I fully understand it, but it seems very interesting, and this year I am going to start a project that will be a network of sorts where people can share their work and ideas with each other over a new distribution mechanism. I have no idea whether it is a good idea, it is probably terrible, but it has captivated my interest.
If the new Gutenberg editor radically improves the digital publishing world, which I hope it does, does it matter if the content we produce has to be distributed through mechanisms that we have minimal control over? The peer to peer nature of blockchain seems very appealing, but I don't know if it will be a good thing or not. I honestly don't know enough about it yet, or its ramifications, but the project will be an interesting project to work on, and hopefully it will be something positive. At the very least, hopefully it inspires similar ideas in others, because I think if we truly want WordPress to grow, we need to empower people to better connect with everyone else.
Social networks have not been figured out yet, or to my knowledge they have not. One of the largest problems in my opinion is something that I believe occurs rather naturally; echo chambers. My own social media interactions are purely web development oriented, with the exception of the incredible C. T. Fletcher. I could find new things, but there is an odd comfort in keeping to what you know, or where you think you belong. I naturally have created my own web development echo chamber without realizing it. One potential solution that I see, that could be very interesting, is to override our natural tendencies, and instead force random connections into our network, even if only temporary, reflecting more of how the real world works. Typically networks encourage you to go after what is already familiar and be highly selective, but I think there is opportunity to shake that up and create more random connections like you would pre-internet. Adding a little chaotic spice to the mix, I think could allow people of different backgrounds to meet connect with each other, even if it is uncomfortable.
Connections as a driver for Growth.
If we really want the ubiquity of WordPress, I think starting to brainstorm on how we can better connect with each other, and how we can bring more value to people's everyday activities will become a crucial piece to the WordPress Growth puzzle.